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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Le Nozze Di Figaro - A comedy with music in four acts to a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte (1786)
Count Almaviva - Albert Dohmen (baritone)
Countess Rosina - Barbara Frittoli (soprano)
Figaro - Stefano Rinaldi Miliani (bass-baritone)
Susanna - Paola Antonucci (soprano)
Cherubino - Monica Minarelli (mezzo soprano)
Marcellina - Elisabetta Lombardi (mezzo soprano)
Bartolo - Ezio Maria Tisi (bass)
Don Basilio, a music master - Enrico Facini (tenor)
Don Curzio, a lawyer - Silvano Paolillo (tenor)
Antonio, the gardener - Arturo Cauli (bass)
Barbarina - Kirsten Schwarz (soprano)
Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana/Gustav Kuhn
rec live Teatro Lauro Rossi, Macerata, Italy 29 July, 2/5/10 August 1993
ARTE NOVA 74321 77071-2 [3CDs: 180.42]

 

Kuhn is an energetic conductor and a charismatic personality, who throws himself wholeheartedly into whatever music he is conducting. At Glyndebourne he gave fine performances of operas by Richard Strauss in the 1980s, but he has never returned, while at Covent Garden his star only briefly waxed and waned. This recording may be, to quote Arte Nova’s hype, ‘a fresh and stimulating Figaro’ but, apart from Frittoli, it is certainly not ‘a cast of the highest international quality’. The highs and lows of a live performance are up for discussion as usual, too much applause between numbers, too much orchestral tuning, poor balance between parts of the stage and the pit (when singers are upstage), and within vocal ensembles onstage (such as too much of the Count and Curzio in the third act Sextet). There is also a lot of intrusive stage noise which you might not notice in the theatre, but you do when deprived of the visual experience. Of course this is not a live performance, but a synthesis of four live performances, so, if parts within a single performance are unusable (and there is no shame in that), why not record it in a studio?

One questions the wisdom of an uncut Figaro, for while the Marcellina aria is a good piece of music (and the addition of the fortepiano colours its string-only accompaniment nicely), Don Curzio’s immediately thereafter is very weak, and frankly Mozart should not have bothered to impede the momentum of the action as the opera draws to a close. Kuhn’s tempi are generally orthodox but for deadly slow arias for the Countess (the second mercifully perks up at the Allegro ‘Ah se almen, la mia costanza’), and a rushed chorus in act three (‘Ricevete, oh padroncina’), which comes in exactly at a breathless one minute).

Despite these fairly serious reservations, there’s much to enjoy, in particular the way Don Curzio kick-starts his stammer in the third act. I’ve not heard it done quite like that before.

Christopher Fifield

 



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