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Mozart - da Ponte highlights
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Excerpts from:
Le nozze di Figaro K492 (1786)
Cosi fan Tutte K588 (1790)
Don Giovanni K527 (1787)
Dorabella, Donna Elvira - Heidi Brunner (soprano)
Cherubino - Ruxandra Donose (mezzo-soprano)
Don Basilio, Ferrando, Don Ottavio - Jeffrey Francis (tenor)
Guglielmo - Martin Gantner (baritone)
Il Commendatore - Reinhard Hagen (bass)
Don Curzio - Dietmar Kerschbaum (tenor)
Don Bartolo, Leporello - Maurizio Muraro (bass)
Conte d’Almaviva - Jochen Schmeckenbecher (baritone)
Fiordiligi, Donna Anna - Regina Schörg (soprano)
Susanna, Zerlina - Birgid Steinberger (soprano)
Figaro, Don Giovanni, Don Alfonso - Kwangchul Youn (baritone)
Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra/Bertrand de Billy
Recorded Vienna 2001-3 DDD
ARTE NOVA CLASSICS 82876 57746 2 [79:47]

 

This disc brings together highlights of the three operas on which Mozart collaborated with Lorenzo da Ponte in the years 1786-1790. In no sense are they a trilogy but together they represent a pinnacle, even for Mozart (although perhaps a "K2" to the "Everest" of The Magic Flute), and, once you have got to know one, the others are impossible to resist. There are several excellent recordings of all three operas, most of which were made more than twenty years ago. If, like me, you feel that well-made studio recordings in the last two decades before the digital era contain no deterrent at all then you have quite a choice amongst famous conductors and singers. If, however, you want a modern recording, then choice is much more limited.

First, you can be assured that these recordings are indeed "state of the art". Regarding the performances, from the selection available on this disc, they also seem to be top-notch, especially considering that none of the performers are exactly household names. Bertrand de Billy directs the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra with great verve, sometimes favouring quite fast tempi (as in Dorabella’s aria "E amore un ladroncello") and this is a joyful listening experience, with the light and shade of Mozart’s inspiration captured well. It would be unfair to single out any of the singers – they all seem to be in fine voice and "inside" their parts. At over 79 minutes the disc is well-filled but even so not all the "highlights" of these operas are included. Cosi fan Tutte comes off worst, having neither beginning nor end (in particular, these excerpts end in the middle of nowhere and move straight into Don Giovanni) whereas the Overture of The Marriage of Figaro and the ending of Don Giovanni are included. My instinct is that Don Giovanni might be the pick of the bunch if you wanted to invest (at modest cost) in just one of the complete sets and I see that it has been reviewed with great enthusiasm by Colin Clarke - see http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2003/Nov03/Mozart_deBilly.htm

In summary, if you are looking for the most famous parts of these operas, well-performed and in excellent modern recordings at bargain price, then I doubt that you will be disappointed with this disc. But I don’t think you will be satisfied either and must warn you that there is a significant risk that you will end up acquiring the complete sets and passing this disc on to a fortunate friend.

Patrick Waller



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