Great fun here, a real
trip down memory lane in terms of performance
practice, and plenty of spirit to boot.
Fernando Previtali is the reliable guiding
hand, who clearly has an intimate knowledge
of the score and who accompanies his
singers in fine fashion.
The recording is as
might be expected from early ’fifties
Italian Radio: adequate, with some loss
of detail and somewhat edgy upper strings.
The Overture is a bustling
explosion of joy. The opening of the
first number (the measuring Figaro and
Susanna) is strange in that at 0’46
the first violins seem to divide in
opinion as to when to leap to the upper
note!. No way would that get into a
modern recording, but here it is. The
tempo here is sedate, the Susanna (Alda
Noni) a bit overly-vibrato-ed for modern
ears. Noni is much better in the recitative
that follows, when for the first time
some sense of sparkle enters the sound-stage.
Figaro’s ‘Se a caso
madama’ is similarly sedate (although
blessed with a funny bell-imitation
from Italo Tajo). In keeping with the
general feel, Bartolo’s ‘La vendetta’
comes across rather heavy-handed here
from Fernando Corena, but nevertheless
retains a certain grandeur. Tajo’s ‘Non
piu andrai’ is marred by ensemble disagreements
between orchestra and singer, which,
believe me, grate on repeated hearings,
but Tajo can pull it out of the bag,
and does so on numerous occasions throughout.
Possibly the greatest
shame of this set comes in the form
of ‘Porgi amor’. There is some pitch
slippage on the heavy opening string
chords, especially, which is most distracting.
No surprise by now that the tempo is
slow (almost comatose, in fact). Gabriella
Gatti as the Countess is fine, sustaining
her (long) line well in a very delicate
and (surprise) slow ‘Dove sono’ – Gatti
passes the test of breath-control admirably.
Jolanda Gardino is
a large-voiced Cherubino (try ‘Non so
più’), who comes into her own
in Act II’s ‘Voi che sapete’ (as does
the RAI’s principal clarinettist, providing
some marvellous solo playing). Far more
attractive is Susanna’s (i.e. Noni’s)
‘Venite inginocchiatevi’, delivered
with a light and pert tone.
Of the smaller parts,
Miti Truccato Pace makes for an affecting
Marcellina and Cristiano Dalamangas
makes the most of Antonio’s tiny contribution.
It is the big finales
to the acts that show the real weakness
of this set, for they are so resolutely
studio (read ‘earth)-bound. Of all operas
in the repertoire, this one needs sparkling
vivacity of a sort this production cannot
really invoke. The delicate sections
work well, but even there one should
be aware this is not historically-aware
Mozart; try CD2, track 7 – Act III’s
‘Cosa mi narri!’ and on – for a prime
example of this.
As mentioned above,
the recording has a welcome period aspect
to it, quite warm, mostly. Unfortunately
there is some periodic distortion -
in the last track of CD1, for example.
A mixed reception then,
but a recommendation nonetheless. The
spirit of Mozart shines through (occasionally
only just!), as does Previtali’s love
of the score. Fans of Corena, Tajo,
Bruscantini and Sciutti will want it
anyway, for completeness’ sake.