Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 – 1791)
Famous Opera Arias

Don Giovanni

1 Or sai chi l’onore Edita Gruberova (Soprano)
2 Canzonetta Deh! vieni alla finestra Thomas Hampson (Baritone)
3 Vedrai, carino Barbara Bonney (Soprano)
Le Nozze di Figaro

4 Non più andrai Anton Scharinger (Bass)
5 Cavatina Porgi, amor Charlotte Margiono (Soprano)
6 Arietta Voi che sapete Petra Lang (Mezzo soprano)
Die Zauberflöte

7 Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön Hans Peter Blochwitz (Tenor)
8 Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen Edita Gruberova (Soprano)
Cosi fan tutte

9 Un’aura amorosa Deon van der Walt (Tenor)
Die Entführung aus dem Serail

10 Martern aller Arten Yvonne Kenny ( Soprano)

11 Fuor del mar Werner Hollweg (Tenor)
La clemenza di Tito

12 Parto, ma tu ben mio Ann Murray (Mezzo soprano)
13 Se all’ impero, amici Dei Philip Langridge (Tenor)
14 Non più di fiori Lucia Popp (Soprano)
Lucio Silla

15 Il tenero momento Cecilia Bartoli (Mezzo soprano)
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (1-6,9)
Zurich Opera Orchestra (7-8, 10-14)
Concentus Musicus Wien (15)
Mozartorchester des Opernhauses Zürich
Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Recorded 1980 – 1994 Teldec Classics International GmbH
Digital recording 2001 Warner Classics UK DDD
WARNER CLASSICS APEX 0927 413762 [76.54] Bargain Price

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It could be entitled Highlights of Highlights: but that would probably make it sound like a Hairdressers conference. However, highlights are what this CD comprises. Instead of either the highlights of an opera with most arias and no recitative: or a particular soloist’s recording of Mozart’s arias from several operas, here we have different soloists for different arias from different operas. What is that but Highlights of Highlights? I rest my case.

The only exception to the one aria one soloist rule is Edita Gruberova. Her first aria is Or sai chi l’onore Donna Anna’s plea to Ottavio to avenge the murder of her father. This is a sharp–toned Donna Anna with an edginess which does not sound like the daughter of the Commendatore. She sounded slightly shrill. That is sad because it starts the CD on almost an off beat.

Thus because there is no apparent reason that I can discover for the order of the operas, let us leap ahead to the eighth track and the second from The Magic Flute. This is Gruberova’s second aria and joy of joys it is Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen. And there is nobody who sings this better. This is an evil Queen hell bent on vengeance where the edgy timbre is ideal. Her hitting of the high notes leaves us breathless – but not Gruberova. I accept that there are other recordings pushing her hard: particularly Rita Streich (on the DG Fricsay recording 435 741 – 2); but as excellent as that is it is just does not quite match this Night Queen’s spell.

Now let us return to Don Giovanni himself and Thomas Hampson. ‘Come to your window’ he sings. This wonderfully smooth honey-toned Hampson would have ladies leaping out of windows. Glorious. Then to Zerlina, comforting her affianced for the beating from the Don. Here is a gentle loving caring sound; with breathiness of excitement at his hand on her heart. And splendidly complemented by the thin strings which seem to empathise with Zerlina.

We move onto a real Figaro in Anton Scharinger, so evidently glorying in the despatch of Cherubino into the military life and relishing the discomforts he will suffer. The orchestra allows us to hear every word of the expression filled performance. So ends Act I and Act II starts with the next track and the Countess and Porgi amor sung by Charlotte Margiono. The thin strings here do not help to bring out the wistful sadness. Whilst there are some excellently clear high soft notes there is little feeling of the wished for return of love. What is that love, ponders Cherubino (Petra Lang) in the famous Voi che sapete. Whilst perhaps not sounding like the youngest of Cherubinos, here is real doubt and wistful sound wrapped in questioning tones.

We return to The Magic Flute and Tamino’s portrait perusal: here are ringingly clear words with good firm rounded tones. A single aria from Cosi accorded to van der Walt as Ferrando: again a clear tone with vocal expression. But could I hear him drawing breath? I fear so.

Onto Martern aller Arten, Konstanza’s declaration of steadfastness. This is Yvonne Kenny going from ringing resolve to moving plea for pity. There are some superb high notes delivered piano and some stunning coloratura.

Idomeneo utters defiance in Fuor del mar having escaped the sea’s storm to meet an emotional one. Werner Hollweg does not appear to be too miserable in the middle section: more gently questioning and in the last section emotional nuance and contrast are apparent rather than rage. Here is an Idomeneo with outstanding breath control and a firmness of run who causes us to think again about the aria.

We conclude with three arias from one of Mozart’s last operas and finally with one aria from one of his first operas. Ann Murray expresses the plea for love / qualms of conscience of Sextus with great beauty of tone. There is one particularly chest delivered vorrai that will have you running the track back to hear it again immediately. Her occasional forte is not so successful. Overall this is a gently piano submissive Sextus. Titus himself would sooner reign with love than severity. Philip Langridge makes us believe just that with splendid contrasts, breath control and runs.

The last two arias are reserved for Lucia Popp and Cecilia Bartoli. Popp sings Vitellia’s unhappy aria with a wonderful display of vocal register and range, faultless breath control, tones of contrast and expression second to none. Which leads neatly into the last aria from an early opera but giving Bartoli the opportunity to display once more the rich creamy tone of smooth sound.

For that is what this CD is: an extract of previous recordings of opportunities for eminent soloists to display their every musical skill. It is a pity there is not a word of libretto in sight: nor a rationale for some of the choices. The accompanying ‘booklet’ is a double page sheet of general observations on various aspects of Mozart’s music – but with no discernible reference to the CD

Never mind. I will take Lucia Popp and Edita Gruberova’s Queen of the Night to my desert island to found my collection.

Robert McKechnie


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