Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
An Introduction to… ‘The Marriage of Figaro’

Mozart the phenomenon
Mozart’s operas
Don Giovanni
Così fan tutte
The three Beaumarchais plays
The Marriage of Figaro

Beginning: Figaro and Susanna
Dr Bartolo's vengeance
Cherubino sent to war
The Countess's sorrow and Figaro's plans
Cherubino dressed as a girl
The Count seeks revenge
A letter for the Count
Assignations in the garden
The denouement
Music taken from The Marriage of Figaro (Highlights) - Naxos 8.554172
Narrative written by Thomson Smillie and spoken by David Timson
Bargain Price
NAXOS EDUCATIONAL 8.558078 [79.34]


In my review, elsewhere on this site, of ‘An Introduction to Die Fledermaus’, I own to being converted to the scholarship that is present in this series and that offer, I believe, illumination for even the most ardent opera buff. In this introduction to ‘Figaro’ the erudition, if I might put it that way without deterring teachers or newcomers to the work, is a bit slow getting off the ground with barely relevant, but I suppose inevitable, references to the film ‘Amadeus’. However, matters are quickly back to normal, with reference to Mozart’s adolescent works, ‘Lucio Silla’ and ‘Ascanio in Alba’ and that first real masterpiece ‘Il Seraglio’. In comparing Belmonte’s aria from the latter work with Tamino’s from the ‘Magic Flute’, of nine years later, the narrative makes an unusually big jump (tr.3). Moving on to the Mozart-Da Ponte operas, there is a good analysis of Don Giovanni, well illustrated by musical examples, and concluding with the last of the triptych, ‘Cosi’ which is later analysed in more detail (tr. 5). The narrative on the Beaumarchais trilogy of plays and their relationship with ‘Figaro’ and Rossini’s ‘Barber of Seville’, of which we get several musical illustrations, is most interesting (tr.6), while being a little harshly dismissive of Paisiello’s opera of the same name.

With the more analytical section out of the way the succeeding tracks (7-15) concentrate on the opera in question, ‘Figaro’. There are illuminating and informative comments such as the role and difference between recitative (moving the plot forward) and aria (comments on the situation). The evolution of the plot and the relevance of the various characters is clearly outlined, and in this context I must say the explanation of the goings-on in act 4 (trs. 14-15) is masterly. Sometimes I found the musical illustrations rather too brief, and whilst they are all in the original language I did wonder why the title wasn’t also. The Naxos recording used for the musical illustrations is rather over-reverberant and not sung with particular distinction. However, these are not important matters in this context.

This CD has much to offer be it to the opera buff or to someone dipping a tentative toe in the water. There are few more enjoyable works to start an opera-loving career than this effervescent comedy and so much within it that can be overlooked through familiarity.

Robert J Farr

See also review by Colin Clarke


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