In the 18th century every
revival of an opera was different. If
the composer was supervising then he
would adapt the musical text to suit
the singers, often taking advantage
of the occasion to improve the work.
If the composer was not present, then
a local ‘hack’ would be tasked with
re-working the music, providing suitable
extra arias for the singers. On occasion,
this was work undertaken by both Mozart
and Haydn and often they provided arias
that deserve hearing. In fact Mozart
was rather competitive about writing
extra arias for other people’s operas.
He was determined that his contribution
would be better than the original.
This recital enable
us to hear a number of these extra arias.
The first on the disc is in fact an
alternative aria from one of Mozart’s
own operas. Rivolgete a lui lo sguardo
is a mock heroic effort intended as
the high point of Act 1 of Cosi fan
Tutte, to be sung by Guglielmo.
Mozart seems to have decided that it
was too long and showy so it was replaced
by the simpler patter song Non siate
ritrosi. Rivolgete is worth
hearing, with its references to mythical
figures, and Hampson projects both words
and characterisation wonderfully whilst
not forgetting the necessary virtues
of a good vocal line needed in this
music. These are virtues which Hampson
displays throughout the recording.
Un bacio di mano
is a charming arietta which Mozart wrote
for Anfossi’s comedy Le gelosie fortunate.
The aria displays a sceptical view of
women’s fidelity in common with Cosi
fan tutte. Mozart would re-use the
melody in the first movement of the
Jupiter. Hampson follows this
with a number which is great fun but
rather less sophisticated, Ich möchte
whol der Kaiser sein!; a jingoistic
song written at the time of war with
the Turks. It uses a whole panoply of
Whilst Mozart was reaching
the end of his short life, Beethoven
was cutting his teeth as a composer
of operatic arias at the court of the
Elector in Bonn. Prüfung des
Küssens and Mit Mädeln
sich vertragen were both written
for Joseph Lux, a bass at the Elector’s
court. In them Beethoven combines the
German Singspiel idiom with more sophisticated
Italian style. The results are attractive
and Hampson characterises the arias
well, relishing Beethoven’s word-setting.
In the 1780s Haydn
devoted much of his time to operatic
performances for Prince Nicolaus Esterhazy.
Not only did he write operas of his
own but he adapted and directed those
of other composers, providing additional
items where necessary. Dice benissimo
is a comic aria written for inclusion
in Salieri’s comedy La scuola de
gelosi which had recently been a
hit in Italy. This contrasts nicely
with the more serious, Un cor si
tenero; an elegant cantabile number
written for Francesco Bianchi’s Il
The Count’s Revenge
aria from Le nozze di Figaro
was re-written by Mozart to suit the
singer in the 1789 Viennese revival;
the aria takes advantage of the singer’s
brilliant top register and includes
a new ending in grand opera seria style.
It is a fascinating example of a composer
adapting his own work for different
in opera were less successful, though
he nurtured ambitions in this vein throughout
his life. His Alfonso und Estrella
sets a libretto by his friend Franz
von Schober. The result is hopelessly
untheatrical and stood no chance in
a Vienna obsessed by the operas of Rossini.
Hampson sings two lovely arias from
the opera but both are rather redundant
dramatically. However they contain fine
examples of Schubert’s lyricism and
Hampson relishes both the lovely lyric
moments and the big dramatic episodes.
His lovely phrasing in these pieces
is all that you could wish for.
The disc ends with
a pair of arias by Mozart, both connected
to Mozart’s friend, the amateur bass
Gottfried von Jacquin. Mentri ti
lascio is an agonised farewell of
a father to his daughter, which Mozart
colours with chromaticism and sumptuous
orchestration. Io ti lascio was
written during Mozart’s final summer.
Jacquin seems to have supplied the vocal
line and bass part and Mozart the upper
This is one of the
best things that Thomas Hampson has
done in a long time. His vocal health
on the disc is a pleasant surprise.
Despite singing a number of heavy Romantic
roles, his voice has kept its elegance
of line but to this is added a greater
depth and a wonderful way with the words.
One of the joys of the disc is the way
Hampson projects the lively texts whilst
never losing sight of the musical values.
He is ably supported
by Harnoncourt and Concentus Musicus
Wien. Not all the pieces require elaborate
orchestration, but when given their
head the orchestra relish their opportunities.
This is a well put together programme,
beautifully performed which makes a
good case for a group of often neglected