Decca have plundered their back catalogue for this 1970s Così.
Solti had conducted the opera many times prior to this studio
recording, giving his first performance at the Munich Opera
House back in 1951. He resigned his position at the Royal Opera
House, Covent Garden in 1971 to take up his duties as the Musical
Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, although he would
return to Covent Garden every year for the next ten years or
was Mozart’s third
and last collaboration with Lorenzo da Ponte. The première
was given at the Burgtheater, Vienna in January 1790, achieving
only a moderate degree of success. Interestingly Haydn attended
at least two of the rehearsals in the weeks leading up to the
is an opera without a leading character. The cast comprises
six equal partners, who are equally significant and are given
equal musical weight. Mozart, more than he had ever done
before in an opera, speaks of human relations, feelings, love,
betrayal, happiness and jealousy. His orchestration is of chamber
proportions and a prime example of the clarity and concision
of instrumental scoring favoured by neo-classical ideals.
In the short but
delightful overture Solti and the LPO permit the effervescent wit of the opera to shine
through. Especially appealing is the principal section with
the rapid theme that courses gracefully through strings and
Spanish soprano Pilar Lorengar as Fiordiligi, the sister of
Dorabella, was an experienced singer and one can easily understand
why she was cast in the role. Her soprano is light and creamy
at the bottom and middle of her range and although she does
not have a high volume she is able to expand her voice easily.
The only drawback is that her distinctive vibrato intrudes and
can prove distracting. Her celebrated arias, "Come scoglio"
and "Ah guarda, sorella" are sung to considerable
Krause, the Finnish bass-baritone, is a supremely heroic and
expressive Guglielmo. He shapes and phrases the aria, "Donne
mie, la fate a tanti" with richness and consistent
strength, never straining or pushing. At times, he is deeply
moving especially when whispering his tender love words in Dorabella’s
ear in "Il core vi dono".
cast Teresa Berganza, the Spanish mezzo, as Dorabella the sister
of Fiordiligi, was a fine choice. Bemoaning her sad fate in
the aria "Smanie implacabili" Berganza’s voice
is rich, strong and secure with a well focused tonal beauty.
officer Ferrando the Welsh tenor Ryland Davies performs acceptably.
He rather lacks variety of expression and in his aria, "Un’aura
amorosa" it feels as if he is concentrating too much
on the technical side.
French mezzo Jane Berbié is highly attractive and appealing
in her role as Despina, the ladies’ chambermaid. Despina has
three wonderful arias: "In uomini, in soldati,"
"Questo e quel pezzo" and "Una donna
a quindici anni." Berbié is clear and colourful with
a confident style of projection. However, she does occasionally
snatch uncomfortably at the higher notes.
the old philosopher Don Alfonso the French bass Gabriel Bacquier
is strong and resounding. He is especially characterful in the
arias; "Alla bella Despinetta" and "Tutti
accusan le donne".
of the main highlights comes in the famous trio when
Lorengar, Berganza and Bacquier as Fiordiligi, Dorabella and
Don Alfonso are pleading for a safe and tranquil sea journey
in "Soave sia il vento". It is hard to imagine
this trio being sung better; even if Bacquier might have
been positioned slightly further forward.
is a while since I have heard this version of Così and
re-acquaintance has demonstrated how enjoyable and well performed
this version is. Solti was at the time of the recording a German
citizen and had been awarded an honorary Knighthood for his
work at Covent Garden. The recording captures Solti in his prime.
His enthusiasm and commitment cannot be faulted and the LPO
are clearly well prepared with first-rate work from the Royal
Opera House Chorus. At times there is a slight shortage of charm
and sophistication, which is what one has almost come to expect,
yet readily accepts, owing to the genuine passion and the love
of music-making that Solti exudes.
is a highly respectable version from Solti and one that I will
often return to. However, my personal favourites are the versions
from: Böhm and the Philharmonia, with Schwarzkopf, Ludwig, Steffek
from 1962 on EMI 5 67382-2 and using period instruments, Jacobs
and the Cologne Chamber Orchestra and Choir with Gens, Fink,
Güra from 1999 on Harmonia Mundi HMX 2901 663-65. The Artsworld
Satellite Channel have been recently showing Jürgen Flimm’s
production of a live performance of Così from the Operahaus
Zurich in 2000 with Harnoncourt and the soloists Bartoli, Nikiteanu,
Baltsa, Sacca, Chausson and Widmer. An excellent production
and performance that is well worth viewing. It is available
on a DVD No.100012.
Decca sound quality from the early 1970s is most agreeable and
especially clear. The booklet notes have English translations
of the libretto but are let down by the lack of an essay and
worthy addition to any serious collection in this the year of
the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth.