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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791)
Così fan tutte (1790) - Highlights
Ouvertura; Act I: La mia Dorabella capace non è; Ah, guarda, sorella; Vorrei dir; Sento, oddio, che questo piede; Bella vita militar!; Di scrivermi ogni giorno; Soave sia il vento; Smanie implacabili; In uomini, in soldati; Come scoglio immoto resta; Non siate ritrosi; E voi ridete; Un’aura amorosa; Act II: Una donna a quindici anni; Il core vi dono, bell’idolo mio; Ah, lo veggio, quell’anima bella; Per pieta, ben mio, perdona; Donne mie, la fate a tanti; Tradito, schernito; È amore un ladroncello; Fra gli amplessi; Tutti accusan le donne
Felicity Lott (soprano) – Fiordiligi; Marie McLaughlin (soprano) – Dorabella; Nuccia Focile (soprano) – Despina; Jerry Hadley (tenor) – Ferrando; Alessandro Corbelli (baritone) – Guilelmo; Gilles Cachemaille (baritone) – Don Alfonso
Edinburgh Festival Chorus; Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Sir Charles Mackerras
rec. Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2–13 August 1993. DDD
TELARC CD-80399 [76:12]


As always when Sir Charles Mackerras is in charge of a Mozart recording great care is taken to get as authentic a performance as possible. True, the excellent SCO play on modern instruments but tempos are fastish in accordance with late eighteenth century practice and some of the arias are discreetly embellished. They even use the original spelling of Guilelmo, which Da Ponte always wrote - and Mozart nearly always - according to a footnote in the booklet.

Sir Charles sets the seal on the performance with a sparkling overture where the cheeky woodwind solos are well in focus. On a well-filled disc like this it is possible to include most of the favourite numbers and not only the arias. Così fan tutte is, more than any other Mozart opera, an ensemble opera and space has also been found for several concerted numbers. As always with Telarc the sound is excellent, full but not over-blown and an ideal balance between pit and stage. There are some splendid contributions from the Arthur Oldham-trained Edinburgh Festival Chorus, notably a vivid and alert Bella vita militar! and as on the companion Don Giovanni disc (see review) the conducting is faultless, Sir Charles being second to none as a Mozartean.

The singing is also first class, as it should be considering the roll-call. I think, though, that casting Dorabella as a soprano reduces the contrasts between the two sisters. Marie McLaughlin is a mite darker in timbre than Felicity Lott and they blend well when singing together, as can be heard in the duet Ah, guarda, sorella. However a true mezzo-soprano would have been preferable. This said, I have only praise for Marie McLaughlin’s singing, with perfect rounded tone and positively radiating charm. The second act aria È amore un ladroncello is especially memorable, as is the duet with Guilelmo, Il core vi dono, where both singers alluringly caress their melodic lines. Felicity Lott has a tough task to negotiate the wide range of her two arias but she does it admirably. She is a little fluttery in Come scoglio perhaps, but her singing takes on a grandiose quality in the long Per piea, ben mio, perdona. One has to admire Mozart’s inventive instrumentation: in this aria it’s the horns that provide the dark colours. The duet Fra gli amplessi, just before the end of the opera also shows her at her best. She hasn’t the creamy tones of Lisa Della Casa - whose Decca recording with Karl Böhm from the mid-1950s has long been a personal favourite - but she is so sensitive. Here she and Jerry Hadley obviously spur each other to grandeur. Hadley, who earlier in the opera has been uncharacteristically strained, here sings with a hushed intensity to challenge even Nicolai Gedda. Hadley sings his arias with his accustomed sensitivity and in Tradito, schernito with great power not always found in a Mozart tenor, but he has to work hard. A pleasant surprise is Alessandro Corbelli who on the companion Don Giovanni disc was a stylish but slightly anonymous Leporello. Here he is a real charmer, evoking memories of Erich Kunz on the Böhm recording. He even communicates much of Kunz’s timbre. The aria Donne mie. la fate a tanti is more hard-driven, more boisterous than Kunz but still charming. The two wire-pullers, Despina and Don Alfonso, have less to sing but Nuccia Focile is bright and glittering in her two arias. The superb actor Gilles Cachemaille demonstrates his capacity in the short concluding aria, where the final words are, of course, Così fan tutte.

With a good essay on the opera and an extensive synopsis plus Charles Mackerras’s “Notes on the Musical Interpretation” the documentation is more than one has the right to hope for, especially with a mid-price issue. Anyone wanting a stylish disc of Cosí highlights? Here it is!

Göran Forsling


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