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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791)
Arie e Duetti

Die Zauberflöte: Overture;: Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja♂; Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen♂; Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön☼; Bei Männern ♀♂;
Don Giovanni: Il mio tesoro☼¸Finch’han dal vino♂; La ci darem la mano♀♂; Ah, fuggi il traditor♀;
Così fan tutte: Rivolgete a lui lo sguardo♂; Fra gli amplessi♀; Un aura amorosa☼;
Die Entführung aus dem Serail: O wie ängstlich, o wie feurig☼;
Le nozze di Figaro: Vedrò mentr’io sospiro♂; Deh vieni, non tardar; Non piu andrai♂
Isabel Bayrakdarian (soprano)♀, Michael Schade (tenor)☼, Russell Braun (baritone)♂,
Canadian Opera Company Orchestra/Richard Bradshaw
rec. George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts, Toronto, Canada, 8-9 June 2005
CBC SMCD 5239 [67:21]
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Three leading Canadian opera singers get together to make a disc of favourite arias and duets by Mozart, the man of the year.

The choice of repertoire is more or less predictable. There are no lesser known arias, and Gott sei Dank they have been grouped by opera but, within the operas, not in the order of appearance. The ordering of the operas seems haphazard, too. "What an ungrateful nit-picker!" I can hear readers mumble. "Of course they have decided the order to achieve as much variety as possible". But I am not so sure. Why, in that case, start the recital, after the Zauberflöte overture with two arias in a row sung by Russell Braun? Why have a duet from Così with Schade followed by two tenor arias? I can do my own programming, so why bother? But programming is essential to get a good rhythm or to be instructive, for instance following a composer’s development, so it shouldn’t be over-looked. End of carping.

Of the three singers I was pleased to find Russell Braun among them. I heard him as Valentin in Faust in Paris a few years ago and liked him very much. His voice is light and lyrical, a high baritone. Maybe he shouldn’t sing Figaro, who should have more weight, more darkness, but he still gives a fine reading of Non più andrai, boisterous and mocking. All through the disc his is a very lively presence and since he has the lion’s share of the music he so to speak sets the seal on the performances. His Papageno is light and natural, the champagne aria from Don Giovanni is elegant and aristocratic and the beginning of the duet La ci darem la mano, which is preceded by a few lines of recitative to set the scene, is so seductively delivered that more experienced girls than Zerlina would follow him straightaway. He characterises well in the Così aria, which is the least well-known piece here and he is properly upset as Count Almaviva without hectoring.

Michael Schade, whom I had reason to praise for his neurotic Tito on the Harnoncourt Clemenza di Tito (DVD) a while ago, is soft and intense by turns. His soft side can approach "crooning" but is skilfully done and his uppermost register can be a bit penetrating in tone when he sings forte. In general though he is also very good and the Entführung aria is especially fine.

I have read some glowing reviews of Armenian-born Isabel Bayrakdarian of late but had so far never heard her. I must say that she more than lived up to her reputation. Not only is she the possessor of one of the most beautiful soprano voices around with splendid technique and stylishness, she also seems to be an actress who can create believable characters. Pamina and Zerlina are two innocent young women but they should be quite unlike each other. And they are. Pamina, being the daughter of the Queen of the Night has a certain aristocratic bearing, while the peasant girl Zerlina, in the duet with Don Giovanni, is full of rustic charm and amazement at being courted by a nobleman. When she then changes dress to the wronged and revengeful Donna Elvira she also changes voice and is all of a sudden an outraged and sad woman. As Fiordiligi she is so creamy-toned that even Kiri Te Kanawa and Renée Fleming have to watch out. She is the most lovely of Susannas in the Rosenarie, as it is known in Germany. When will some company sign her up for a complete recording?

Richard Bradshaw secures good playing from his orchestra, embracing the idea that accompaniments should be discreet. The sound is good and the booklet has bios in English and French. The sung texts are preceded by short but illuminating notes that place the arias in context.

Most Mozartians will already be well-stocked with these arias in favourite versions but for the opportunity to hear this sensational new soprano and two very good male colleagues this is a safe recommendation.

Göran Forsling


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