Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Le Nozze di Figaro - Opera in four Acts [155:59]
Figaro – Cesare Siepi (bass); Susanna – Roberta Peters (soprano); Don Bartolo – Ezio Flagello (bass); Marcellina – Regina Resnik (mezzo); Cherubino – Mildred Miller (mezzo); Count Almaviva – Kim Borg (bass); Don Basilio – Gabor Carelli (tenor); Countess Almaviva – Lucine Amara (soprano); Antonio – Lorenzo Alvary (bass); Don Curzio – Robert Nagy (tenor); Barbarina – Mildred Allen (soprano)
Chorus and Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera, New York/Erich Leinsdorf
rec. live, 28 January 1961
synopsis but no text or translation included
SONY CLASSICS 88697 85310 2 [3 CDs: 43:14 + 43:28 + 69:17]

Sony are entering an already well filled market by issuing “historic” performances from the Metropolitan Opera. That said, there is surely more than enough room for recordings with interesting casts or rare operas. Le Nozze di Figaro is certainly not rare but the cast here is, if not interesting, then certainly unlikely. What we have here is very different from what you are likely to encounter today on disc or in the opera house, and perhaps the main virtue of the set is that it reminds us that in only half a century how much the general approach to this work has changed.

There is however no way of putting off saying that this set is not so much “historic” as simply old, and that for the most part what we hear is routine at best. Inevitably in any live event not everything will be perfect, and some degree of toleration by the listener of minor slips, stage noises and strange cuts to the score is essential. What we have goes beyond that, to encompass a general roughness of approach and lack of subtlety. Even Cesare Siepi, one of my favourite singers in his commercial recordings of Mozart, seems not to have greatly bothered, with singing that is too often inexact in tuning and crude in phrasing. Kim Borg and Lucine Amara are better known for their performances in later composers such as Mussorgsky and Puccini respectively, and their recordings in such fields have great distinction. It may simply be due to the need to establish an effect in a house too large for the work but both make little impression and sound uncomfortable for most of the time. Mildred Miller is curious casting for Cherubino, at least without the benefit of seeing her performance. She sounds the most womanly of the female soloists and not for one moment could she be taken as a teenage page. Unexpectedly, as her commercial recordings tend towards pertness or blandness, Roberta Peters is by some way the most satisfactory of the soloists.

Erich Leinsdorf recorded the Mozart symphonies, and was a conductor with a wide range of sympathies and obvious competence. Unfortunately what we have here never exceeds a basic competence and is alternately rushed and or excessively slow. There are cuts in recitatives and the usual cuts of the Fourth Act arias of Don Basilio and Marcellina. Essential appoggiaturas are omitted by most of the singers and there is neither text nor translation in the booklet. Oddly neither are there biographies of the performers nor any information about the production of which this is a recording. I am normally an enthusiast for live recordings of opera, but this poorly presented set has been a sad disappointment. This is especially bearing in mind the mouth-watering choice of other recordings from the Met in this period.

John Sheppard

This poorly presented set has been a sad disappointment.