Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 - 1791)
La finta semplice, KV 51
1. Amoretti [4:58]
Ascanio in Alba, KV 111
2. Ferma aspetta ... [3:56]
3. Infelici affetti miei [5:25]
André GRETRY (1741 - 1813)
La fausse magie
4. Comme un éclair [6:04]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Mitridate, re di Ponto, KV 87
5. Lungi da te [10:14]
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714 - 1787)
Orphée et Eurydice
6. Soumis au silence [2:04]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Il sogno di Scipione, KV 126
7. Biancheggia [7:14]
8. Il va venir ... Pardonne, o mon juge [5:22]
9. Au bien supreme [2:36]
Christoph Willibald GLUCK
Il parnaso confuso
10. Sacre piante [10:12]
Telemaco ossia l’isola di Circe
11. In mezo a un mar crudele [5:32]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Lucio SillaKV 135
12. Odo, o mi sembra udir... [1:13]
13. Fra i pensier [3:22]
Christoph Willibald GLUCK
Iphigénie en Aulide
14. Adieu [4:30]
Christiane Karg (soprano), Arcangelo/Jonathan Cohen
rec. 7-10 February 2012 at St Jude’s, Hampstead Garden Suburb
Sung texts with German and English translations enclosed
BERLIN CLASSICS 0300389BC [72:52]
This lovely disc encompasses arias from twelve operas composed within a ten-year-period by three composers from roughly three different generations. His first reform opera, Orfeo ed Euridice was premiered as early as 1762 - three years before Il parnaso confuso and Telemaco, which are the earliest works here. The French version, appearing in 1774, was however a quite substantial reworking of the Italian ‘original’ and can thus be regarded as a different work. All five Mozart operas represented here belong to his juvenile years, La finta semplice even written before he turned teenager. It is also this opera that lends the title of the album, Amoretti, the plural of ‘Amoretto’, the Italian for ‘Cupid’. Practically none of the arias here can be regarded as standards, not even L’Amour’s little arietta from Orphée or Iphigénie’s Adieu from Iphigénie en Aulide. Three of the arias are even premiere recordings.
The young Bavarian soprano Christiane Karg has, since her debut at the Salzburg Festival in 2006 had a rapid rise to stardom and in October 2010 she was awarded the Echo Klassik prize as Newcomer of the Year by the German Phono Academy for her first Lieder CD. I haven’t heard that disc but from what I hear on the present disc I can understand the accolade. She has a truly beautiful lyric soprano with angelic high notes, she nuances exquisitely and her pianissimo singing is ravishing. All this is apparent in the very first aria, the one from La finta semplice. In the recitative and aria from Ascanio in Alba (trs. 2-3) she also turns out to possess dramatic expressiveness as well. The aria proper is a good example of the young Mozart’s creative power. I can’t resist quoting Charles Osborne in his The Complete Operas of Mozart on this aria:
‘With Silvia’s recitative and aria, ‘Infelice affetti miei’ (No. 23), we are suddenly transported ahead to the world of mature Mozart. The accompanied recitative preceding the aria, in which Silvia wrestles with the two images of love, chaste and erotic, which have revealed themselves to her, is written with the insight not of an adolescent but of the musical psychologist who was to bring similar but no greater gifts to the plight of Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte. The comment of the string accompaniment is as understanding, as consoling, as though we were listening to that opera, and not to a sérénade d’occasion at a royal court. The aria which follows is a sad and affecting adagio in which Silvia asks the gods to restore her lost innocence: a touching but also astonishing piece to come from the pen of the fifteen-year-old Mozart.’
In his day André Grétry was one of the leading composers of opera. He wrote about fifty works in the genre and Zémire et Azor (1771) and Richard Coeur-de-lion (1784) are regarded as his masterpieces. It seems that his music is out of fashion today but there do exist quite a lot of recordings, including a live recording (Somm) under Sir Thomas Beecham (he championed Grétry’s music) of Zémire et Azor from 1955 and a studio recording of Richard Coeur-de-lion on EMI with a starry French cast including Jules Bastin, Mady Mesplé and Charles Burles. Checking on Operabase I found some productions during 2011 and 2012 and one coming up in June 2013 at Liège, conducted by Claudio Scimone. The opera is Guillaume Tell, first performed in 1791 and thus preceding Rossini’s opera by 28 years. 2013 is the bicentenary of Grétry’s death but this celebration will undoubtedly be somewhat overshadowed by the celebrations for Verdi and Wagner next year.
“I was at once attracted by this delicate and delightful music..”, wrote Beecham in his autobiography on discovering Grétry’s music and it is very easy to like. The aria from La fausse magie (tr. 6) is agreeably melodious but also requires some virtuoso singing, and Christiane Karg on top of everything else tosses off excellent coloratura. She is a lovely L’Amour in the aria from Orphée and dramatic and intense in the whirling aria from Il sogno di Scipione, the coloratura again assured and brilliant.
The two arias from Grétry’s Silvain and Lucile (trs. 8-9) are premiere recordings. In particular the second of them, Au bien supreme, is an enchanting, inward lament that I’m sure I will want to hear again. Gluck’s Sacre piante from the one act serenata Il parnaso confuso (libretto by Metastasio) (tr. 10) is another lovely song, maybe at 10 minutes overlong, but Ms Karg embellishes the repeats tastefully. The dramatic In mezzo a un mar crudele from Telemaco (tr. 11) with lots of fearless coloratura is a third first time recording. It is tremendously sung: well worth hearing both for the power of Gluck’s writing and the stunning singing.
Lucio Silla, first performed in Milano on 26 December 1772 has its fair share of routine music but there are enough highlights to make it the best of the operas Mozart wrote in Italy. Osborne says that the recitative and aria heard here (trs. 12-13) ‘are both the dramatic climax and musical peak of the opera. The long accompanied recitative, in its vivid projection of the drama, anticipated the Mozart of Don Giovanni while the aria, an andante in C minor, and the only minor key aria in the opera, possesses an emotional maturity and musical confidence which would be astonishing even if it were not composed by a youth of seventeen.’
The final aria, Adieu from Iphigénie en Aulide is one of the masterpieces of 18th century opera and it is a worthy conclusion to a collection of rarities sung by a remarkably well endowed singer, who seems cut out for a great career. Don’t miss this disc.
Göran Forsling

Don’t miss this disc.