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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Desperate Heroines

Sandrine Piau (soprano)
Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg/Ivor Bolton
rec. November 2013, Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg, Austria
Full texts and English translations in booklet
NAÏVE V5366 [48.00]

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Mozart Arias

Marina Rebeka (soprano)
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Speranza Scappucci
rec. 24-28 March 2013, The Friary, West Everton, Liverpool, U.K.
Full texts and English translations in booklet
WARNER CLASSICS 6154972 [59.03]

This is a treat: two contrasting bright soprano voices in two excellent releases of Mozart arias recorded in 2013 by Marina Rebeka on Warner and Sandrine Piau on Naïve. Both are established sopranos on the international stage with Mozart roles in their repertoires.

This is Rebeka’s first solo album and Piau who has been around longer has made a number of recordings including an album of Mozart arias for Naïve Astrée with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra in 2002.

Enticingly entitled Desperate Heroines the nine aria collection from French soprano Piau has been selected from seven operas. The attractive and engrossing programme is a combination of the lesser-known from Mitridate in the early period to the famous late masterpiece Don Giovanni. All the operas are linked by a thread of anguish. Piau an early music specialist, much associated with William Christie and Christophe Rousset, displays her steely, lean and agile voice with its accustomed bell-like clarity. I enjoyed the vocal presence and purity of tone that Piau produces as Donna Anna in Crudele? Non mi dir from Don Giovanni, still grieving for her father as she asks Don Ottavio to postpone any talk of marriage. It does however take a while to become accustomed to the rather rapidly taken, jagged quality of Piau’s coloratura. The powerful scene from Mitridate as the despairing Aspasia with An ben ne fui presaga… Pallid'ombre is impressively sung and Piau conveys the anxiety of this tragic figure asked to drink the poison. From Idomeneo comes Se il padre perdei in which Princess Ilia tells the King of Crete that she is no longer anguished over her father’s death. Piau is here notable for her smooth line and ability to hold extended notes with ease. In the accompanying role is the prudently prepared Mozarteum Orchestra which distinguishes itself under principal conductor Ivor Bolton. An authentic music specialist, Bolton adopts period informed aspects. His Salzburg players make restrained use of vibrato and deliver a precise and pointed sound that has a sincere and uncluttered feel.

Mozart Arias is Warner Classics release from Latvian soprano Marina Rebeka. It comprises sixteen arias chosen from three distinguished and two slightly lesser known operas. Compared to Piau a relatively fuller and more expressive sound can be heard from Rebeka. At the same time she remains mindful of the need to leave the excesses of the Romantic Movement in the distance. From the much loved Die Zauberflöte the Queen of the Night’s celebrated showpiece aria Der Hölle Rache is executed splendidly in this furiously driven outburst of emotional drama. Rebeka has plenty of vocal heft and a striking coloratura. The Queen of the Night’s earlier aria Zum Leiden bin ich auserkoren, with her daughter abducted and happiness lost, is another example of Rebeka’s prodigious vocal technique, powerful as required with a vibrato that never intrudes. From Le nozze di Figaro with Dove sono i bei momenti di dolcezza the Countess Almaviva can be heard reflecting on past events and musing whether her marriage is saveable. It's gloriously shaped by Rebeka who is both tender and highly expressive. Her ability smoothly to glide up to her high notes is a pleasure. We then reach Konstanze’s demanding aria where Selim the Pasha presents her with an ultimatum — love or torture — in Martern aller Arten from Die Entführung aus dem Serail. Her singing is hard to beat for its commitment, fearsome feeling and coloratura. Here Rebeka reveals a slight sharpness in her high register but copes very well overall. She profits from highly sensitive support from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic judiciously drilled under Speranza Scappucci. The Italian conductor often directs from the harpsichordist and is no stranger to the Viennese classical era having recently conducted both Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte, with which she made her conducting debut, and Don Giovanni. These are operas she knows intimately from her early years as a répétiteur. With Scappucci no doubt drawing on her experience of working with early music specialists William Christie and Emmanuelle Haïm the colourful and lucid orchestral accompaniment never feels too heavy nor does it risk overpowering the soloist.

Both Warner and Naïve are to be congratulated for providing full texts with English translations in the accompanying booklets. A short description of each aria within the context of the opera would have been extremely helpful. By today’s standards at only fifty-nine minutes the Warner CD is not especially generous but at a meager forty-eight minutes the Naïve disc is short measure. Nevertheless the elevated performance quality of both serves Mozart’s music exceptionally well.

Michael Cookson


Le nozze di Figaro (1783)
1. L'ho perduta, me meschina [1.36]
Don Giovanni (1787)
2. Crudele? Non mi dir [6.23]
La finta giardiniera (1775)
3. Geme la tortorella [4.08]
Mitridate, re di Ponto (1770)
4. An ben ne fui presaga… Pallid'ombre [6.38]
Le nozze di Figaro (1783)
5. Deh vieni non tardar [4.03]
La finta giardiniera (1775)
6. Crudeli, oh dio! fermate... ah dal pianto [6.39]
Idomeneo (1781)
7. Se il padre perdei [5.53]
Lucio Silla (1772)
8. Frà i pensieri [5.47]
Il re pastore (1775)
9. L'amero [6.28]

Idomeneo (1781)
1. O smania! O furie! [2.46]
2. D'Oreste, d'Aiace ho in seno I tormenti [3.36]
Le nozze di Figaro (1783)
3. Porgi, amor [3.55]
Die Zauberflöte (1791)
4. Der Hölle Rache [3.08]
Don Giovanni (1787)
5. Crudele? Ah no, mio bene! [1.45]
6. Non mi dir, bell'idol mio [5.32]
7. In quali eccessi, o Numi!
8. Mi tradì quell'alma ingrata
Le nozze di Figaro (1783)
9. E Susanna non vien!
10. Dove sono i bei momenti di dolcezza
Idomeneo (1781)
11. Estinto è Idomeneo?
12. Tutte nel cor vi sento
Die Zauberflöte (1791)
13. O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn
14. Zum Leiden bin ich auserkoren
15. Ah, Ich fühl's, es ist verschwunden!
Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1782)
16. Martern aller Arten



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