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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Regula Mühlemann (soprano)
Kammerorchester Basel/Umberto Benedetti Michelangeli
rec. 29 September-8 October 2015, Martinskirche, Müllheim
Sung texts with English translations enclosed
SONY 88985337582 [54:23]

As it happened two new recital discs, with Mozart’s soprano arias, arrived at the same time for review. Both were eminently good but they were worlds apart as regards repertoire. Maria Bengtsson offered arias from standard works: Idomeneo, Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte and Die Zauberflöte. The young Swiss soprano Regula Mühlemann has delved deep into more obscure works and come up with an interesting collection of rarely heard but very attractive arias, written for specific prima donnas.

The first was tailor-made for Josepha Hofer, eldest sister of Mozart’s wife Constanze and consequently Mozart’s sister-in-law. She was the first Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte. Two years before that she was to sing the role of Rosina in a Singspiel version of Paisiello’s Il barbiere di Siviglia and asked her brother-in-law for an aria to sing during the singing lesson in act II. This was Schon lacht der holde Frühling. However, the production was cancelled and Mozart never completed the aria, although the vocal part, the bass line and most of the first violin part had been written. Only the instrumentation was missing and so Franz Beyer was able to complete the score in Mozartean style in 1997. The result is a beautiful aria with – as can only be expected – a lot of coloratura. The slow middle section is certainly ravishing.

That aria was written by a mature composer. When he wrote La finta giardiniera in January 1775 for the carnival in Munich he was only 18. Sandrina’s role was sung by the Italian soprano Rosa Manservisi, and the audience was bowled over by her singing of the cavatina Geme la tortorella.
Mozart's other sister-in-law, Aloysia Lange, sang Donna Anna in the Viennese revival of Don Giovanni in 1788, but the only operatic role he wrote specifically for her was Madame Herz in Der Schauspieldirektor. This short opera was first performed on one stage in the Schönbrunn Orangery on 7 February 1786. This occasion took the form of a competition with his rival Salieri, since on the other stage his Prima la musica e poi le parole was premiered. Salieri obviously won the competition, but Mozart’s work was revived several times and is still played, usually in harness with one or two other short operas. The farewell aria is a brilliant and beautiful show-piece.

Next on the disc is again an insertion aria for Le nozze di Dorina, possibly by Baldassare Galuppi; Goldoni’s libretto had been set to music so many times and no one knows for sure. Come to that, we do not know who sang the aria Voi avete un cor fedele, but whoever it was she should surely have loved it.

From Poland came Antonia Miklaszewicz, who took the part of Servilia in La clemenza di Tito in 1791. She was only eighteen but already singing prima donna roles; Servilia is in fact seconda donna. The aria S’altro che lagrime is truly beautiful. Blondchen in Die Entführung aus dem Serail is also a seconda donna. It’s a brilliant part for a good actor, and Durch zärtlichkeit und Schmeicheln needs an expressive comedienne. Therese Teyber was the name of the 22-year-old Viennese soprano who premiered the role and the aria should be a show-stopper, at least when sung with the sort of elegance we hear from Mühlemann.

Another gem is Celia’s act III aria from Lucio Silla. The opera was performed at the Carnival in Milan in December 1772. Daniella Mienci was the seconda donna and her aria was somewhat toned down to prevent her from stealing the limelight from the prima donna. It is a fine piece of work even so.

With Vorrei spiegarvi from 1783 we are back with Aloysia Lange, for whom Mozart wrote this aria as an insertion for Pasquale Anfossi’s Il curioso indiscreto. It is a gorgeous aria which exposes the singer’s top register. Mozart’s orchestration is lovely with an oboe dialoguing with the soprano and pizzicato strings.

The concluding number is no doubt the best known in this delightful programme. The motet Exsultate, jubilate was written in January 1773 for the castrato Venanzio Rauzzini, who also sang the part of Cecilio in Lucio Silla. In particular the Alleluja movement has become a show-piece for sopranos to demonstrate their coloratura capacity. That Regula Mühlemann is brilliant here comes as no surprise, having listened through the delightful programme that preceded the motet. Her technical ability is certainly breathtaking, but she is much more than a nightingale. Her tone is beautiful and well equalized from top to bottom and she is expressive and nuanced in her readings. She is excellently backed up by the Kammerorchester Basel, not to be confused with the Basler Kammerorchester, founded in 1926 by Paul Sacher and discontinued in 1987. Kammerorchester Basel was formed in 1984 as Serenata Basel and assumed its present name in 1999. The informative liner-notes deftly put the music in its historical context.

This is an excellent disc with predominantly rarely heard arias, well worth adding to every Mozart-lover’s collection, for the programme as well as for the singing.

Göran Forsling

Track listing
1. Schon lacht der holde Frühling, KV 580 [8:05]
La finta giardiniera, KV 196:
2. Geme la tortorella [4:32]
Der Schauspieldirektor, KV 486:
3. Da schlägt die Abschiedsstunde [3:54]
4. Voi avete un cor fedele, KV 217 [6:50]
La clemenza di Tito, KV 621:
5. S’altro che lacrime [2:26]
Die Entführung aus dem Serail, KV 384:
6. Durch Zärtlichkeit und Schmeicheln [4:23]
Lucio Silla, KV 135:
7. Strider sento la procella [3:52]
8. Vorrei spiegarvi, od Dio … Ah, conte, partite, KV 418 [6:28]
Exsultate, jubilate KV 165 (158a):
9. Exsultate, jubilate [4:20]
10. Fulget amica dies [0:49]
11. Tu virginum corona [6:10]
12. Alleluja [2:32]



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