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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Ombra Compagna
A Berenice – Sol nascente K70 (1766) [12:05]
Alcandro, lo confesso – Non so d’onde viene K 294 (1778) [9:44]
Bella mia fiamma – Resta, oh cara K 528 (1787) [9:49]
Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio! K 418 (1783) [7:00]
Chi są, chi są, qual sia K 582 (1789) [3:15]
Misera, dove son! K369 (1781) [7:27]
Voi avete un cor fedele K 217 (1775) [6:59]
Ah, lo previdi K 272 (1777) [13:16]
Vado, ma dove? oh Dei! K 583 (1789) [4:11]
Ah se in ciel, benigne stelle K 538 (1788) [7:38]
Lisette Oropesa (soprano)
Il Pomo d’Oro cond. Antonello Manacorda
Rec. August 2020, Himmelfahrtskirche, Munich-Sendling
Italian texts and English translations included
PENTATONE PTC5186885 SACD [81:30]

Lisette Oropesa is Cuban-American and has been rising steadily in her career. She has already recorded a number of her operatic roles, though not, I think, her Mozart ones, which include Susanna and Konstanze. This is her first recital disc, and for it she has chosen Mozart concert arias.

These concert arias are mostly of two kinds: insertion arias as replacements or extras for other people’s operas, and stand-alone numbers, using texts from libretti but intended for concert performance. Insertion arias tend not to have recitatives, since the original ones would be used. Mozart wrote a large number of concert arias – the complete Mozart 225 edition has five discs of them – the majority of which are for the soprano voice. Most present women in extreme situations, evoking passion and despair, though some of them are for male characters. Some of them are hackwork, but many are splendid, and Oropesa has made a most intelligent choice of them for this recital and arranged them in a sensible though not chronological order. The first piece here A Berenice – Sol nascente K 70, stands rather apart from the others. It is much the earliest work – Mozart was only thirteen when he wrote it, though already an accomplished composer – and it is neither an insertion nor a stand-alone aria but rather a licenza, an epilogue to an existing piece.

She has a most delightful voice, with a middle register full of character and charm and an upper extension which she moves into seamlessly and allows her to reach high notes, though she has never been a Queen of the Night. She has all the technique which you could wish for: accurate intonation, beautiful phrasing and breath control, the ability to sing the most complicated figures and a real trill. Most of these arias were written as display pieces for singers Mozart knew, chiefly Josepha Duschek and Aloysia Weber. He proposed to Aloysia, who turned him down and he went on to marry her sister Constanze.

Paul Hamburger said that Aloysia owed her success to ‘a certain cold brilliance, fluent coloratura and matter-of-fact musicianship’ and that Mozart matched this in the arias he wrote for her or in a similar style, which include Alcandro, lo confesso – Non so d’onde viene K 294, with Ah se in ciel, benigne stelle K 538, Chi są, chi są, qual sia K 582 and Vado, ma dove? oh Dei! K 583. Be that as it may, I find them not only brilliant but also tender, and Oropesa can find darker colours in her voice to express this. Josepha was a different matter and so is Bella mia fiamma – Resta, oh cara K 528. This was written for Josepha not long after the premiere of Don Giovanni, and it shares something of the same mood. It is very demanding for the singer, with difficult leaps and much chromatic writing and is, I think, one of Mozart’s finest arias. It gets a thrilling performance here. In complete contrast is the gentle Misera, dove son! K369, written for an amateur but still a good piece.

However, Oropesa’s own favourite is the earlier Ah, lo previdi K 272, also written for Josepha. This falls into several sections, rising to extreme passion before subsiding into a calmer mood in the closing Cavatina. This superb piece is perhaps the high point of the recital.

The conductor is Antonello Manacorda, who proves himself to be a good Mozartian, particularly relishing the wind colours which Mozart uses. The orchestra, Il Pomo d’Oro (the Golden Apple in English) is a period band specializing in Baroque and early Classical works. They play with plenty of vigour and colour and none of the scrawniness which used to affect period groups in the past. The recording is excellent – this is a SACD but I was listening in ordinary two channel stereo. I must put in a good word for the booklet. This eschews biographies of the performers and instead gives the space to good notes about the music plus full texts and translations. Also note the generous timing. This dazzling recital is going to be one of my discs of the year.

Stephen Barber

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