First released in 2007, this is the CD that introduced Ian Page’s Classical Opera to disc. It offers a whirlwind traversal of Mozart’s operas in chronological order, including extracts from no fewer than fifteen of the 22 (if unfinished works are included). Page, to my mind one of the most talented of today’s younger British conductors, immediately announced himself with this CD as a natural Mozartian. Indeed, one of the chief pleasures is the juxtaposition of graciously phrased cantabiles – listen, for example to the line he achieves in the delectable "Ruhe sanft" (Zaide) – and the dramatically incisive rhythms of an aria like "Se vuol ballare" (Figaro), all splendidly played. The singing is more variable, with excessive vibrato a persistent problem; I suspect that there are some voices here that Page would not use today. I think, too, that he has developed his ideas on ornamentation since making this disc, the highlights of which include Klara Ek’s charming "Geme la tortorelIa" (La finta giardiniera) and, perhaps predictably, Susan Gritton’s winning performance of "Ruhe sanft", though her German diction could have been better. Of several ensembles in which Page shows himself capable of creating a satisfying balance, the quintet from Act I of Cosi fares best. As I’ve noted in these pages before, I’m never quite sure who this kind of CD is aimed at. Surely not those familiar with the operas, who will find being wrenched from one familiar dramatic situation to another disconcerting. Possibly it could serve as an introduction to a newcomer to what is arguably the greatest of all operatic canons? That it will do admirably.
Lovely survey of Mozart’s entire operatic output with a fine generation of young singers
This reissue (now on Signum originally on Sony BMG) acts as something of taster for Classical Opera’s ongoing project recording the complete Mozart operas. This disc includes music from each of Mozart’s operas presented in chronological order. Recorded in 2007, the disc is a compilation of some fine lyric voices, some 11 singers in total, performing one aria or ensemble each from 15 operas, with Ian Page conducting the Orchestra of Classical Opera. One of the charms of the disc is not just the way it gives us an overview of Mozart’s operas, but also an interesting overview of a cross section of young singers.
We start with Apollo et Hyacinthus (1767), written before Mozart became a teenager. The duet Natus cadit, sung by Martene Grimson and Allan Clayton, is a lovely lyric item with two flexible voices in shapely form. Rebecca Bottone sings the aria Amoretti, che ascosi qui siete from La finta semplice with a lovely line and beauty of tone. In both of these it is amazing how many fingerprints from Mozart’s later operas are discernible. Matthew Rose then sings Diggi, daggi, schurry, murry from Bastien und Bastienne which is a highly characterful piece.
With Mitridate Re di Ponto (1770) we move to a group of works which each written for Milan. Se viver no degg’io the duet from the opera is sung in its original version by Rebecca Bottone and Martene Grimson. Initially lyrically expressive, it gets rather busier and we are treated to some impressive passagework. Anna Leese’s performance of Fra i pensier piu funesti from Lucia Silla is moving and intense, convincingly emotional. Rather sadly, we miss out the third opera for Milan, Ascanio in Alba
The next opera was La finta giardiniera for Munich in 1774-75, and Kara Ek is poised and lyrical in the cavatina Geme la tortorella. La re pastore, written for Salzburg in 1775, gives us a lively ensemble Viva l’invitto duce with Cora Burggraaf, Rebecca Bottone, Anna Leese, Andrew Staples and Allan Clayton. This is starting to sound like mature Mozart, and the singers give us a characterful ensemble with expressive, lyric voices.
Mozart’s Zaide is intriguing. An unfinished sing-spiel started in 1779-80 the surviving music is of superb standard, and Susan Gritton is supremely classy in Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben with an expressive sense of line and sophisticated tone.
With Idomeneo (written for Munich in 1781) we reach the first of Mozart’s really mature operas. Here we have the quartet Andro ramingo e solo with Cora Burggraaf as a passionate, quite lyric Idamante and Martene Grimson as a bright, dignified Illia, the two having quite comparable voices. Anna Leese makes a rich toned Elettra with Allan Clayton a noble, passionate Idomeneo. The results are intense, passionate with long lyric lines and a wonderfully impulsive feel to the tempi.
Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail was the first opera Mozart wrote for Vienna in 1782. Andrew Staples makes an ideal lyric Belmonte, singing the aria Konstanze… O wie angstlich, his voice flexible with a hint of edge and heft. We don’t get anything from Mozart’s next operas, the incomplete L’oca del Cairo and Lo sposo deluso and the comedy Der Schauspieldirektor which might have helped to fill in the operatic gap between Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail and Mozart’s three great operas written with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte.
Matthew Rose sings Figaro’s cavatina Se vuol ballare, signor Contino, making quite a dark voiced Figaro. The aria is dramatically vivid, with Rose giving a nice feeling of underlying threat. Mark Stone is characterful and not a little seductive in Don Giovanni’s Deh vieni all finestra. Finally, in the Da Ponte trio we have the quintet, Di scrivermi ogni giorni from Cosi fan tutte with Anna Leese as Fiordiligi, Cora Burggraaf as Dorabella, Andrew Staples as Ferrando, Mark Stone as Guglielmo and Matthew Rose as Don Alfonso, full of character and musicality.
We are treated to Servilia and Annio’s duet A perdona al pimo affetto from La Clemenza di Tito; delightful and charming with both singers, Rebecca Bottone and Cora Burggraaf, showing a nice flexibility of voice. But I would have rather liked to have one of the large scale arias; judging by her Elettra earlier on the disc, Anna Leese would make a fine Vitellia. This just one of the slightly niggling examples of the choices of aria on the disc, with so much to choose from, it is perhaps inevitable that we might think that other choices could be made.
Finally, we get the quintet from Die Zauberflote, Hm! hm! hm! hm! with Klara Ek, Martene Grimson and Jennifer Johnson as the three ladies, Allan Clayton as Tamino and Mark Stone as Papageno. A delightful conclusion to a lovely disc.
Ian Page and the orchestra of Classical Opera accompany everything with style and charm, and the cast of singers give us a sequence of finely lyrical performances. All in all this is a lovely disc which manages to introduce both Mozart’s genius and a range of lovely lyric voices, all in stylish performances which certainly make you want to hear more.