Mozart: An Italian Journey


A fascinating musical journey through the Italian arias of Mozart, from one of his earliest works Lucio Silla (composed when he was just 16) through to his final Italian opera La Clemenza di Tito.

The English tenor Jeremy Ovenden has established himself as being among the best Mozart tenors of his generation (notably in the role of Don Ottavio) and has become a familiar figure on the stages of the world’s opera houses and concert halls and at major festivals. He is joined for this, his first solo recording, by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and conductor Jonathan Cohen.

A recent performance review by ‘The Opera Critic’ described Jeremy as being “… an intelligent… highly competent singer… his line, power and coloratura were all excellent…” 


What people are saying

 "The fine tenor … sings with an engaging commitment to these joyous creations. A delightful selection."

The Observer
"A most imaginative idea … his rhythm, diction and easy flexibility of voice are exemplary."
The Sunday Times
"Ovenden proves complete master of his chosen repertory … for its artistic use, and for the close partnership Ovenden achieves with the OAE under Jonathan Cohen, l have only admiration."
BBC Music Magazine
Performancde & Recording – 4 Stars

Jeremy Ovenden tenor

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

Jonathan Cohen conductor

Release date:7th Jun 2011
Order code:SIGCD251
Barcode: 635212025123

 Recital albums of Mozart’s tenor arias are astonishingly rare, so kudos to Jeremy Ovenden and Jonathan Cohen for conveying the breadth of the composer’s career from his first opera buffa to his final opera seria written 22 years later. The title "An Italian Journey" needs qualification: it regards the language of the librettos and not Mozart’s teenage forays south of the Alps; only the disc’s opener from Lucio Silla is strictly Italian in origin (Mozart’s other two operas for Milan feature stronger tenor arias but perhaps these suited neither Ovenden’s suave voice nor the diversity of the programme). Eschewing the German language means that we get nothing from Die Zauberflöte, Zaide or Die Entführung aus dem Serail, although Adamberger, the first Belmonte, is invoked by the concert aria "Misero! o sogno", written for him in 1783.

Ten juicy extracts are from operas Mozart first performed in Salzburg, Munich and Prague. Idamante’s "Il padre adorato" is a castrato piece; maybe it would have been more illuminating to hear the scene Mozart inserted for the recast tenor Idamante in a private Viennese revival in 1786 (the seldom heard "Non temer, amato bene" – later remodelled into the soprano concert aria K490). Ovenden’s singing and characterisations are always satisfying, whether it is the ardently heroic Don Ottavio ("Il mio tesoro"), the Sturm und Drang angst of Agenore ("Sol puo dir") or the turbulent predicament of ldomeneo ("Fuor del mar" – Ovenden’s cadenza feels stilted but his declamatory coloratura is superb). Charming references to various orchestral sections during the Podesta’s "Dentro il mio petto" (La finta giardiniera) are brought to life affectionately by the OAE. The Viennese operas are represented by Ferrando’s two most popular arias, which are sung lithely and played beautifully, especially by the OAE’s uncredited woodwind. Irrespective of my benign pondering about alternative choices, this recital is intelligent and refreshing.

Gramophone, David Vickers

 One point in favour of this recital, even before a note has been played, is that many of the arias are not everyday fare, as can be seen in our heading. Not every Italian opera of Mozart is represented; three operas yield more that one excerpt. Why the ldomeneo pieces (tracks 6, 8 and 11) and the two from Il re pastore are respectively separated is a question for somebody else to answer.

In an ‘artist’s note’ in the booklet, Jeremy Ovenden states that he and conductor Jonathan Cohen spent some time over all Mozart’s Italian arias in order to create their programme. The selection, mixing the infrequently heard with the more popular arias, is well planned and balanced.
Two of the big challenges for Mozartian tenors must be ‘ll mio tesoro’ and ‘Fuor del mar’, the first for that long run on ‘tomar’ (will he, won’t he manage it in one breath?), the second demanding and fearsomely florid. Ovenden does not encompass the run in a single breath but does later introduce one or two neat appoggiature. ldomeneo’s aria finds the tenor sailing through its testing scalework, by which I do not mean that he smudges the notes: no, not that, for he articulates them cleanly, with no need or hint of an aspirate. From Act I comes ldomeneo’s ‘Vedrommi intorno’, whose early lines are sung quietly before the tempo becomes more agitated, with Ovenden delivering each section skillfully. Here too is ldamante’s ‘ll padre adorato’, in which he describes his grief at seeing his father turning away from him. It is a quick aria, but Ovenden catches the expressed anguish.
More sedate, to be nursed almost, is Ferrando’s ‘Un’aura amorosa’, in which Ovenden moves between head-voice and fuller tone, the latter a bit too open perhaps on upper notes and more suited to ‘Tradito, schernito’, in which Ferrando believes that his beloved has betrayed him. In ‘Se all’impero’ (twice wrongly printed as ‘imperio’) from La Clemenza di Tito, the emperor sings of his clemency in an aria which has a touch of bravura in the first section and da capo, which Ovenden dispatches firmly, contrasting with the slow, gentle middle section, nicely receiving a light touch.
From Il re pastore, Ovenden sings an aria of each of the two tenor characters. Alessandro’s ‘Se vicendo’ shows him congratulating himself on spreading goodness and light to all. It has its share of runs and flourishes, less ornate than some referred to above, and Ovenden skips along without pressure. He is equally successful in ‘Sol puo dir’, dispensing a stronger tone to illustrate the torment that Agenore is undergoing from the loss to someone else of his beloved Tamiri.
The earliest aria on the CD is ‘Sposa cara’, a rather shallow, repetitive piece from a boy of 12. It compares badly with the raging of Lucio Silla in ’11 desio di vendetta’, in which his desire for vengeance brings vocal agility from Ovenden with powerful projection. The horn adds an attractive colour to the orchestration of ‘Quercia annosa’, another swift-moving aria, whereas in ‘Dentro il mio petto’ flutes and oboes bring pleasure to Don Anchise (ll Podesta), unlike the tumult of drums, trumpets, bassoons and basses, which is overwhelming him. Good work comes from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, as through the whole recital. Ovendenmakes the necessary contrasts.
One non-operatic selection remains: the concert aria Misero! o sogno, which is sung by a man incarcerated ‘in this enclosed silent, gloomy place’. The last third or so finds him in a state of hopelessness. Ovenden encompasses the whole aria securely. A whitish tone intrudes in a couple of spots, but again the voice is well managed.
Cohen and the OAE are well in the picture. Everything seems to proceed at a suitable tempo. The clear recording is welcome, as are the texts and translations. In the short biographical note about the tenor, some dates would have led to a fuller idea of his career. That is a minor quibble, especially as I enjoyed the music- making.

International Record Review, John T. Hughes

 An English tenor currently of high standing in leading European musical venues, Jeremy Ovenden has planned his richly rewarding Mozart arias disc as a double tribute – to the composer of whose roles he has become a notable performer, and to Italy, the country in which, like Mozart, he accomplished early career milestones. All-Italian in language, the programme adds up to an enlightening illustration of, in the singer’s words, ‘ how the young Mozart changed and became the Mozart we know today’.

It’s a fiercely taxing selection, requiring by turns agility in florid passagework (in, for instance, Ottavio’s ‘Il mio tesoro’ and Tiro’s ‘Se all’impero’), smoothly sustained lyricism across a wide compass and, in the earlier buffa and semiseria items, characterful articulation of detail. In technical terms, and particularly in his outstandingly idiomatic Italian enunciation, Ovenden proves complete master of his chosen repertory – as his delivery of the long concert aria ‘Misero! o sogno’ shows perhaps best of all.
For some tastes, his vibrant voice may lack traditional Mozartian mellifluousness. But for its artistic use, and for the close partnership Ovenden achieves with the OAE under Jonathan Cohen, l have only admiration.

BBC Music Magazine, Max Loppert

The Music Jeremy Ovenden’s recital of tenor arias presents a roughly chronological overview of Mozart’s Italian operas. We journey from the youthful exuberance of La finta semplice (written when Mozart was 12) right up to the mature depth of his final work la clemenza di Tito (composed in 1791,the year of his death).

The Performance Ovenden has an attractive voice with bright ringing overtones which in many ways is well suited to Mozart’s music. His easy agility is ideal for the tricky semiquavers in Don Ottavio’s ‘ll mic tesoro’, and neither his low notes nor upper register show the least strain. His programming is good too, and it’s fascinating to hear Mozart develop from the brilliant, facile composer of La finta giardiniera and lucio Silla into the mature genius behind ldomeneo and Cosi fan tutte.
The Verdict Despite his considerable technical and vocal gifts, Ovenden doesn’t show enough insight into drama or character to make the disc fully convincing. Repeated phrases aren’t varied and he displays a tendency to sing everything forte. Jonathan Cohen’s somewhat stolid conducting doesn’t help matters.

Classic FM Magazine, Warwick Thompson

This is not just an Italian journey, it’s a journey through Mozart’s life: he did, after all, start writing Italian operas at the incredibly mature age of 12 (an aria from La finta semplice, his first, is included here). The fine tenor, who has sung most of the major Mozart roles all over Europe and is resident in la bella Italia, sings with an engaging commitment to these joyous creations, giving us terrific arias from, among others, Scipione, La finta giardiniera, Idomeneo, Don Giovanni and Così, accompanied with customary style by Jonathan Cohen and the glorious Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. A delightful selection.


The Observer, Stephen Pritchard

A most imaginative idea: 13 tenor arias from Mozart’s Italian operas, arranged chronologically, beginning with the 12-year-old’s La finta semplice, of 1768 (and one concert aria, the powerful Misero! 0 sogno). As well as the musical treats, including three from ldomeneo and two from Cosi fan tutte, the sequence is an ingenious lecture-recital showing the growth of Mozart’s art, from the boyhood works of a born dramatist in search of a drama, through the ever-astonishing coming of age that is Idomeneo, to the six Viennese operas. Maybe Ovenden’s attractive, bright tenor is a little light for Idomeneo’s magnificent Fuor del mar, but his rhythm, diction and easy flexibility of voice are exemplary.

The Sunday Times, David Cairns

  1. Il desio di vendetta (Lucio, Lucio Silla: Act 1, No.5) – Mozart – 5.12
  2. Il desio di vendetta (Lucio, Lucio Silla: Act 1, No.5) – Mozart – 4.26
  3. Quercia annosa (Publio, Il sogno di Scipione: Act 1, No.7) – Mozart – 3.05
  4. Dentro il mio petto (Don Anchises, La finta giardiniera: Act 1, No.3) – Mozart – 5.56
  5. Se vicendo (Alessandro, Il r? pastore: Act 2, Scene 4) – Mozart – 6.04
  6. Il padre Adorato (Idamante, Idomeneo: Act 1, No.7) – Mozart – 2.52
  7. Sol pu? dir (Agenore, Il r? pastore: Act 2, Scene 10) – Mozart – 2.49
  8. Misero! o sogno, K.431 – Mozart – 9.28
  9. Vedrommi intorno (Vedrommi intorno) – Mozart – 3.51
  10. Il mio tesoro (Don Ottavio, Don Giovanni: Act 2, No.22) – Mozart – 4.04
  11. Fuor del Mar (Idomeneo, Idomeneo: Act 2, No.12) – Mozart – 6.25
  12. Un?aura amorosa (Ferrando, Cosi fan tutte: Act 1, No.17) – Mozart – 4.40
  13. In qual fiero contrasto – Tradito, schernito (Ferrando, Cosi fan tutte: Act 2, No.27) – Mozart – 3.24
  14. Se all’imperio (Tito, La Clemenza di Tito: Act 2, No.20) – Mozart – 5.12