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Mozart: Cosi fan Tutte, Le Nozze di Figaro, Idomeneo, Don Giovanni

Release Date: 07/08/2014 
Label:  Bravissimo Opera Library   Catalog #: 9918   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Brigitte FassbaenderGundula JanowitzReri GristDietrich Fischer-Dieskau,   ... 
Conductor:  Karl BöhmHerbert von KarajanSir Colin DavisCarlo Maria Giulini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Opera OrchestraVienna Opera ChorusVienna State Opera Chorus,   ... 
Number of Discs: 12 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Reviews of the original recordings that make up this set:

Così Fan Tutte

Taped live at the Salzburg festival in 1972, this Cosi must have been great fun to watch. Karl Böhm leads with his usual assurance and, for that pre-historically-informed-performance period, with unusually fleet tempos and a light touch. The humor is not that light, however; this is not one of the world-weary, deeply thought-through interpretations that have since emerged, although the second-act finale is paced at a somewhat introspective tempo. After some strangely "off" playing by the winds early on, the Vienna Philharmonic is on excellent form, even managing to keep up with Böhm's breakneck tempos for the first
Read more finale, which just keeps getting faster and faster and almost threatens to unravel.

At the time, the singers were just about the best available. Hermann Prey and Peter Schreier make a boastful duo from the start, with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's Alfonso matching them in self-assuredness (and eschewing his usual flaw, he doesn't underline every nuance). They all sing the text pointedly and give each note-value its due. Throughout it is clear that this show has been wonderfully rehearsed and it keeps its great rhythmic verve. Schreier's voice lacks loveliness, but he does all the right things artistically, while Prey's hale-fellow-well-met is beautifully sung from start to finish.

Gundula Janowitz, the possessor of a gorgeous sound, is out-of-sorts as Fiordiligi, singing off-key at times, lacking the low notes and slurring runs--although she too creates a fine character. Brigitte Fassbaender is a stunning Dorabella, dark of tone and solid as a rock--a memorable performance. Reri Grist's Despina is well sung but predictable. Böhm cuts a couple of the arias and a duet. At this bargain price, you'll get a pretty good Cosi, but it can't compare with either Jacobs' (Harmonia Mundi) or Karajan's 1954 (EMI) recording.

-- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com

Le nozze di Figaro
Hearing Karajan's work before the early-to-mid-'80s, when his navel-gazing self-indulgence, odd casting, and control-freakery decimated and distorted every opera he directed/conducted/engineered, is invariably a treat, and this Figaro, live from Salzburg in 1974, is no exception. For the most part his tempos are fleet, with recitatives at honest conversational speed. The exceptions are "Porgi amor", luxuriated in by Elizabeth Harwood, who, while not singing it perfectly, manages to end it more beautifully and sadly than I've ever heard, and the Count's aria, delivered with such clarity and calculated hatred by the never-better Tom Krause that it's positively terrifying. (Those who thought that Fischer-Dieskau's was the last word in vitriol should hear this.)

José van Dam's Figaro finds this always interesting singer at his vocal best (rare on discs), and he gives us a complete picture of this complicated man. Susanna is Mirella Freni, simply ideal--pert but not too pert, knowing, and vocally right on the money. Frederica von Stade rounds out the principals as Cherubino, and she sings with rich, warm tone and fine attention to detail. The rest of the cast is Festival-level: Jane Berbié's Marcellina, Michel Sénéchal's Basilio, and Paolo Montarsolo's Bartolo are great. "Legato" is the order of the day for all singers; this is a wonderfully Italianate performance. Orchestra and chorus are superb and the sound is surprisingly good, with voice/orchestra balance clear and true most of the time. This is a very hearty recommendation, and at this price, it's unbeatable.

-- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com

Mozart intended Idomeneo to be an opera of great significance to help advance his career. Adapted from the tragédie lyrique Idomenée, written 67 years earlier by Antoine Danchet, Mozart’s opera is an old-fashioned opera seria with some rather progressive innovations. Recitatives were frequently accompanied and imbued with melody so they flowed smoothly into the arias; Mozart expanded the role of the chorus and filled the opera with splashy marches and arias that added dimension to the characters. Considering that it was composed for a cast of singers many of whom were of limited vocal means or past their prime, the brilliance of his music is astonishing. The opera become a turning point in Mozart’s career.

The plot is a familiar one. Idomeneo promises to murder the first person he encounters as an appeasement to Neptune for saving his life. Unfortunately, the first person Idomeneo meets is his son, Idamante. It is a story strikingly similar to the Biblical tale of Jephthah and his daughter. Sacrifice operas were a popular commodity for well over a century, providing abundant pathos as well as dramatic situations. Idomeneo exists in two versions: the original conception, written in 1781 (Munich), and a 1786 revision intended to accommodate performances in Vienna, where Mozart had better talent at his disposal. The two most noteworthy changes are the expansion of the role for Arbace and reassigning the role of Idamante from castrato to tenor. Mozart, realizing the extreme length of his opera, began the practice of making numerous cuts; almost every performance and recording since has required decisions concerning which version to use and what material to jettison. This Opera d’Oro recording brings us a 1971 staging of the Munich version. Instead of a countertenor, the role of Idamante is sung by a woman, Jessye Norman, and the role of Arbace is reduced to the point it is almost musically negligible. The performance has numerous cuts, mostly in the recitatives, yet it is still a cohesive production, often very exciting, and features some outstanding performances.

Jessye Norman is reason enough to investigate this recording. Young and in radiant voice, she is a wonderful Idamante. Gedda makes more out of Idomeneo than he does in the studio recording made a year later. Rae Woodland has a lighter voice than usually found in the role of Electra, but she is no less dramatic. Her rendering of “D’Oreste, d’Aiace” in act III is one of the highlights. Colin Davis recorded the opera twice in the studio, but, for all the merits of those recordings, he seems more passionately involved in this production captured in performance.

This is the same recording previously available as Opera d’Oro 1340. As part of Opera d’Oro’s “Grand Tier” series, it is now repackaged with more attractive cover art, a cardboard slipcase, a booklet with interesting notes and libretto, and more than twice the price. The sound, while no match for most of the studio recordings, is pretty good. It’s in stereo, there is a nice balance between the singers and orchestra, extraneous stage noises are minimal, the audience is quiet, and applause is limited to ends of acts and following certain key arias.

For people interested in only one recording of Idomeneo or a more complete recording of the score, there is a large selection from which to choose. Sir Charles Mackerras on Telarc and Levine on DG both offer moving accounts played on modern instruments, and readers who prefer Mozart played on period instruments are likely to find much to like with Gardiner on Archiv. I wouldn’t recommend this Opera d’Oro as a first choice Idomeneo, mostly because of the cuts, but Norman, Gedda, and Davis captured in their prime are hard to resist. With this recording available in two editions the decision whether to pay the higher price for a libretto is one only you can make.

-- David L. Kirk, Fanfare

Don Giovanni
"This 1970 live Don Giovanni is an odd performance, not altogether satisfying, but with much to offer. Nicolai Ghiaurov is in his most luxurious voice as the Don, and if his interpretation is not subtle, well, who says it's supposed to be? Sesto Bruscantini is a fine foil for him as Leporello, savoring the text and singing with great style. Alfredo Kraus' Don Ottavio is very classy indeed; his many fans will surely need this set. Gundula Janowitz is an odd choice for Donna Anna since passion is one of the few emotions her silvery, fluttery sound is incapable of, but she can be very impressive in a foreign sort of way. The Zerlina is pretty mediocre and the others are simply okay. Carlo Maria Giulini leads the somewhat wayward but always willing Rome forces in a good show."

-- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Così fan tutte, K 588 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Brigitte Fassbaender (Mezzo Soprano), Gundula Janowitz (Soprano), Reri Grist (Soprano),
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Baritone), Peter Schreier (Tenor), Hermann Prey (Baritone)
Conductor:  Karl Böhm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Opera Orchestra,  Vienna Opera Chorus
Period: Classical 
Written: 1790; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 07/30/1972 
Venue:  Live  Salzburg, Austria 
Language: Italian 
Le nozze di Figaro, K 492 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  José van Dam (Bass), Willy Caron (Bass), Jane Berbié (Mezzo Soprano),
Michel Sénéchal (Tenor), Frederica Von Stade (Mezzo Soprano), Mirella Freni (Soprano),
Tom Krause (Baritone), Elizabeth Harwood (Soprano), Paolo Montarsolo (Bass),
Zoltan Kélémén (Baritone), Elke Schery (Soprano)
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Chorus,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1786; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1974 
Venue:  Live  Salzburg, Austria 
Length: 168 Minutes 46 Secs. 
Language: Italian 
Idomeneo, K 366 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Nicolai Gedda (Tenor), Elvira Spica (Soprano), Carla Virgili (Soprano),
Rae Woodland (Soprano), Jessye Norman (Soprano), Heather Harper (Soprano),
Andrea Snarski (Baritone), Antonio Liviero (Tenor), Franco Pugliese (Bass Baritone)
Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Rome,  Italian Radio Chorus Rome
Period: Classical 
Written: 1781; Munich, Germany 
Date of Recording: 03/25/1971 
Venue:  Live  Rome, Italy 
Language: Italian 
Don Giovanni, K 527 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Sesto Bruscantini (Bass Baritone), Alfredo Kraus (Tenor), Walter Monachesi (Bass),
Olivera Miljakovic (Mezzo Soprano), Nicolai Ghiaurov (Bass), Gundula Janowitz (Soprano),
Dimiter Petkov (Bass), Sena Jurinac (Soprano)
Conductor:  Carlo Maria Giulini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Rome,  Italian Radio Chorus Rome
Period: Classical 
Written: 1787; Prague 
Date of Recording: 05/12/1970 
Venue:  Live  Rome, Italy 
Language: Italian 

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