Cosi being the last of Mozart's operas in collaboration with da Ponte, it has some of the most heaven-sent music set to a witty libretto, however the theme of infidelity did not go down well in its history to date. But here, we have a performance of such intensity and profundity, played and sung to perfection, it is hard to resist temptation.
Fiordiligi is perhaps the Mozart role every soprano dreams of singing. Two great arias to win the crowds over with, and major contributions in incisive and witty ensembles and suspense-filled finales, Fiordiligi is a demanding role. However, no other role is as rewarding. The music is gorgeous, possibly Mozart's best.
Caballe's reading of Fiordiligi shows us the ideal when a singer is perfectly in synchronisation with the character and is suited to a role. Her singing harks back to an era gone by, of musical intellect, of profound understanding, of inate musicality and unparalled technical prowess. Her gloriously sung Fiordiligi is aided and abetted by her beautiful voice, pouring forth note after note and phrase after phrase of sublime molten gold.
In the test aria, Come scoglio", she works around the technicalities and hurdles of the piece and delivers an effortlessly accomplished and beautiful redition. "Per pieta" shows her to further advantage where she excels in her long-breathed phrasing of the music with her trademark piano singing.
With Dame Janet Baker as Dorabella, this performance gains yet another asset. Her foundation in Mozart is as good as it gets, with her intense potrait of Dorabella compared to Caballe's more bouyant Fiordiligi. She sings with that dark-toned voice of great beauty and intensity that results in one of the best pairings of the sisters on record.
The role of the lovers, Ferrando and Guglielmo, are taken by Nicolai Gedda and Wladimiro Ganzarolli. Gedda gives a refined reading of "Un aura amorosa" and wins us over with his Ferrando. On the other hand, the smug Guglielmo is sung by Ganzarolli who sings with aplomb and gusto.
As an ensemble opera, all the six characters are important and bear the success of the opera on their shoulders. Ileana Cotrubas as Despina gives an impassioned performance and her inpersonations of the doctor and the notary are given delightful voices. As the cynical Don Alfonso, Richard Van Allan gives the old philosopher a character well-fleshed out.
This recording is one of the most beautifully sung and well recorded. The ensembles show all the principles singing with understanding of the roles. The Royal Opera House Orchestra and Chorus under the baton of Sir Colin Davis with the accompaniment of John Constable completes the picture. A picture of a recording that is a worthy addition to any opera library. Mozart would have loved this!