I had previously dismissed it as "heavy going" but am now happy to eat my words and say that I thoroughly enjoyed listening straight through to this 1967 recording of my favourite Mozart opera.
For a start, it's not afraid of treating it broadly as a genuinely funny comedy yet the humour is not generated at the expense of the vocal line. Secondly, despite its venerable age, it's as full an account of the score as you can find on disc. Thirdly, each of the American voices here is wholly distinguishable from the others; no small-scale HAP homogeneity here but instead half a dozen big vocal personalities. Fourthly, while Leinsdorf might not be the last word in fleet finesse, he keeps everything buzzing along without sounding rushed.
Leontyne Price is not an ideal Mozart soprano - her lower register is too cloudy and there are times when she approaches the ungainly - but she triumphantly achieves a convincing facsimile of one and her smoky soprano is very beautiful. Troyanos is a very forthright Dorabella whose intensity, precise diction and fast vibrato made me listen afresh to the role; she is very aptly contrasted with the creamier-voiced Price. George Shirley's grainy tenor can be hard of tone, especially when he is guying as an Albanian and he lacks the last grain of elegance ideal for Ferrando but he can decidedly sing the music and does not let the side down. Milnes is a young, virile -voiced baritone, luscious in sound and alive to every verbal nuance. Raskin is not perhaps as pure-toned as the perfect soubrette Despina should be and she does the usual squawky stuff when in disguise but she does it well and entertains me. I have always thought rich-voiced bass Ezio Flagello under-rated but his characterisation is sharp and his voice mellifluous. Together they make a great team, really holding the opera together as a proper ensemble. The lovers all ornament their melodic lines from time to time, as Mozart's own singers doubtless did, and they do so tastefully, without excess. It's good to have a harpsichord accompany the recitatives in so early a recording and the New Philharmonia is as accomplished as you would expect in this period.
The recording is clear, with voices well centred against a spacious orchestral background from which individual instruments emerge without looming too close. I am very happy to add this to my collection of "Cosi" recordings, even if no singer here is as striking as certain individuals on other sets.