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M. Joyce (Cairo, Egypt)
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Le Nozze Di Figaro - highlights - w.a. mozart
Le Nozze Di Figaro - highlights - w.a. mozart
Price: £8.08

5.0 out of 5 stars Very fine, 24 July 2017
I love opera and “Le Nozze di Figaro” is one of my very favourites. I own quite a few versions of this work and thought that it might be of use to post reviews of them online. I have already posted a review of the Solti recording and this remains my number one recommendation. I also own a number of highlights compilations.

One of the first recordings of the opera I remember hearing was the one by Karl Böhm, dating back to 1968. It is notable for his fine attention to orchestral detail and although it is a little sedate compared to some versions, his is a splendid reading of the work. His cast is largely drawn from the ensemble of the Deutsche Oper Berlin and is all in all a good one.

The trio of leading ladies is especially fine. I saw Gundula Janowitz as the Countess at the Vienna State Opera and she was, I thought, quite stupendous; it was to recapture the glory of her singing that was my main motive on purchasing this bargain highlights compilation. She brings a wonderful patrician quality to the role and is joined in a winning letter duet by the lovely Swiss soprano Edith Mathis. Tatiana Troyanos is a vibrant Cherubino, one of the best on disc. The Figaro and Count are two legendary German baritones; in the former role, Prey is sweet-toned, zestful and bright, while Fischer-Dieskau’s dark, sharply define reading of the Count has its hectoring moments. The supporting cast of mainly ‘house’ singers is relentlessly Teutonic, but there is a pretty good Marcellina (Patricia Johnson); it is a real shame that the great sextet does not make its way onto the disc when, for example, Peter Lagger’s workaday account of “La vendetta” does.


Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro / The Marriage of Figaro
Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro / The Marriage of Figaro

5.0 out of 5 stars Figaro on period instruments, 23 July 2017
I love opera and “Le Nozze di Figaro” is one of my very favourites. I own quite a few versions of this work and thought that it might be of use to post reviews of them online. I have already posted a review of the Solti recording and this remains my number one recommendation.

The Drottningholm Court Theatre recording of 1987 under Arnold Östman was the first to be made on period instruments. It has polarised opinion since its release, but I think it is quite marvellous. Far from being ‘underpowered’ and ‘underwhelming’, with scratchy, thin string tone, I find the gut-stringed instruments cleaner and the winds more vivid. Östman’s speeds are on the brisk side, but the whole thing is, I believe, exhilaratingly true to Mozart in terms of tempo and ornamentation.

Östman’s cast is an interesting one. The best known singers are, I guess, the sopranos Arleen Auger and Barbara Bonney, two of my very favourite singers. Auger’s Countess is smaller in scale than usual (some have even found it anaemic!), but it is a delicate, heartfelt performance from a much-lamented singer. Bonney’s beautifully sung Susanna is one of the very best on disc. The baritonal Figaro, Petteri Salomaa, is not as well-known as the other singers in the cast, but he sings and acts persuasively without ever really rivalling the great exponents of the role. The Count, Håkan Hagegård, is rather better; dramatically vibrant and boasting n impressive high baritone. Cherubino is sung by the Argentinian mezzo Alicia Nafé; she is direct and musical, but sometimes a little breathy and explosive in phrasing. The supporting cast is headed by the veteran Carlos Feller, a blustering Bartolo, and the best Marcellina on disc, Della Jones, who delivers a magnificent account of her oft-cut aria. The rest are unexceptional, apart from the charmingly girlish Barbarina of that fine soprano Nancy Argenta.

The state-of-the-art digital recording is excellent and as an appendix to each act, we are given half a dozen variants; a real bonus, this.


Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro
Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro
Price: £13.89

5.0 out of 5 stars An oldie but goldie!, 21 July 2017
I love opera and “Le Nozze di Figaro” is one of my very favourites. I own quite a few versions of this work and thought that it might be of use to post reviews of them online. I have already posted a review of the Solti recording and this remains my number one recommendation.

Glyndebourne is in many ways synonymous with Mozart and although this recording is now more than 60 years old, the sense of ensemble and ‘rightness’ are palpable. Many of the cast had performed the opera with the same conductor Vittorio Gui at the festival the year of this recording and they are, with a couple of exceptions, well ‘inside’ their parts.

Graziella Sciutti’s relentlessly chirpy tone may not be to everyone’s taste, but it fits the role of Susanna to a tee. Her light-voiced, mercurial, multi-faceted Figaro is Sesto Bruscantini; one of the best on disc. The Countess is Sena Jurinac, ravishing in tone, but lacking a little in vitality. Her Count, domineering, saturnine and incisive, is a bass, Franco Calabrese; he dodges a couple of top notes, but is well in the picture dramatically. Risë Stevens has far too matronly a voice to be a satisfactory Cherubino, but the comic trio of supporting roles could hardly be bettered; Hugues Cuénod as a light, oily Basilio, Ian Wallace as a bluff Bartolo and Monica Sinclair as a robust Marcellina. With her phenomenal range, she might have made a decent fist of the character’s oft cut aria, but it was never recorded; Basilio’s was, but is frustratingly omitted on most releases of this recording for reasons of space.

This was, I believe, the first studio recording of the work, but the sound isn’t bad and favours the voices in particular.

Not a first choice “Figaro”, perhaps, but one that should be a part of any serious Mozart lover’s collection.


Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro
Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro
Offered by ReNew Entertainment
Price: £19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An oldie but goldie!, 21 July 2017
I love opera and “Le Nozze di Figaro” is one of my very favourites. I own quite a few versions of this work and thought that it might be of use to post reviews of them online. I have already posted a review of the Solti recording and this remains my number one recommendation.

Glyndebourne is in many ways synonymous with Mozart and although this recording is now more than 60 years old, the sense of ensemble and ‘rightness’ are palpable. Many of the cast had performed the opera with the same conductor Vittorio Gui at the festival the year of this recording and they are, with a couple of exceptions, well ‘inside’ their parts.

Graziella Sciutti’s relentlessly chirpy tone may not be to everyone’s taste, but it fits the role of Susanna to a tee. Her light-voiced, mercurial, multi-faceted Figaro is Sesto Bruscantini; one of the best on disc. The Countess is Sena Jurinac, ravishing in tone, but lacking a little in vitality. Her Count, domineering, saturnine and incisive, is a bass, Franco Calabrese; he dodges a couple of top notes, but is well in the picture dramatically. Risë Stevens has far too matronly a voice to be a satisfactory Cherubino, but the comic trio of supporting roles could hardly be bettered; Hugues Cuénod as a light, oily Basilio, Ian Wallace as a bluff Bartolo and Monica Sinclair as a robust Marcellina. With her phenomenal range, she might have made a decent fist of the character’s oft cut aria, but it was never recorded; Basilio’s was, but is frustratingly omitted on most releases of this recording for reasons of space.

This was, I believe, the first studio recording of the work, but the sound isn’t bad and favours the voices in particular.

Not a first choice “Figaro”, perhaps, but one that should be a part of any serious Mozart lover’s collection.


Le Nozze Di Figaro by Mozart
Le Nozze Di Figaro by Mozart

5.0 out of 5 stars An oldie but goldie!, 21 July 2017
I love opera and “Le Nozze di Figaro” is one of my very favourites. I own quite a few versions of this work and thought that it might be of use to post reviews of them online. I have already posted a review of the Solti recording and this remains my number one recommendation.

Glyndebourne is in many ways synonymous with Mozart and although this recording is now more than 60 years old, the sense of ensemble and ‘rightness’ are palpable. Many of the cast had performed the opera with the same conductor Vittorio Gui at the festival the year of this recording and they are, with a couple of exceptions, well ‘inside’ their parts.

Graziella Sciutti’s relentlessly chirpy tone may not be to everyone’s taste, but it fits the role of Susanna to a tee. Her light-voiced, mercurial, multi-faceted Figaro is Sesto Bruscantini; one of the best on disc. The Countess is Sena Jurinac, ravishing in tone, but lacking a little in vitality. Her Count, domineering, saturnine and incisive, is a bass, Franco Calabrese; he dodges a couple of top notes, but is well in the picture dramatically. Risë Stevens has far too matronly a voice to be a satisfactory Cherubino, but the comic trio of supporting roles could hardly be bettered; Hugues Cuénod as a light, oily Basilio, Ian Wallace as a bluff Bartolo and Monica Sinclair as a robust Marcellina. With her phenomenal range, she might have made a decent fist of the character’s oft cut aria, but it was never recorded; Basilio’s was, but is frustratingly omitted on most releases of this recording for reasons of space.

This was, I believe, the first studio recording of the work, but the sound isn’t bad and favours the voices in particular.

Not a first choice “Figaro”, perhaps, but one that should be a part of any serious Mozart lover’s collection.


Le Nozze Di Figaro (Giulini)
Le Nozze Di Figaro (Giulini)

5.0 out of 5 stars A classic Figaro, 19 July 2017
I love opera and “Le Nozze di Figaro” is one of my very favourites. I own quite a few versions of this work and thought that it might be of use to post reviews of them online. I have already posted a review of the Solti recording and this remains my number one recommendation.

The first set I owned was the one conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini which was released in 1959 and which is now available at a competitive price.

This has long been considered a classic recording and Giulini’s reading is broader, more leisurely and more expansive than some others and his sensible tempi reveal the beauties of Mozart’s score. The cast assembled by Walter Legge is a stellar one. In the title role we have the dark, mature baritone of Giuseppe Taddei; his low notes are rather weak and he sometimes over-characterises, but as a native Italian, he has a wonderful way with the text and can switch from comic ebullience to acid menace with aplomb. His delightfully spunky Susanna is Anna Moffo, a touch too ‘cute’, perhaps, while that indomitable Verdi mezzo Fiorenza Cossotto is a firmly sung if slightly charmless Cherubino. The commanding, hot-tempered Count is Giulini’s Don Giovanni, Eberhard Wächter, and very good he is too, while Elisabeth Schwarzkopf sings with creamy tone, pointed articulation and an effortless, seamless delivery of long phrases as a regal Countess. The supporting roles benefit from being taken by native Italians, including the young Piero Cappuccilli as Antonio. The Marcellina and Barbarina are nothing special, but Renato Ercolani offers a nice double act as Basilio and Curzio and Cossotto’s husband Ivo Vinco is a fruity, no-nonsense Bartolo.

There are some cuts, notably the arias for Basilio and Marcellina, which stops this from being a top recommendation, but in terms of vocal splendour and textual clarity, this is well-nigh unbeatable.


Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro
Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro
Price: £13.28

5.0 out of 5 stars A classic Figaro, 19 July 2017
I love opera and “Le Nozze di Figaro” is one of my very favourites. I own quite a few versions of this work and thought that it might be of use to post reviews of them online. I have already posted a review of the Solti recording and this remains my number one recommendation.

The first set I owned was the one conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini which was released in 1959 and which is now available at a competitive price.

This has long been considered a classic recording and Giulini’s reading is broader, more leisurely and more expansive than some others and his sensible tempi reveal the beauties of Mozart’s score. The cast assembled by Walter Legge is a stellar one. In the title role we have the dark, mature baritone of Giuseppe Taddei; his low notes are rather weak and he sometimes over-characterises, but as a native Italian, he has a wonderful way with the text and can switch from comic ebullience to acid menace with aplomb. His delightfully spunky Susanna is Anna Moffo, a touch too ‘cute’, perhaps, while that indomitable Verdi mezzo Fiorenza Cossotto is a firmly sung if slightly charmless Cherubino. The commanding, hot-tempered Count is Giulini’s Don Giovanni, Eberhard Wächter, and very good he is too, while Elisabeth Schwarzkopf sings with creamy tone, pointed articulation and an effortless, seamless delivery of long phrases as a regal Countess. The supporting roles benefit from being taken by native Italians, including the young Piero Cappuccilli as Antonio. The Marcellina and Barbarina are nothing special, but Renato Ercolani offers a nice double act as Basilio and Curzio and Cossotto’s husband Ivo Vinco is a fruity, no-nonsense Bartolo.

There are some cuts, notably the arias for Basilio and Marcellina, which stops this from being a top recommendation, but in terms of vocal splendour and textual clarity, this is well-nigh unbeatable.


Beethoven: Fidelio (highlights)
Beethoven: Fidelio (highlights)
Price: £33.28

4.0 out of 5 stars A pleasing highlights compilation, 17 July 2017
I love opera and Beethoven’s “Fidelio” is one of my very favourites. I own quite a few versions of this work and thought that it might be of use to post reviews of them online. I have already posted a review of the legendary Klemperer recording and this remains my number one recommendation. As well as complete versions, I also own a few ‘highlights’ CDs of the work.

Lorin Maazel’s set with the Vienna Philharmonic dates from 1964 and is well worth hearing. In the main he goes for fast tempi and violent dynamic contrasts and produces an undeniably exciting experience. His cast is an unusual one. Some might find Birgit Nilsson’s Leonore a little detached, but she is blazingly heroic of voice whilst managing to convey a womanly vulnerability. She is well-matched with the Florestan of that under-recorded tenor James McCracken. Graziella Sciutti is a slightly tremulous Marzelline, but Kurt Böhme is an ideal Rocco. Tom Krause’s suave baritone is an unlikely fit for Pizarro, but he sings his aria very well. Hermann Prey is luxurious casting as the Minister in the final scene, which is given in full.


Fidelio Hlts
Fidelio Hlts
Offered by STRADIVARIUS
Price: £13.05

4.0 out of 5 stars A splendid highlights compilation, 17 July 2017
This review is from: Fidelio Hlts (Audio CD)
I love opera and Beethoven’s “Fidelio” is one of my very favourites. I own quite a few versions of this work and thought that it might be of use to post reviews of them online. I have already posted a review of the legendary Klemperer recording and this remains my number one recommendation. As well as complete versions, I also own a few ‘highlights’ CDs of the work.

Karajan’s 1970 set begins with a splendid rendition of the overture, gloriously played by the Berlin Philharmonic. As is often the case, Karajan’s conducting is sometimes a little mannered and there are some extreme dynamics, but this is fine “Fidelio” and is well-served by this highlights package.

Jon Vickers’ slightly wayward but enormously gripping Florestan is a major asset, as it was for Klemperer, but while Karajan’s Brünnhilde of the time, Helga Dernesch, is a vulnerable Leonore of some vocal power, she is sometimes taxed by high notes, presaging, perhaps, her move to mezzo roles a few years later. Helen Donath and Horst R Laubenthal are an effective Marzelline and Jaquino, but Karajan’s casting of the bass and baritone roles shows his frequent predilection for lighter voices; in the case of Zoltán Kéléman’s biting, venomous Pizarro this really works, but Karl Ridderbusch’s noble bass is surely far too suave for the jailer Rocco. It is a pity that we are only given the closing section of the final scene, as José van Dam’s sumptuous bass-baritone is always gratefully heard. The prisoners’ chorus goes very well and it is always wise to cast the tiny role of the First Prisoner from strength; in this case, Werner Hollweg.


Beethoven: Fidelio (highlights)
Beethoven: Fidelio (highlights)

4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth hearing!, 5 July 2017
I love opera and Beethoven’s “Fidelio” is one of my very favourites. I own quite a few versions of this work and thought that it might be of use to post reviews of them online. I have already posted a review of the legendary Klemperer recording and this remains my number one recommendation. As well as complete versions, I also own a few ‘highlights’ CDs of the work.

I actually saw the production on which this was based on German TV in 1978 when I was on my ‘year abroad’. This would never be my first choice “Fidelio”, but as with virtually everything Bernstein recorded, it is well worth listening to, even if you don’t necessarily agree with it; a highlight’s package is just right, therefore.

Bernstein’s idiosyncratic reading is full of interesting ideas and he is very definitely the ‘star of the show’, his all-star cast notwithstanding. The recording features two of my all-time favourite sopranos, Gundula Janowitz and Lucia Popp. Janowitz’s essentially lyric soprano is pushed to the limits, but she is a surprisingly successful, albeit classically sculpted Leonore. Popp is a perfect Marzelline and although Manfred Jungwirth is a convincingly rough and ready Rocco, the same applies to his singing; thankfully, he is not over-represented on this highlights compilation. Hans Sotin’s noble bass is ill-suited to Pizarro. He would have made a perfect Don Fernando, a role taken here strikingly by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; we are given the closing scene in full, incidentally. The Florestan is René Kollo; well-intentioned, but not entirely satisfactory vocally.

This recording has its faults, but it should be heard at least once!


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