Mozart Da Ponte Opera recordings

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Mozart Da Ponte Opera recordings

I am new to the forum, though not to Gramophone (long time subscriber).

I am also new to Mozart Operas and wanted to hear some ideas for modern day recordings of the great trilogy of operas (Figaro, Don Giovanni and Cosi).

I have seen mixed reviews of Rene Jacobs so am probably looking for something more traditional, if there is such a thing.

Looking forward to ideas please (there is so much to choose from)!

 

RE: Mozart Da Ponte Opera recordings

For Don Giovanni I'd get the Harding version (both the CD and DVD performances are fascinating), for Figaro probably the Giulini (though it's not recent), for Cosi maybe the Colin Davis recording from Covent Garden in 1981 (with Te Kanawa). I haven't listened to the Klemperer sets but I'm sure they are highly interesting as well (and at budget price for all 3 operas in one box). 

Well, you will get as many opinions as postings on this...

RE: Mozart Da Ponte Opera recordings

MB, welcome to this forum. Your subject is a quite wide one, requiring very long replies, if one has to address this question somehow seriously.

My first and most important suggestion, for a newcomer to these fundamental works and essential listening for the genre, is to indulge in as many recordings as possible, so that you may start truly comprehend the essence of these Operas and enjoy the various aspects of them.

Unfortunately, there are not "ideal" recordings that can cover everything in one package. Some recordings offer better voices with weaker conducting or vice versa. Sometimes, a recording is worth listening for only a couple of soloists or only the conductor!

Old recordings in these glorious works are sine qua non. Modern ones can be only...complementary...Unfortunately, I cannot easily recommend any modern voice vis a vis a Siepi or Lisa della Casa, or Janowitz or Sutherland and so on. Some modern conductors may serve the works properly, particularly in the "period performance" field, if you are ready to get into this rather precarious field.

In any case, I can give you only a glimpse of some suggestions:

- For "Le Nozze di Figaro", there is a thread I initiated some time ago, titled "le Nozze di Figaro": Interpretation challenges", which can give you in 18 posts some insights about the best possible performances, either overall or in some parts. It can be found in this section (Recordings), on page 6.

- "Don Giovanni" has been blessed with an abundance of recordings. Krips with the unique beauty of Lisa della Casa, the superb Siepi and a VPO in top form, on Decca is a true Classic. As the more modern, in some ways, successful recording is the recent one by DG with Yannick Nezet-Seguin, if you consider D' Arcangelo a viable Giovanni, Damrau capable of delivering a role as Donna Anna's and Joyce di Donnato to tackle Donna Elvira's fine role, let alone the controversial Villazon as Don Ottavio. In between, Solti (twice on Decca) has been blessed with Margaret Price's priceless Donna Anna (in the first recording) and some other good soloists, the very Classic Giulini with a superior cast almost in every field (on EMI), Maazel with a magnificent female trio (Te Kanawa, Berganza, Mozer) and some solid male voices (on Sony), Muti (on EMI) mostly for his daring and intriguing conducting and a mediocre recording of a magnificent performance with Ghiaurov (Giovanni), Janowitz (Donna Anna), A. Kraus (Don Ottavio), Jurinac (Donna Elvira) and Bruscantini (Leporello) under Giulini, from a "live" in Rome, in 1970, on Opera d'Oro.

- For "Cosi Fan Tutte": The glorious Krips "Live" (on Orfeo) with Janowitz, Ludwig, W. Berry and Waechter. Bohm with VPO and Lisa della Casa, Ludwig, A. Dermotta and P. Schoffler, on Decca. The more recent on DG with Yannick Nezet-Seguin, still if you can deal with the rather mediocre soloists, with the exception of the very charming and quite committed Miah Persson as Fiordiligi. Klemperer is heavy and almost "out of tune" in his EMI recording with the New Philharmonia, but he has a sort of "dream cast" (Margaret Price, Yvonne Minton, Geraint Evans, Luigi Alva, Lucia Popp and Hans Sotin!). Finally, Karajan with his Classic recording on EMI with Schwarzkopf, Merriman, Panerai, Simoneau and Bruscantini is a "must", even in a not so bright recording of 1954.

In all the above, for a "period approach" of some great recordings, I would suggest, above any other, the extremely well recorded and produced performances by Rene Jacobs, on HM, with adequate and at times brilliant cast.

There is much more to explore though...

Parla

RE: Mozart Da Ponte Opera recordings

Thank you indeed for the interesting responses, I also thought that the older recordings might be better in terms of vocals and conducting but I do like decent sound quality too.

I am currently listened on Spotify to the Kleiber Figaro against the Abbado. Out of the 3 operas, only Cosi am I more familiar with having seen it live at Edinburgh many years ago, a scratched LP set of the famous Bohm on EMI and also was given as a present the DVD directed by Peter Sellars. Looking forward to trying out your suggestions if I can dig some of these jewels out!

RE: Mozart Da Ponte Opera recordings

Well just a brief reply as only listened to Figaro on Spotify using comparisons and I have to say I do prefer the Kleiber to both Bohm and Abbado, not tried anything else yet though! Also I prefer CD to DVD as the latter can be very irritating if you are not into modern day productions where directors do whatever they want (but that is another thread, no doubt)!

I expect that more than one version would be needed as parla had suggested. I love Jacobs baroque recordings so will  be interested to hear his, only problems of course is finding the sources to listen to without spending a fortune, only to find out they were not to my taste.

Thanks all, will continue to post my impressions though I am not too articulate about singers, I only know what I like or not like.

 

RE: Mozart Da Ponte Opera recordings

The music is new to me as is most opera except rameau and handel. (Wagner I used to like in my earlier years but it does not have the same draw on me now). I had thought Mozart opera as silly and too much recitative, an opinion I have since revised.

You both seem to have somewhat polarised views - could you suggest a specific aria or ensemble piece or even part of an act for listening that displays the 'good' or 'bad' characterstics for comparison more easily. 

3 hours is too much in one sitting for several versions to listen to and I am marvelling at it, so very happy to explore further but time is running away as I want to invest in a new recording without too much delay or procrastination!

 

 

 

RE: Mozart Da Ponte Opera recordings

Thanks Jane. I listened to it on Spotify along with Kleiber and Bohm (DG). I know what you mean about the period performance style, I am an enthusiast of baroque and early music and the recording seems much superior to the other two. I started going off the Bohm but I do like the singing on Kleiber. My feeling so far is that I may well end up with both a historical and a modern (period or otherwise) performance. I will listen all the way through to each of these and then turn to Jacobs if I can find it streamed anywhere.

Fascinating listening and I am only on the first opera. I suppose also it shows the changes in Mozart styles over the last 50 or so years, for better or worse ...

 

RE: Mozart Da Ponte Opera recordings

With all due respect Jane, I do not believe there will be many people around, particularly Opera enthusiasts or specialsts, who may agree with you that we are better off with the current singers in Mozart than in the past or even we are "equally" fine.

Can you enlighten me (and us) who is a great Susanna the last decade. Or a superb Countess, or a solid Figaro. Alan Cook, in my thread on "Le Nozze...", he referred, as his reference point, to a glorious past "live" performance in Covent Garden in 1963 he attended (seconded by Chris). I really cannot find, the last decades, a Susanna of the qualities and authority of a Freni, Mathis, Seefried or Cotrubas. Likewise, who is the Countess of today? Who can overshadow a Siepi as Figaro or a London as the Count or Berganza as Cherubino?

Taking even the "fabulous" Nozze of Jacobs, is P. Ciofi a Susanna of the first order or Lorenzo Regazzo the solid Figaro to turn to or A. Kirchschlager a sensual and delightful Cherubino? Even the quite serious and solid enough V. Gens cannot make me (and I trust not only) neglect, let alone forget, the nobility and fine voice of a Della Casa, the supreme vocal beauty of a Margaret Price or Kiri Te Kanawa and the subtle refinement of a Janowitz. The list can go on.

As for the "period performances", I separate them since, still, they do not represent the norm and, in any case, they cannot replace or supersede the "others". Of course, there are some notable recordings (Ostman, Kuijken, Gardiner, Jacobs. By the way, I own all of them), but one cannot get everything or even most of the score and its various layers only or mainly from them. I also espouse Jacobs recordings of all the Da Ponte Operas and the more recent Zauberflote, mostly because of the great integration of all the parties involved. His performances are splendid examples of team work in Operas of superb vocal ensembles of any kind.

In any case, as an audiophile, I would be the last person to defend old recordings of dubious sound quality. However, I cannot ignore the fact that, in the Operatic field in general (not only in Mozart), anything from conducting, voices and particularly staging stands far behind compared to the authority, commitment and dedication of the "old guard".

Concluding, my main suggestion to our new forum friend was to listen to as many recordings as possible just to start getting a glimplse of certain aspects. These masterful Operas need as many readings as possible. So, one should be inclusive, not exclusive...

Parla

RE: Mozart Da Ponte Opera recordings

Chris

I am currently listening to Act 2 on all 3 versions in my playlist. Recording quality is undoubtedly superior on JEG and being live, does seem more natural but that is not the whole story and I still prefer the singing on the Kleiber though find the recording spoils the orchestral balance. Bohm (DG) also seems fine to me and I am at a beginners disadvantage as I do not know the operas but love Mozart's music so that they all sound pretty good (if you know what I mean)! I se what you mean about the differences in the singers, really quite marked.

I also need to get a look at the libretto so I know what is going on :)

One other question - did Mozart write out the recitatives note for note or was there some element of improvisation needed by the singers (I use the word loosely).

 

 

RE: Mozart Da Ponte Opera recordings

I have seen ZAUBERFLOTE live, over 30 years ago and seen Cosi on DVD (Sellars) plus heard the well known LP with Bohm and Walter Berry. Figaro for some reason I have never heard, and only know the famous Giovanni end scene.

Meanwhile I am happily making investigations and exploring. I had always thought the operas just too silly, but the music makes up for it and now with the libretti they are comng to life. 

My initial responses on very limited listening so far is below, please note it is my first hearing and bound to change overtime but here goes:

Kleiber - best overall for singing (ensemble work better than the others), they really sing as though it was all true and not just acting, but the recording quality on spotify is poor. Hopefully the cd transfers or downloads are better but I would not want it as the only recording!

Bohm (on DG) - best balance of singing and orchestra. I dont like DFD, sounds nasal and just not quite right but everything else flows nicely.

JEG - I wanted to like this, as I have great admiration for his Bach and Handel. Actual recording is much better than the above 2 and orchestral playing and balance very nice. The singing was not quite right for me, not sure why, as it was from a live performance so woud have been committed, maybe I needed to see it.

Jacobs - only heard some brief excerpts on deezer. Fabulous orchestra, tempi and singing seemed very competent (not that I would know!) but I did not like the continuo in the recitatives, spoiled it for me. Admittedly I only heard about 20 minutes worth so not a good test and maybe I will get to like it.

So that is all for now, I will go for a full evening's listening with libretto in hand and try and dig out some other performances too.

Thanks to all on the forum for their thoughts and suggestions.

__

Mark

 

RE: Mozart Da Ponte Opera recordings

By all means, libretti are essential and integral parts of an Opera, much more to the Da Ponte/Mozart collaboration, but, while Mozart's divine and superb music can transcend and, eventually, "justify" any trivial, mundane or indifferent text, I cannot find how Da Ponte's libretti do the same thing (in enhancing, let alone justifying, Mozart's music). They are just the necessary (well-crafted) "vehicles" for the development of the Opera.

I bet, without Mozart's "magical" music, most people would care less about what is going on in "Cosi fan tutte", even in "Le Nozze". I guess Mozart, in quite a few of his Operas, practised what Oscar Wilde articulated quite eloquently: To deal trivial things seriously and serious things with triviality".

Parla

 

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