Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Operas. © 2023 Profil Medien GmbH

CD Spotlight

A Marriage between Drama and Comedy

GERALD FENECH is impressed by recordings of five Mozart operas

'... I have never heard Mozart played with such finesse and beauty.'


During his too-short thirty-five years on earth, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) wrote more than six hundred works, including some of the most popular and beloved symphonic, chamber and choral works, but he was particularly at home in the operatic genre. His melodies are uncomplicated, beautiful and brimming with expression. He delighted in writing sections for multiple characters to sing at the same time, and he was especially adept at making the language clear. He also had complete command of the orchestra's colours, and deftly selected groups of instruments to produce unique sounds and effects. In addition, Mozart had an uncanny knack for choosing the juiciest plays from which to make operas.

One of his first recommendations was a play written by Pierre de Beaumarchais called Le nozze di Figaro, a humorous and contentious send-up of modern society and politics. Figaro provides excellent examples of the real motivations that drive Mozart's characters.

Listen — Mozart: Esci ormai, garzon malnato ... Susanna! Susanna!
(The Marriage of Figaro Act II)
(PH23005 CD4 track 2, 0:00-0:49) ℗ 2023 Profil Medien GmbH :

A year after Figaro's premiere, the city of Prague asked the composer to write an opera for the wedding of the emperor's niece. And what story did he choose to set to music for this holy marriage? That of Don Juan, the most womanizing sociopath of all time. Despite everything, Don Giovanni was a resounding success.

Listen — Mozart: Riposate, vezzose ragazze! (Don Giovanni Act I)
(PH23005 CD7 track 12, 0:00-0:55) ℗ 2023 Profil Medien GmbH :

Of course, Mozart does not deserve full credit for his operatic masterpieces; he composed only the music. The remaining credit goes, obviously, to the librettist Lorenzo da Ponte. Indeed, Figaro, Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte, pieces that were considered the pinnacle of what was known as opera buffa, were all the duo's collaboration.

Listen — Mozart: Di scrivermi ogni giorno ... (Così fan tutte Act I)
(PH23005 CD1 track 9, 0:00-0:55) ℗ 2023 Profil Medien GmbH :

The year before his death Mozart wrote The Magic Flute, a tale of good and evil, moral redemption, juvenile bird catchers and a terrifying Queen of the Night. The music is simply superb, and it remains a great favourite even in our times.

Listen — Mozart: Hm! hm! hm! hm! (Die Zauberflöte Act I)
(PH23005 CD9 track 6, 0:00-0:59) ℗ 2023 Profil Medien GmbH :

Mozart's operas embody the Classical style: elegant, graceful, refined, high-spirited and unsentimental, but with a strong emotional undercurrent - a style of composition that no-one has matched since his death, and perhaps no-one ever will. This historical Profil Medien boxed set is nothing short of a priceless document revealing the way these operas were interpreted during the golden fifties, when Mozart was being sung by some of the best singers of the time: Erich Kunz, Anton Dermota, Cesare Siepi, Hilde Güden, Lisa della Casa, Fernando Corena and Suzanne Danco readily come to mind. Così fan tutte, Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Die Zauberflöte were all recorded between May and June 1955 and performances are nothing short of mesmerizing. Indeed, the marriage between drama and comedy is almost miraculous. I must admit, I have never heard Mozart played with such finesse and beauty. No surprise here, when you have conductors in the realm of Karl Böhm, Erich Kleiber and Josef Krips.

Listen — Mozart: Overture (Don Giovanni)
(PH23005 CD6 track 1, 2:31-3:29) ℗ 2023 Profil Medien GmbH :

So far I have covered four operas, so what about the fifth, which also forms part of this boxed set? Der Schauspieldirektor (The Impresario) was composed as an entry for a musical competition. It was written during a very fertile period in the composer's career, and although it is very short - some thirty minutes only of music - it is extremely funny and entertaining. Premiered on 7 February 1786, the work revolves around two singers who try to defeat each other while trying to sing the higher notes. In spite of this, Mozart still managed to write some serious arias.

Listen — Mozart: Jeder Künstler strebt nach Ehre (Der Schauspieldirektor)
(PH23005 CD5 track 12, 3:51-4:49) ℗ 2023 Profil Medien GmbH :

Recorded at the Würzburg Mozart Festival in June 1989, Ferdinand Leitner keeps things moving briskly, and the music is consistently witty and charming. Mostly for historical buffs, but for those who want to learn further about great singers of the past this set will certainly not disappoint.

Copyright © 9 May 2023 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta



 << Home              Next review >>