NICHOLAS HARNONCOURT’s LAST RECORDING

The main reasons to consider the purchase of the quite wonderful UNITEL CD of Mozart’s third of his three Da Ponte operas are two: an exceptional cast assembled by Nicholas Harnoncourt for this 2016 live recording, starting with the two couples of lovers: Mari Eriksmoen (Fiordiligi), Mauro Peter (Ferrando), Katija Dragojevic (Dorabella), and André Schuen (Guglielmo, and the conductor himself at the helm of his Concentus Musicus Wien.

All four singers have lighter voices than one might be used to hearing in casts assembled for big opera house productions of this opera, but the 2,200 seat Theater and der Wien with its perfect acoustics and horseshoe-shaped auditorium provides ideal visual and aural circumstances that, in combination with the chamber-sized Concentus Musicus Wien and its assembly of period instruments makes for a close to perfect arrangement.

This is not a fully-staged production. The singers carry the scores in their hands or place them on stands to assist their memory. Yet the cast delivers an engaging performance made all the more enjoyable by virtue of their good looks and their stylish and straight-forward delivery.

The Alfonso and  the Despina, though fine singers, both sound somewhat miscast: he, Markus Werba, a lyric baritone, when a bass-baritone would provide better contrast to the youthful sound of Guglielmo – the other baritone – and she, Elisabeth Kulman, a soprano with a heftier sound than that of Fiordiligi – the other soprano, where that of a soubrette is a better fit. This might sound like quibbling, but in the ensembles these contrasts become all important.

Harnoncourt draws a splendid sound from his cast and from his orchestral forces in a historic recording made in the last year of the Maestro’s life.

Rafael de Acha        ALL ABOUT THE ARTS