A Russian city on the edge of Siberia might not be the obvious place to make a new studio recording of three of Mozart's best-loved operas. But Perm, 1400km east of Moscow, is home to the entrepreneurial conductor Teodor Currentzis and MusicAeterna, who have embarked on a new cycle of Mozart's Da Ponte operas for Sony Classical.
The first of the trio, The Marriage of Figaro, will be released in February 2014, starring baritone Andrei Bondarenko as Count Almaviva, soprano Simone Kermes as Countess Almaviva, bass-baritone Christian Van Horn as Figaro and soprano Fanie Antonelou as Susanna. Così fan Tutte is set to follow in autumn that year, with Don Giovanni completing the set in 2015.
Location aside, the recording conditions are also something of a rarity for a studio project today. Currentzis aims to avoid what he describes as ‘the factory approach of the classical music mainstream’. For Figaro, the recording sessions lasted up to 14 hours for 11 consecutive days and nights.
MusicAeterna was set up by Currentzis, in Novosibirks. When the Greek maestro, 41, took up the baton at the Perm Opera House in 2011, he moved the orchestra and choir with him. As part of the deal, he established the unusual working conditions which form the backdrop to this recording project: unlimited rehearsal time and the chance to schedule performances depending on how the rehearsals go. The musicians also often explore around the repertoire they are performing, for instance learning about Baroque dance and avant-garde cinema.
Currentzis studied countless sources of Mozart's music for this new recording, hoping to brush off the layers of performing traditions that have built up during the 20th century. The singers use little vibrato, and the orchestra plays on period instruments or modern replicas. Nevertheless historical authenticity isn't Currentzis's guiding principle: 'I use [period instruments] because they sound better. If I thought that this music sounded better on electric guitars, I would perform it on electric guitars.'
'For us, however difficult and painful, this project was very important,' says Currentzis. 'There are so many recordings which convey the general spirit of Mozart's music. The only point in making a new one is to give the audience a chance to hear and learn about all the magic which this score holds.'
The three operas will be released on CD, digitally and also as high-resolution Blu-ray audio and on vinyl.