Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Glyndebourne
WORKS: Le nozze di Figaro
PERFORMER: Heinz Blankenburg, Mirella Freni, Gabriel Bacquier, Leyla Gencer, Edith Mathis, Carlo Cava, Johanna Peters, Hugues Cuenod, John Kentish, Derick Davies, Maria Zeri, Patricia McCarry; Glyndebourne Chorus; Royal PO/Silvio Varviso


This marvellous set inaugurates Glyndebourne’s publishing of highlights from its archives (let’s hope they are extensive) in the most propitious way. Listening to this performance of Figaro, recorded 46 years ago, one feels that it is ‘historic’ but in almost no respect ‘historical’. The sound is miraculously clear and full, though not stereo. The conducting of the much under-rated Silvio Varviso is a wonder of lucidity and grace, with expansive tempos where they are needed. And the cast is not only uniformly first-rate, it also contains several singers who should be famous but are not. The Figaro of Heinz Blankenburg is as winning as any I have heard. Above all, the Countess of Leyla Gencer, the great Turkish soprano with a huge repertoire, who died in May having never made a single commercial recording, here combines beauty, fragility, pain and radiance in ideal proportions. Mirella Freni is a classic Susanna, Gabriel Bacquier the authoritative Count one dreams of, and Hugues Cuenod the definitive Basilio for all time. They must have rehearsed for untold hours, as the way they play to one another is so spontaneous and always so precise. No wonder the audience is so perfectly behaved, just occasionally erupting into irresistible applause. There is very little disturbing stage noise, but the strongest feeling of theatre. No matter how many Figaros you have, this is an essential addition, with fresh insights bubbling to the surface every few moments. It is also handsomely presented, and with the text in four languages. Michael Tanner