Mozart: Concert arias, K83, K294, K316, K368, K416, K418, K419 & K538

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WORKS: Concert arias, K83, K294, K316, K368, K416, K418, K419 & K538
PERFORMER: Natalie Dessay (soprano); Lyon Opera Orchestra/Theodor Guschlbauer
Mozart made reference in his letters to his ability to write music for particular singers ‘as precisely made-to-measure as a well-cut dress’. Natalie Dessay tries on eight of these Mozartian ‘dresses’ and they suit her very well. Her tone, bright and shimmering, has an engaging warmth and she shapes phrases with just the right amount of light and shade. The notoriously difficult ‘Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio!’ with its top Es, is delicately ornamented and sung with effortless ease. In ‘Popoli di Tessaglia’ her expressive recitative interpretation leads to a compelling and tender rendition of ‘Io non chiedo’ and in the closing moments Dessay swings up to top Gs with stunning vocal skill – the only time Mozart wrote this high for the human voice.


Hearing these arias one can only marvel at what a wonderful singer Mozart’s sister-in-law Aloysia Weber must have been to inspire much of this writing. Aloysia’s own favourite ‘Mia speranza adorata’ receives an exquisitely floated coloratura line from Dessay. The Lyon Opera Orchestra is excellent but Guschlbauer could have let the reins go a little at times, allowing a fraction more passion and warmth to underpin the singing. This is phenomenally difficult repertoire, requiring cast-iron technique and tremendous vocal range and agility. Dessay delivers. Elise McDougall