Mozart’s Il sogno di Scipione conducted by Ian Page

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Signum
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: Il sogno di Scipione
PERFORMER: Stuart Jackson, Klara Ek, Soraya Mafi, Krystian Adam, Robert Murray, Chiara Skerath; Choir and Orchestra of Classical Opera/Ian Page
CATALOGUE NO: SIGCD 499

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Scipio’s Dream, Mozart’s sixth opera, is also Classical Opera’s sixth complete Mozart opera recording for Signum Classics under its conductor, Ian Page. The company’s devotion to the very young composer’s theatrical creations – the list so far, leaning heavily on the earliest, reaches no further than Zaide(1779) – has already paid off handsomely. Evidence of Mozart’s extraordinary youthful accomplishment has been piled up in a way that cumulatively makes nonsense of past dismissal of these works as immature parrotings of contemporary operatic fashion.

This one-act serenata for a cast of three tenors and three sopranos, written in 1771, is a case in point. The dramatic limitations of Metastasio’s blandly moralising libretto may be obvious (the celebrated Roman commander dreams of having to choose between two goddesses, capricious Fortune and steadfast Constancy: no prizes for guessing the outcome). Yet all the da capo arias offer moments of genuine Mozartian musico-dramatic spark – of which later there’s an abundance in the long accompanied recitative depicting Scipio’s awakening, which Page in his admirably detailed booklet essay calls ‘music (of) sublime beauty and haunting otherworldliness’. 

This is a rewarding set: gracefully paced, with period-instrument playing more polished than in Astrée’s 2001 Freiburg Sogno di Scipione, and among its fresh-voiced young singers a standout leading tenor, Stuart Jackson, as Scipio. From that earlier recording, though, and Philips’s celebrated 1979 one conducted by Leopold Hager and featuring Edita Gruberová, Lucia Popp and Edith Mathis, one gains a much stronger impression of the soprano roles’ distinctively contrasted qualities; but overall, this is an impressive achievement.

Max Loppert 

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Listen to an excerpt from this recording here.