WORKS: Le nozze di Figaro
PERFORMER: Anna Caterina Antonacci, Cecilia Bartoli, Sylvia McNair, Andrea Rost, Cheryl Studer, Boje SkovhusVienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna PO/Claudio Abbado
CATALOGUE NO: 445 903-2 DDD
The choice here would seem to be clear-cut: between a big-budget, starrily cast, ‘traditional’ reading, under the direction of a conductor more attuned to late 19th- and 20th-century expressionismo, and a more modest, home-grown affair in the capable hands of one of our leading Mozartians. Life, however, is never that simple.
For one thing, Abbado and the VPO are clearly au fait with the insights of the period-instrument movement. Every bit as deft and transparent as Mackerras and the SCO, the richer sound and polish of the Viennese players is just too hard to resist. For all Mackerras’s skills in tapping the Mozartian essence, the SCO can’t help but sound anaemic in comparison. Abbado, at one with his singers, also displays a more acute sense of theatre; Mackerras’s often undercharacterise.
The exceptions are his Figaro (Alastair Miles) and Bartolo (Alfonso Antoniozzi). Otherwise Abbado wins hands down, with Sylvia McNair’s impish Susanna an absolute delight, Boje Skovhus every bit the virile young Count, and Cheryl Studer a touching, dignified Countess. The DG is the one to go for then (released mid-September), despite Mackerras’s added bonus of a substantial appendix of replacement numbers (not all by Mozart – and it shows!). Antony Bye