WORKS: Così fan tutte
PERFORMER: Lisa della Casa, Christa Ludwig, Anton Dermota, Erich Kunz, Paul Schoeffler, Emmy LooseVienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna PO/Karl Böhm
CATALOGUE NO: 417 185-2 ADD
Dating from 1955 – in time for the 1956 bicentenary of the composer’s birth – this recording belongs to a period when apologies were still made for Cost fan tutte, Mozart’s most ‘frothy’ comedy, as it used to be known before we started taking it seriously. Bohm was one of the opera’s most admired interpreters, but today his cuts — Dorabella’s second and Ferrando’s second and third arias, edits in the sublime Fiordiligi/Ferrando duet and the finale to Act II, savage shortening of the secco recitative and even small snips in one or two of the arias -seem so disfiguring that few could contemplate purchase of this set as a first choice.
In tandem with a really complete recording, however — my choice would be the Solti set, also on Decca — this has a lot going for it as a representative of the post-war Viennese Mozart style, then regarded as supreme. Bohm’s sensible tempi and affectionate highlighting of woodwind detail still give pleasure and the cast is a good team. Ludwig’s Dorabella is surpassed only by her more mature self on Bohm’s second EMI recording, and Della Casa is a more touching Fiordiligi than Schwarzkopf. The men, especially Dermota’s romantic Ferrando, are as good as on any set, provided one can take the slighdy Germanic Italian diction. If Decca had made an 80-minute single disc of highlights, my recommendation would be stronger. Hugh Canning