LABELS: Opus Arte
WORKS: Cosi fan Tutti
PERFORMER: Stuart Burrows, Thomas Allen, Richard Van Allan, Kiri Te Kanawa, Agnes Baltsa, Daniela Mazzucato; Royal Opera Chorus; Royal Opera House Orchestra/Colin Davis
CATALOGUE NO: CD9005 D
This ‘historic’ Così fan tutte is a 29-year-old BBC Radio 3 transmission from Covent Garden. While most of its participants already figure in the vast Così discography (to which only Stuart Burrows’s Ferrando and Daniela Mazzucato’s Despina are newcomers), the sum total possesses a character all its own, sufficient to outweigh passing hiccups of inexact ensemble, choral imbalances and minor vocal blemishes. (Burrows has memory lapses in ‘Tradito, schernito’ and Kiri Te Kanawa, in gloriously ripe voice most of the way, unexpectedly blots her soft high notes in ‘Fra gli amplessi’.)
It’s not a unified Così. The singers display widely varied approaches to the notes and words – Agnes Baltsa’s adorable Dorabella and Mazzucato’s Despina distinctively Mediterranean in style and accent, Burrows’s bonny Ferrando and the Alfonso of Richard Van Allan contrastingly British. And Colin Davis’s supremely musicianly, spacious conducting might for some listeners display insufficient awareness of the more disquieting aspects of Mozart’s cruellest operatic comedy.
This said, it offers abundant pleasures. Te Kanawa recorded an earlier Fiordiligi, under Alain Lombard (Erato, now Warner Classics), and a later, under James Levine (DG): neither manifests the personality and velvety warmth of tone on show here, and her virtuosity in ‘Come scoglio’ is staggering. Thomas Allen’s Guglielmo, too, is impeccably sung. Not the best, then, but one to revisit. Max Loppert