Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro
LABELS: Sony Classical
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro
WORKS: The Marriage of Figaro
PERFORMER: Andrei Bondarenko; Simone Kermes; Christian Van Horn; Fanie Antonelou; Mary-Ellen Nesi; Maria Forsstrom; Nikolai Loskutkin; Krystian Adam; James Elliott; Garry Agadzhanian; Natalya Kirillova; MusicAeterna/Teodor Currentzis
CATALOGUE NO: 88883709262
The Russians do not often do Mozart, but this comes all the way from the city of Perm at the foot of the Urals – albeit with a Greek conductor, Teodor Currentzis, and a sprinkling of European soloists. This ‘experimental’ performance reduces both the dynamic range and use of vibrato, introduces more ornamentation, and employs several continuo instruments including a fortepiano (as did René Jacobs in his 2004 version for Harmonia Mundi).
It is a revelation to be reminded of how often Mozart writes soft dynamics into his score, and one result is the more variegated (less relentless) finales in Acts II and IV. But quiet music with no vibrato tends to make voices less distinctive -– a real problem in the combative duet ‘Via resti servita’ for Susanna (sung by Greek soprano Fanie Antonelou) and Marcellina (Swedish mezzo-soprano Maria Forsström).
As for the ornamentation, Greek mezzo Mary-Ellen Nesi as Cherubino provides some adventurous flourishes in ‘Voi che sapete’, but they are still minimal compared, for instance, with Mozart’s surviving examples written for JC Bach’s aria ‘Cara la dolce fiamma’ (K293e).
In fact it is the recitatives that really come alive here, with the aid of the brilliantly illustrative interventions of the fortepiano player. The pace, too, is always dramatic, though this is sometimes achieved with odd little cuts (in the Act II Finale the Countess’s reaction to discovering that it is Susanna who is hiding in the cupboard is omitted), and the extreme speeds occasionally reduce Susanna to staccato yapping (‘Venite, inginocchiatevi’). For its new thinking this performance deserves five stars, but for its characterisation and vocal appeal somewhat less.