(4 out of 5 stars)
"Karajan's Cosi has always shared the limelight with Bohm's as one the the legendary classics of the opera. Both share the Fiordiligi of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, who sings one of the pillars of her repertoire. Her reading, infused with insight and style, cannot help but be attractive. Nan Merriman as Dorabella serves as a foil to Schwarzkopf's mannered singing. We have the best Ferrando on record, Leopold Simoneau. His ardent and passioned singing is of an era gone by. Rolando Panerai serves up a tidy Non siate ritrosi and Donne mie. Lisa Otto and Sesto Bruscantini complete the cast as the truly buffo characters of Despina and Don Alfonso. Karajan leads the Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus in a perfomance that sparkles. The only reservation and shortcoming is that of the viciously cut recitatives. We would have to turn to others for a complete Cosi, and my recommendation would be Davis' on Philips."
A classic "Cosi".
John Austin | Kangaroo Ground, Australia | 06/09/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Mozart's great music, and Da Ponte's superb libretto and chessboard plotting, result in "Cosi fan tutte" being rather too much of a good thing for one night's entertainment, especially when seen for the umpteenth time. Happily the opera has fared well on record, enabling music lovers to enjoy it at liesure at home. This 1954 recording, produced by Walter Legge, was the third "complete" recording of the opera to be released. Perhaps because of the exigencies of accommodating it onto LP records, some of the secco recitatives were cut, leaving a running time of eight or nine minutes under full length. Although a monaural recording made nearly fifty years ago, it is still one of the two top recommended versions in the "Penguin Guide to Compact Discs".Karajan, prior to his Berlin Philharmonic days, provides well-judged direction, broadening tempi sometimes in his inimitable way, such as in the Act 1 march, but preserving a light touch elsewhere, especially during the asides offered by Despina and Alfonso. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf's Fiordiligi is a woman with enormous depths and subtleties of character. The singer's famous ability to color her voice is nowhere more apparent than here, her first attempt at singing this part. Perhaps this Fiordiligi is too intelligent, too sensitive. Listening to Schwarzkopf's Fiordiligi, perhaps you doubt that this character could ever be fooled by into believing her maid Despina, heavily disguised in costume and voice, was a medico and then a notary. Blending well with Schwarzkopf in the role of Dorabella is the American mezzo Nan Merriman, already in 1954 a noted singer in this part. As Despina, Lisa Otto sings her arias neatly and enjoys herself impersonating Signor Dottore and Il Notaio. None better, perhaps before or since, has been heard in the part of Ferrando than the French-Canadian tenor Leopold Simoneau. Rolando Panerai, as the baritone who never gets much solo work to do, makes the most of his three-minute "Donne mie". Sesto Bruscantini, who rarely delivered an imperfect performance or recording, is a lighter-voiced and more interesting than most Don Alfonso. This is a "Cosi" that will not disappoint those who wish to hear the opera repeatedly and who accept that good monaural sound can offer in its own way as much enjoyment as good black and white photography. My copy has an Italian only libretto included."