A Figaro for a new generation
M. T. Risner | Soon to be NY, NY | 02/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Before we come to the performance, plese understand that this is a period instrument recording and if that is not to your liking, then I recommend the Solti set with Te Kanawa, Popp and Ramey or the Giulini set with Moffo, Waechter and Schwarztkopf. That being said, this is my absolute favorite recording of my favorite opera. Rene Jacobs and his Concerto Koln ensemble play with verve and aplomb, the period wind instruments merrily burping and farting along with great fun. His singers are all wonderful and, in addition to having been encouraged to add period appropriate ornamentation, were also encouraged to ACT while they were singing! How novel! Veronique Gens is a wonderful Countess, her lyric soprano encompassing the role's range and emotion perfectly. Patrizia Ciofi is a bubbly Susanna, clearly having fun in Susanna's skin. Her voice is far from the soubrette fach that is often heard in the role, but she brings a pleasant warmth of tone not often heard. Lorenzo Ragazzo is wonderfully at home in Figaro. I personally prefer a lighter, brighter voice in the role, but Regazzo sounds young and energetic, if a litle heavy on the top. The Count of Simon Keenlyside presides over the recording with noble tone and firm technique. His "hai gia vinta la causa" is a tour de force of rage and jealousy, culminating in a brilliant F# at the top. If you are in the mood for a different Figaro, this is the recording to own!"
My favorite Figaro
Irene Adler | Seattle, WA | 05/02/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
I've listened to lots of Figaros, and none of them ever felt awful, leading me to believe that it is one of those fool-proof operas whose music is so good you just can't screw it up. This recording stands out from the herd for basically two reasons:
1) Clean and clear period orchestration that lets you hear all the intricacies of Mozart's music; and
2) Simon Keenlyside, easily the best Count ever. The rest of the cast is very strong as well (Gens is certainly a regal and elegant Countess), but Keenlyside's Count shines as no one else does. He is not only technically secure and rich-timbred, but also passionate in his portrayal. His Count is probably the most expressive I've heard yet.
As for the conducting, Jacobs takes a more mainstream approach than he did in Cosi. His tempi don't deviate very drastically from the mainstream, which makes this recording much more accessible. However, the (in)famous pianoforte is still present, so if you didn't like it in Cosi, you might not like it here. Personally, I enjoyed it very much.
Overall, this recording is probably the most outstanding one that we have to date. It is a thoroughly enjoyable display of musicianship on the part of all those involved. For myself, when I want to listen to Figaro, this is always the recording I go to, without fail. However, it might not be the only one you will want to own: even though it is note-complete, the extra Jacobian touches makes it hard to argue that this recording is definitive. At this point, I'm not sure if there is a "definitive" Figaro, though I do also enjoy Abbado's recording on DG, which is also note-complete and includes the alternate arias that Mozart wrote for Susanna and the Countess (it's too bad I'm not a huge fan of the Susanna and Countess on that recording). You might also want to check out recordings of an older vintage (and lower price), such as Giulini. They're often not note-complete (Giulini cuts out at least one aria in Act IV, though personally I always skip over that aria anyway, so I don't mind) but will have star-studded casts."