"Though there are plenty of great recordings of this great opera, this recording is really very, very good. Best of all is the glorious Fiordiligi of Lella Cuberli, a most beautiful soprano. Cecilia Bartoli is her perfect sister, both enjoy and makes us enjoy their work. Even among classic sets, this is really worth having."
Better with every listen
Kendall Hodder | Boston, MA USA | 12/13/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wonderful listening experiences await! This CD gets better and better each time I listen. Aside from the wonderful Cuberli and Bartoli, the most impressive performance comes from tenor, Kurt Streit. It is very refreshing to hear his lovely, lyric tenor voice float sweetly through his first aria. The world is inundated lately with the three heavy, love-to-hear-themselves-above-everything-else tenors. Streit is a star in the making. His voice is worth the price of the CD alone."
Good but not 5 stars
V. Stasov | 05/27/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a good effort, but I have to disagree with the 5 star rating. Hate to be a naysayer but there are a few problems with this set which one should be aware of:1. The 3 disc set does not contain the complete opera. There is a duettino with Guglielmo and Ferrando in Act I ("Al fato dan legge") along with its preceding recitative ("Non piagere,idol mio") which was omitted. In the Act II finale, a lovely quartet with the 4 main singers should be present ("Come par che qui prometta"), between 2 renditions of "Benedetti i doppi coniugi" by the chorus. Barenboim omits these sections, and the printed libretto supplied with the discs also omits them. Since there should have been enough space on 3 CDs to include them I am a bit mystified as to why. I thought I was getting the whole opera!2. My other complaints apply to artistic choices and therefore are entirely subjective. When I bought this set a few years ago I was a bit disappointed because I had recently seen a live production, and the discs did not do justice to my memory of the music. I could not pin down the problems until I recently bought John Eliot Gardiner's version on DVD. That version is great - fully matching my memories of live performances, and contrasting it with the Barenboim version I can say the following: - Barenboim's tempos are somewhat ponderous during Act I which slows things down at a time when things should really be taken quickly and lightly. - Accompaniment by the entire Berlin Philharmonic on modern instruments - this is somewhat overkill for opera accompaniment; where Gardiner subtly accentuates the singers with his smaller ensemble, Barenboim can't really do that without being overwhelming. - Barenboim seems to have chosen the singers for the contrast between their voices - each is readily distinguishable, a strength on a recording but in Cosi the ensemble singing is better suited to voices with more similar range. Also the lack of a live audience I think detracts a bit from the singers' involvement in the role - they seem intellectually engaged but not viscerally so; Despina being an exception. The singers are always in the same location on the recording, so there is no sense of movement or action: female leads to the left, male on the right. On the plus side, there are no stage noises.3. Good things: the recording quality is good and the individual singers are talented. Cecilia Bartoli struts her stuff with excellent renditions of Dorabella's arias. Streit and Rodgers are very good in their roles as well. Cuberli is fine but I prefer Roocroft in the Gardiner version; Cuberli has perhaps a slightly richer tone to her voice but Roocroft is more precise and better able to define individual notes in high fast passages. Contrast their versions of "Come scoglio" and their ensemble singing and you'll see what I mean.Overall, not bad and individual performances are worth listening to; but it's not my preferred version."
Greatest Cosi of Them All
V. Stasov | 03/05/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I don't understand why Daniel Barenboim's three superlative recordings of the Mozart-Da Ponte masterpieces are so overlooked. I find them to be among the greatest performances of these most perfect operas, or of any opera recordings, for that matter. Barenboim presents a dramatic and humorous Cosi, with some of today's most splendid Mozarteans. Bartoli at this time had not yet started screeching, and Cuberli's creamy soprano is perfect for Fiordiligi. All the singers are marvelous, youthful and animated. Joan Rodgers's gorgeous Despina is always tasteful, avoiding the most obnoxious forms of parody and ugly singing commonly heard from most Despinas.
If orthodox, historically (and politically) correct Mozart is what you're looking for, move on to Gardiner or someone like him. Today's trendy HIP performances will be tomorrow's curiosities from this era of reactionary trends, I suspect. At the risk of offending the worshipful followers of HIP performances, I find HIP performances to be intellectually interesting, and they serve a valuable scholarly purpose. To me, they are somewhat similar in their devout mentality to the Bible's True Believers. Again, no offense intended to anyone. There's room for all opinions.
For the pure joy of a musical experience, I'll take modern technology, modern instruments, and the unbeatable Berlin Phil. I'd rather drive a new high performance Corvette than a model T, no matter how original and historically accurate that Ford may be.
The singing, tempi and musicianship of this Cosi surpasses every other one I've heard. De gustibus non disputatem. Barenboim has terrific taste in singers, when he can get them. He certainly assembled a magnificent crew here. The ensembles - and Cosi is an ensemble opera - are ideally performed. The finales have a thrilling climactic excitement and beauty, with Barenboim never forgetting that this was Mozart's most cynical and satirical opera. Voices blend perfectly, the acting and characterizations are spot on. Is my review hyperbolic? Yes. Is it exaggerated? I don't think so.
For an interesting and precious historic Cosi, check out Guild's 1951 Busch with Sena Jurinac's luminous Fiordiligi. While the sound is rather poor, consider it a museum piece that the gods of music (and sound engineer Richard Caniell) preserved for posterity.
Barenboim recorded the Mozart-Da Ponte operas twice. The second group of recordings on Erato are some of the finest Mozart opera performances ever captured by technology. Böhm's Cosi with Schwarzkopf and Ludwig come in second for me, but Böhm's tendency to plod along is surpassed by Barenboim's sexy, upbeat conducting. This is, after all, an opera about youth and sex, so why leave that out? If Barenboim's testosterone was surging during these recordings, all the better for us.