Great Vienna State Opera cast doing what they do best!
L. E. Cantrell | Vancouver, British Columbia Canada | 01/18/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The voices were well-recorded but the orchestra is somewhat compressed and muddy by current standards, although remarkably good for 1945.
The opera heaps fiendish difficulties on the lead soprano and tenor. In Act II, the voice of Constanze is carpet bombed by almost a quarter of an hour of brilliant and difficult coloratura warbling with only a short orchestral interlude in the middle to regain her breath. Belmonte has one long, long piece of vocal pyrotechnics after another.
Anton Dermota is the star of the set, and to my mind the best Mozart tenor of the recording era. He did not have the prettiest voice nor the longest vocal lines, but he was simply right in every thing he did. As a singing actor, he is matched only by Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi -- very rarified company indeed. Here, his voice is well caught. The man sang Mozart as nearly perfectly as any mortal is likely to do. What a pity that his active singing career did not extend into the digital era so that the orchestra could be matched to the near-perfection of the singer.
Elizabeth Schwarzkopf does a fine job, singing with great aplomb and style. Yes, she bobbles a note -- but even Jove occasionally nods.
Emmy Loose, as always, does with seeming ease what Mozart asks of her. One cannot give higher praise. She is particularly amusing when she follows Osmin down into the basso-profundo depths.
Pedrillo, the second tenor, is a clown, and is here sung by Peter Klein, who sounds very like Eddie Cantor, the old radio comedian and one-time star of the Ziegfeld Follies. He sings that lovely, unregarded gem in Act III, "In Mohrenland", very nicely.
Osmin is sung by Herbert Almen, a woefully under-recorded performer who seems to have been a reliable house basso all over Germany in the years straddling World War II. In every performance of the "Serail" that I have seen, the weak link has been Osmin, not Constanze. On this recording, Almen is a true bass who produces controlled and focused sound from the top to the bottom of his range, giving us for once a performance instead of a gargle.
I have not looked at the score recently but I think that except for one missing soprano aria, this is a mostly complete version of the opera. Considering the time a place of its origin, it is a wonder!
Five stars for performance. Live with the sound quality."