Decent "Don" at bargain price
Michael K. Halloran | 05/03/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It takes a special kind of conductor to integrate the comedic and dramatic elements of Mozart's most Shakespearean opera. Georg Solti, unfortunately, is not that conductor. He takes a taut, driving view of the score which may be exciting to some listeners, but verges on the manic in my opinion. Zerlina and Masetto's entrance is so frantic that they sound like they're preparing for a debauched Roman orgy rather than a peasant wedding.There are, however, two performances here which give unalloyed pleasure: Margaret Price as Donna Anna and Lucia Popp as Zerlina. Both are among the top recorded interpreters of their roles. Price's silvery, vibrant soprano moves effortlessly through Anna's high tessitura, always beautifully controlled and dramatically alert. There are no squally high notes or misjudged attacks - only Sutherland on the Giulini set is in Price's class. Popp has a fuller voice than is often heard in Zerlina's music, (sopranos like Sciutti and Gueden sound tiny by comparison) but it pays off in the nuances and inflections she puts into the music. She is both alluring and innocent at the same time. Luckily, we get to hear her in even more of Zerlina's music than usual, as the duet with Leporello, "Per queste tue manine" is included.Sylvia Sass is dramatically potent and can float a lovely messa di voce, but she is a little woolly for Elvira - her best work has always been in Verdi. Stuart Burrows as Ottavio sings beautifully, but fades into the background dramatically (although this is more the fault of the role itself than anything Burrows does). The final touch of individuality is all he lacks to be in the front rank of Ottavios.Kurt Moll's Commendatore is fine, but the other low voices disappoint. Gabriel Bacquier and Alfred Sramek (Leporello and Masetto respectively) sing the notes but don't do much more than that. Bernd Weikl is a frustrating Don - at times his voice is beautiful, but rarely does he allow himself a chance to simply sing. Like Solti's conducting, Weikl pushes through the music, perhaps to indicate the Don's doomed character, but it is impossible to believe this man is a successful seducer. Moments where he should ooze charm and suavity, such as "La ci darem" and the serenade, sound effortful and blatant (a pity, as Popp is exquisite in the duet).When everything is considered, I wouldn't want to be without this set for the superb performances of Price and Popp, and while Burrows, Moll, and Sass hold up their end of the show well, this can't be recommended as a first choice, although it could make a viable second choice to a favorite version. Try the Giulini or Krips recordings to hear a more cohesive reading of Mozart's masterpiece.(Readers should be advised that this recording comes with a libretto that is accessible only through a CD-ROM drive)"
G. Golding | Seattle, WA | 10/09/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love this performance very much. Price is the most beautiful Anna singing with richness, purity and drama. Popp is also wonderful and golden toned as Zerlina. Sass is good, but is not conventional as Elvira. Imagine Callas singing Mozart.
Personally, I thing Stuart Burrows has the most beautiful tenor voice I have ever heard. He is the Renato Bruson of tenors singing with tone that I can only describe as pure velvet...rich and creamy. His Lensky on the Solti Eugene Onegin is fabulous. I also really enjoy performances by Weikl and Bacquier as the Don and Leporello. Vocal acting is first rate!
I also like Solti's conduting very much. I don't like a super "light" style that has no guts to it. I think that's fishy!