Whitman's Sampler of Stellar Performances from Opera's Elite
Ed Uyeshima | San Francisco, CA USA | 07/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Decca has seen fit to release its vast Mozart catalogue in an elaborate, twenty-disc series celebrating the composer's 250th birthday. This one celebrates four of his most acclaimed opera seria from his last decade - "Idomeneo, re di Creta" , "Die Entführung aus dem Serail" ("The Abduction from the Seraglio") , Die Zauberflöte" ("The Magic Flute")  and the unfinished "Zaide" . Peak performances have been culled from recordings dating all the way back to 1964 up to soprano Anna Netrebko's stellar recital debut in 2003, and the overall blend is surprisingly seamless thanks to a superb mastering job by the Emil Berliner Studios.
The disc starts with a mellifluous Kiri Te Kanawa singing Zaide's Act I aria, "Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben" from a 1984 recording. From "Idomeneo", the young Netrebko takes on Ilia's aria, "Quando avran fine omai - Padre, grmani, addio!" with the lovely bell-like tone that first brought her media attention. You can also compare the distinct interpretations of the title role of Idomeneo from an autumnally resonant Placido Domingo in 1996 and a vibrant Luciano Pavarotti in his prime in 1966. Both singers uncover character dimensions seemingly elusive to the other. Sopranos Kathleen Battle and Edita Gruberova perform with amazing vigor on their arias from a 1987 recording of "Seraglio".
From "The Magic Flute", it is fascinating to hear German baritone Hermann Prey's traditionally stentorian interpretation of Papageno in 1964 versus Welsh baritone Bryn Terfel's more syncopated take on the same role in his fanciful duet with mezzo-soprano superstar Cecilia Bartoli nearly forty years later. In between, South Korean soprano Sumi Jo shows great clarity and agility as Queen of Night on her Act I aria, "Zum Leiden bin ich auserkoren". Finnish bass Martti Talvela lends a decidedly melancholy, church-like tone to his Sarastro on his Act II aria, "O Isis und Osiris". However, the most melodious aria, Tamino's "Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schon" from Act I, is sung beautifully by German tenor Fritz Wunderlich. This is a superb sampling of world-class performances from the massive Decca/Deutsch Grammophon/Philips vaults."