Alexander's Playlist: Mozart's The Marriage of FigaroBy Alexander NeefPosted in Alexander's Playlist
General Director Alexander Neef shares his favourite music recordings in this series of weekly recommendations.
Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro
L'Oiseau-Lyre / Decca, 1988Drottingholm Court Theatre Orchestra and Chorus
Given that I discussed Herbert von Karajan’s marvelous interpretation of Wagner’s Parsifal last week, it’s only natural that I turn my attention this week to the other fall opera in our 20/21 season: Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.
In my eyes, Figaro is the most perfect opera ever written.
While there is no shortage of outstanding recordings, I’d like to invite you to consider the interpretation by Arnold Östman, who conducts Stockholm’s Drottingholm Court Theatre Orchestra and Chorus in this remarkable 1988 recording. Crisp and revelatory, Östman’s reading of the opera is recorded on period instruments, allowing us to imagine we’re encountering the kind of sound that Mozart heard in the late 1700s at a performance in Vienna or Salzburg.
Östman leads an impeccable ensemble of singers, including Petteri Salomaa as Figaro, Arleen Auger as the Countess, and Alicia Nafe as Cherubino, but the standout for me is the unsurpassable Susanna of Barbara Bonney, who sings with exquisite verve and charm. The action of Figaro unfolds in the course of a single day — the alternative title of the source material, Pierre Beaumarchais’ play, is La Folle Journée (A Crazy Day) — and what Östman’s collaboration with these artists manages to accomplish so beautifully is to channel that spirit: the beautiful confusions, the wonderfully sustained mayhem of this craziest of all days in the opera canon.
Finally, for any keen musicologists in our midst, the recording is also notable for its inclusion of alternative arias that are not canonically performed in other recordings or live renditions of Figaro — these are fascinating artefacts worth your attention.
Music credit: Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. Arnold Östman, conductor, with the Drottingholm Court Theatre Orchestra and Chorus, 1988. L'Oiseau-Lyre / Decca
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