Various conductors and performers have put together pastiches of Baroque and Classical-period opera, drawing on multiple sources and weaving them into a single work. Notwithstanding that presenters of the time might have done the same thing if necessary, such presentations are often unsatisfying and serve only to prove how formulaic 18th century opera libretti could be. However, Libertà! is a more ambitious undertaking, and it's well worth your time. Conductor Raphael Pichon, his ensemble Pygmalion, and a sextet of singers focus on Mozart arias from the middle 1780s, just before the appearance of Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, and his other late operatic masterpieces. Some of the pieces come from Mozart's two unfinished operas of the time, and others are freestanding arias; they are woven together into three related "tableaux," with the aid of arias by Giovanni Paisiello, Vicente Martín y Soler, and Antonio Salieri. The results lack the dramatic integrity that Mozart insisted on, but there are certainly actual operas that hang together less well. The music is not often performed, and Pichon, in his program and in the booklet, brings it alive by putting it in a new context: he regards this period as a kind of laboratory for the ideas that would soon burst into full flower. Sample the aria "Ogni momento dicon le donne," from the unfinished opera L'oca del Cairo, K. 422 (Mozart abandoned the work due to its ludicrous plot in which a goose stands in for the Trojan horse); it looks forward not only to later Mozart but to Rossini. Mozart's experiments, Pichon suggests, were not only musical but extended into the realm of Enlightenment ideals, and he offers a convincing portrayal of creative struggle. The six singers, carefully matched to their material, are very strong. Highly recommended, and of interest far beyond the circle of Mozart enthusiasts and specialists.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2