This 1955 EMI recording of Le nozze di Figaro from the Glyndebourne Festival is deservedly a legendary account of the opera. Vittorio Gui's reading of the score is essentially conventional, in the best sense -- he avoids imposing interpretive eccentricities, and he allows the music and the drama to unfold naturally, while remaining constantly alert to the nuances of the score's details. He's working with a superb group of expert Mozart comedians, and he gives them the freedom and flexibility to shine both as individuals and in their ensembles. He's especially sensitive to the recitatives as vehicles to sharpen the individuality of the characters and advance the opera's humor. The sense of camaraderie among the singers, most of whom had performed the opera at the festival, is evident in the naturalness and spontaneity of the repartee. Sesto Bruscantini brings a laid-back confidence to Figaro that pleasantly contrasts with the more manic interpretations that tend to characterize many performances; he is certainly not lacking in passion, but even "Se vuol ballare" has a relaxed assurance that he no doubt will be able to easily give the Count the comeuppance he deserves. Graziella Sciutti is an innocent but wise Susanna, and she radiantly sings. Risë Stevens sounds a little mature for Cherubino, missing the youthful vocal sheen that would be ideal for the role, but her characterization is vividly drawn. As the Countess, Sena Jurinac is piercingly sad in her moments of solitary reflection, and her vocal production is warm, rich, and subtly modulated. Franco Calabrese, the least well known of the principals, has a marvelously dark bass-baritone that gives the Count undeniable menace. The smaller roles are all splendidly taken; Monica Sinclair as Marcellina and Hugues Cuénod as Don Basilio are particularly effective and expressive. The Glyndebourne Orchestra and Chorus perform with graceful ease. The sound of the early stereo recording is surprisingly clean and vibrant. This admirable version deserves the attention of any fans of the opera.
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