Believe it or not, Herbert von Karajan, one of the most self-absorbed conductors of all time, was once a singer's conductor. While in many ways Karajan's self-absorption was a good thing for his conducting -- his obsessive quest for absolute purity of tone coupled with flawless ensemble did result in a career full of opulent recordings -- in his latter opera recordings, Karajan became so self-absorbed that the cast and sometimes even the drama itself seemed to be secondary to the sumptuous sound. But after the war, Karajan was shaken out of his self-absorption and he could and did work well with singers, particularly when he was dealing with first-class artists as he is in this 1950 recording of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro. With the virile and wily Erich Kunz as Figaro, the spicy yet sweet Irmgard Seefried as Susanna, the sardonic but charming George London as the Count, the entirely splendid Elisabeth Schwarzkopf as the Countessa, and the absolutely adorable Sena Jurinac as Cherubino, Karajan had as good a cast as was available in the mid-'50s. With the Vienna Philharmonic, he had the best Mozart orchestra in the world and, like Karajan, it was on its best behavior after the war and most eager to impress. Walter Legge's gorgeous monaural sound is at once honest and evocative, detailed and reverberant, and, considering its date, only a bit antique.