Colin Davis / Ingvar Wixell

Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro

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This is a time-tested recording of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, reissued as part of Philips' reasonably priced Trio series. Over 30 years old at the time of this release, and perhaps not among the best available when it was new, Colin Davis' 1971 performance is still a respectable entry in the catalog of Figaro recordings. Davis deserves a lot of the credit, since the reasonably brisk tempos, well-textured ensembles, and clean orchestral playing align this performance with the lighter, more stylistically informed trends of the 1980s and 1990s, rather than the sometimes ponderous and indulgent 1960s. Not that this would ever be mistaken for a "period" performance, mind you -- among other things, there is far more use of rubato and vocal portamento than you'd be likely to hear now. But the music making does not sound dated. The cast members are well matched to their roles: Vladimiro Ganzarolli is a gruff-voiced and game Figaro who captures the spirit of his conflict with the Count perfectly, even if he is given to occasional crooning and intonation problems. The always-excellent Mirella Freni is a fantastic Susanna, spunky and vocally appealing. Ingvar Wixell embodies the blue-blooded impatience of the Count Almaviva as well as anyone ever has, and a young Jessye Norman is elegance personified as his mistreated wife, the Countess, though she was not yet at the peak of her abilities. Yvonne Minton, a charming Cherubino, and Maria Casula and Clifford Grant, as an unusually entertaining Marcellina and Bartolo, are equally satisfying. The sound and packaging are both good, although the decision to eliminate the libretto from the booklet (which undoubtedly accounts for some of the savings) is unfortunate; those who don't know the story well already will want a recording with a full text. In the end, choosing a favorite Figaro is a matter of personal taste, and there are as many good options as ever. Value alone should keep this one on your list.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), opera, K. 492
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blue highlight denotes track pick