The Wolfie challenge
A week or two ago I was asking myself if I should make a point of going through the entire operatic work of my favourite composers. Well, the one good think about Mozart not writing that much is that I could already go through most of it. Generally I liked what I heard, even beyond the works firmly established in the repertory. The early works are hit and miss but there’s usually an aria or two worth remembering and only a couple of total stinkers. Everything from Entfuhrung on is gold to pure gold.
- 1767: Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots/ The Obligation of the first and foremost Commandment: I found it tedious but with a title like that…
- 1767: Apollo et Hyacinthus: one good Handelian extended heroic aria for the dad – Ut navis in aequore luxuriante (Oebalus); I didn’t like the production I saw with all the kids as they sound and look like kids (d’oh) but I found no other at the time.
- 1768: Bastien und Bastienne: great fun.
- 1768: La finta semplice/ The Feigned Simpleton: I don’t know which one of the pretending girls is which…
- 1770: Mitridate, re di Ponto: one of my favourites from Wolfie’s catalog. One’s interest in Wolfie’s early work is commensurate with one’s love of vocal fireworks (unless it’s a Singspiel, which is more down with the kids).
- 1771: Ascanio in Alba: can’t remember it; I don’t think I heard it in full. this is the kind of thing that sounds a lot like other things Mozart wrote so if you like his stuff you will also like this [Summer 2016]
- 1772: Il sogno di Scipione/ Scipio’s Dream: 2 excellent baroque-y arias (one tenor, one soprano, as follows: Quercia annosa su l’erte pendici (Publio) and Biancheggia in mar lo scoglio (Costanza); gnerally pleasant work.
- 1772: Lucio Silla: killer coloratura arias/duets = bad-arse and probably quite difficult to cast, which might be the reason you don’t see it all that often. Or because the story is a bit shit (horny tyrant gets clement in three acts). Pity! The overture is exciting as well.
- 1773/1779: Thamos, König in Ägypten/ Thamos, King of Egypt: just all right, a bit too serious in mood.
- 1774: La finta giardiniera/ The Pretend Garden-Maid: see the other pretending girl (1768) it’s a lot of fun for what it is (silly buffa); it contains that lively little Se l’augellin sen fugge [Spring 2016]
- 1775: Il re pastore/ The Shepherd King: lovely lyrical work but not all that.
- 1779: Zaide: lyrical and a bit boring (the narrator talks a lot) but some good tenor arias. The ones for soprano and bass are all right. Lovely instrumental ending.
- 1781: Idomeneo, re di Creta: at long last, I am able to appreciate it. Thanks again, Rene Jacobs.
- 1782: Die Entführung aus dem Serail/ The Abduction from the Seraglio: what’s not to like?!
- 1784: L’oca del Cairo/ The Goose of Cairo: poor Mozart, he wasn’t doing so well at the time. Funny thing is, he really thought the story was thin but his dad believed it had potential and kept pestering him to work on it. This is the same dad who thought the plot of Le nozze was’t all that. The music ain’t bad.
- 1784: Lo sposo deluso/ The Deluded Bridegroom: I’m a big fan of the 21min saved for posterity. Hearty operatic laughter in Ha ha ha, che ridere! and a proto-Come scoglio in Naqui all’aria trionfale, which expresses unintentionally funny (for the character, Wolfie is clearly mocking her) outrage like few other arias manage to. There is so much comedic potential, it’s a great, great pity he never finished it.
- 1786: Der Schauspieldirektor/ The Impresario: excellent overture and the rest ain’t bad either; beware there’s a lot of spoken dialogue, as it’s a Singspiel.
- 1786: Le nozze di Figaro: … This and the other DaPontes are so obvious I’ll just post which recording I like best – which in itself is a pretty hard task – Glyndebourne (1973) ok, I’ve seen a few more since then but I haven’t found an alternate definitive version yet. I want a modern reading but there’s always something not quite.
- 1787: Don Giovanni: … Salzburg (1954)
- 1790: Così fan tutte: … Ponnelle (1990)
- 1790: Der Stein der Weisen/ The Philosopher’s Stone: this is a pasticcio Mozart composed with others; unfortunately none of what he wrote was saved. The rest isn’t bad at all if you enjoy the vocal music of its time.
- 1791: La clemenza di Tito: I think I like it 😉 but I may need to give it a few more spins, just to make sure…
- 1791: Die Zauberflöte:
it’s a’ight. Update: it’s more than a’ight.