About this Recording
8.110280-81 - MOZART: Cosi fan tutte (Glyndebourne) (1935)
English 

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Così fan tutte

 

The Glyndebourne Festival Opera House opened its doors to the public on 28th May 1934 with a performance of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro conducted by Fritz Busch. Two months earlier, however, members of HMV’s International Artists’ Department had visited the new house near Lewes in Sussex to evaluate the acoustics of the auditorium. They were sufficiently impressed by both the sound and musical performance to undertake test recordings of an actual performance in late May 1934.

 

HMV’s Record Testing Committee immediately listened to these processed recordings, moving quickly to undertake commercial studio recordings of the various ensembles from the Mozart opera on 6th June 1934. Fourteen 78 rpm sides were made on that single date, one unidentified side being damaged at the factory during processing. This event marked the first occasion on which any attempt had been made to record a Mozart opera.

 

As HMV’s Fred Gaisberg later recalled: “When I read of John Christie’s project to found a Mozart Festival at Glyndebourne, I thought it a pipe dream, but when I learned that Fritz Busch and Carl Ebert were to have full artistic control I realised it was a serious effort.  Their standing and names were a guarantee that it would not be tarred with the brush of an amateur. I saw enough of the careful groundwork and personal attention to detail to convince me that this success would be beyond dispute. With enthusiasm I signed with Christie an engagement for the exclusive right of making discs. We did our recording with a mobile van at the end of the season, when the company were well soaked in their parts and their teamwork perfect”.

 

The following summer the balance of Figaro was recorded, excepting the recitatives and three arias in Act 4, on 24th and 28th June in the Opera House at Glyndebourne. Additionally, in between these dates, it was also planned to record the whole of Così fan tutte in three days. This was slightly over-ambitious, however, and the recording had to be finished on the 28th. Nevertheless, it was a remarkable achievement to record forty sides comprising the whole opera in so short a time. As Gaisberg so rightly predicted, this would not have been possible without earlier meticulous and thorough musical preparation.  Following the accepted norm of the time, the duettino in Act 1 between Ferrando and Guglielmo ‘Al fato dan legge’, and three arias in Act 2, ‘Tradito, schernito dal perfido cor’, ‘Ah, lo veggio’ (both for Ferrando) and ‘E amore un ladroncell’ (Dorabella) were all omitted, with two small cuts, one being in the Finale to the opera. Fritz Busch was adamantly opposed to the use of harpsichord in the secco recitatives and it is this more than anything else which dates the style of performance. Although HMV had planned to publish the new recording for Christmas 1935, it was eventually published in spring the following year, just prior to the Glyndebourne season.

 

The critical response to the recording was positive from the start. “One of the most enchanting sets ever made. The cast contains no weak spots and the many ensemble movements are ideally balanced, both in performance and recording. It is a triumph for all concerned.” Two decades later, critics would comment: “It is the best balanced in casting of all the pre-war Glyndebourne operas, because the cast is a compact unit. Furthermore, since the opera is essentially a series of ensembles, this is the prime excellence of the recording”. Time and again, it is the splendid sense of team-work which is commented upon in this recording, captured splendidly by the excellent recorded sound. What is also remarkable is that the members of this ensemble comprised a Canadian, two Austrians, an Englishman, a German and an Australian – very international.

 

Overseeing the musical performance was Fritz Busch (1890-1951). He was born in Siegen, Westphalia, Germany, studied first locally and later in Cologne with Fritz Steinbach. After appointments in Riga (1909), Aachen (1921), Stuttgart (1918-22) as General Music Director, he was appointed to Dresden State Opera, where for a decade he raised the musical standards to a high level. Busch, who was vehemently opposed to the ethos of Hitler and the Nazi Party, resigned in 1933. He then worked in Buenos Aires (1934-36 and 1941-45) and the Metropolitan Opera in New York (1945-49). It was his achievements at Glyndebourne from 1934 to 1939 and 1950-51, however, which have kept his name alive. His testament as an outstanding Mozartian is exemplified in his recordings of the three Da Ponte operas, allied to memorable performances of both Verdi and Wagner. He was also much admired as a symphonic conductor. He was the brother of the violinist Adolf Busch.

 

The rôle of Fiordiligi is sung by the Canadian soprano Ina Souez (1908-1992). Born in Windsor, Ontario, she studied first in Denver, Colorado,  and then in Milan. She made her début in Ivrea as Mimì in Puccini’s La Bohème. The following year she sang a memorable Liù in Turandot at Covent Garden, where she would also appear as Micaëla in Carmen in 1935. In 1929 she married an Englishman and lived in London until 1938. She appeared between 1934 and 1936 at Glyndebourne, where she sang Fiordiligi and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni. Souez sang at the Stockholm Opera in 1939 and at the New York City Opera in 1941. During the Second World War she was a member of the US Army’s Women Auxiliary Corps. After 1945 she sang for a number of years as a vocalist with Spike Jones and the City Slickers, before retiring and teaching in California. Her recorded performance of Fiordiligi is widely regarded as the yardstick by which all subsequent interpretations have been measured.

 

The Dorabella was the Austrian-born soprano Luise Helletsgruber (1898-1967). Trained in her native city of Vienna, she joined the State Opera, remaining a member until 1942. Between 1928 and 1937 she appeared regularly at the Salzburg Festival, where she sang Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni. Her Glyndebourne years were between 1934 and 1938, where she sang Cherubino in addition to Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, the First Lady in Die Zauberflöte and Dorabella. She possessed a vibrant vocal quality allied with an attractive stage presence.  She died as a result of a car accident in Vienna.

 

The vivacious Irene Eisinger (1903-1994) is the vibrant Despina in this recording. Born in Kosel, Silesia, Austria, she studied in Vienna before making her début in Basel in 1926. She joined the Vienna State Opera in 1930 and also appeared at the Salzburg Festival between 1930 and 1933. Forced to leave Germany, she sang at the German Opera in Prague during the 1933-34 season. She appeared at Glyndebourne between 1934 and 1939 and again in Edinburgh with the company in 1949. Her rôles included Despina, Papagena in Die Zauberflöte, Blondchen in Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro. Additionally, she sang the rôle of Polly in the 1940 London production of The Beggar’s Opera.  Eisinger was a fine coloratura soprano and an excellent soubrette, as was witnessed by her Gretel, and Adele in Die Fledermaus (both sung in English) during the 1936 Winter Season at Covent Garden. From 1938 onwards she lived in London.

 

Heddle Nash (1894-1961) was certainly the finest English lyric tenor of his generation as can be witnessed though his recordings. As a Mozartian he was certainly more elegant and stylistically accomplished than his Italian contemporaries and on a par with any German or Austrian tenor of his time. He was also a vocalist of considerable vocal charm and fluency. Nash first studied in London and later Milan where he made his début before appearing in Genoa, Bologna and Turin. His London appearance was as the Duke in Rigoletto for Lilian Baylis’s Old Vic/Sadler’s Wells company. His Covent Garden years covered the years 1928-39 and 1947-48 where his Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni was considered the finest since John McCormack. He sang at Glyndebourne between 1934 and 1938, his rôles there including Ferrando, Don Basilio in Le nozze di Figaro, and Pedrillo in Die Entführung. Nash sang with the touring Carl Rosa company during the Second World War and his final stage appearances were with the New Opera Company in 1957-58. He was also a much admired oratorio singer.

 

Guglielmo was performed by the German baritone Willi Domgraf-Fassbänder (1897-1978). Born in Aachen he studied in Berlin and later in Milan with Giuseppe Borgatti (as had Heddle Nash). Returning to his home city he made his début in 1922 as the Count in Le nozze di Figaro. In 1928 he became a member of the Berlin State Opera where he would remain until 1946. He also sang Papageno in Die Zauberflöte under Toscanini at the 1937 Salzburg Festival. Domgraf-Fassbänder’s Glyndebourne years were 1934-35 and 1937, and his rôles there included Papageno, Figaro and Guglielmo, his admirable stage presence greatly admired. His post-war career was spent in Hanover, Vienna, Munich and Nuremberg. After 1954 he taught at the Nuremberg Conservatory where his pupils included his daughter, the much admired Brigitte Fassbaender.

 

As the wily, cynical schemer Don Alfonso we have the Australian-born John Brownlee (1900-1969). Born in Geelong, he was initially encouraged by Nellie Melba while studying in Melbourne, before moving to Paris to work with Dinh Gilly. Following his Paris début in Lakmé in 1926, Melba selected him for her Covent  Garden farewell on 8th June that same year when he appeared as Marcello in Acts 3 and 4 of La Bohème. His success on this occasion resulted in his continuing at the house for a number of years, his rôles there including Golaud in Pelléas et Mélisande, Scarpia in Tosca and Renato in Un ballo in maschera. Concurrently Brownlee sang at the Paris Opéra from 1927 until 1936. His début at the Metropolitan Opera in New York was in the title-rôle of Rigoletto in February 1937 and it was in this house that he would remain, giving in total 348 performances of 33 rôles. His Glyndebourne years were from 1935 until 1939, and his rôles there  included Almaviva in Figaro, the title-rôle in Don Giovanni (which he recorded) and Don Alfonso. After retiring from the stage he became Director of the Manhattan School of Music in 1956, and the President a decade later. He was a fine actor and excellent linguist.

 

Malcolm Walker

 

 

Synopsis

 

CD 1

 

Act 1

 

After the Overture [1] the first act opens in a coffee-house in Naples, [2] where Ferrando and Guglielmo are in dispute with Don Alfonso. Ferrando claims that his Dorabella would never be untrue, a protest in which Guglielmo joins in defence of the honour of his Fiordiligi, while Don Alfonso maintains the contrary, which his experience of life has taught him. [3] They nearly come to blows but Don Alfonso calms the two young men, and goes on to proclaim his own view, the fidelity of women is as rare as the phoenix. The argument continues, until Don Alfonso suggests a wager to test the constancy of the two sisters. [4] In the following Terzetto Ferrando promises to pay for a fine serenade, from his winnings, while Guglielmo will give a banquet.

 

[5] The second scene is set in the garden of the two sisters, leading down with a view of the Bay of Naples in the distance. The gir1s sing to the gentle murmur of the music, gazing at the miniatures they hold in their hands. In livelier music they swear to be true, and then seem ironically ready for some frivolity. [6] Don Alfonso comes in, apparently with bad news, that the young men have been called to war. [7] A quintet follows, as Ferrando and Guglielmo come in, in evident despair, while the girls declare that death is preferable to parting. The young men, in a brief aside to Don Alfonso, think they are winning the bet, but he remains confident. The quintet ends with a declaration of the bitterness of parting, and after a brief declaration of love, [there follows a short duet for the two lovers, claiming that love will he1p them]. A drum is heard and the approaching march of soldiers, [8] praising the glory of battle. A boat sai1s to the landing-stage and to the tears of the sisters, the two young men embark. [9] Write to me every day !, sings Fiordiligi, and twice a day to me, echoes Dorabella. [10] The sisters wave goodbye and with Don Alfonso speed them on their way in a brief ensemble. Left alone, Don Alfonso can vent his cynicism.

 

[11] The scene changes to a room in the house. Despina is preparing chocolate and complaining about the drudgery of her life, lightened by an illicit sip of the drink she is making. [12] Fiordiligli and Dorabella enter in evident despair, expressed in dramatic accompanied recitative. Dorabella, in an aria, longs histrionically for death. [13] Despina, when the matter is explained to her, offers her own common sense answer, that there are other men, echoing Don Alfonso’s view of women. [14] They go out, and Don Alfonso comes in, declaring his intention of bribing Despina to further the plot he has devised. Her agreement assured, he ushers in Ferrando and Guglielmo, disguised as Albanians. Despina does not recognise them but finds their foreign appearance grotesque, as Don Alfonso presents them, to the fair little Despina. He stands aside, as Fiordiligi and Dorabella enter and tell Despina to dismiss the unwanted visitors, who now protest their love. Don Alfonso and Despina are sure that the girls will give in, while the young men are equally certain of their constancy, and now Don Alfonso comes forward, as if newly arrived, and greets the two disguised lovers as old friends. [15] As they urge their love, Fiordiligi dramatically proclaims her steadfastness, as firm as a rock in her loyalty. The girls try to leave but the lovers, supported by Don Alfonso, beg them to stay, [16] and Guglielmo, whose attentions are directed to Dorabella, protests his love in an aria, going on to advertise his own good points. [17] The girls withdraw and Don Alfonso asks the young men what they are laughing at, as the comedy is not yet over. [18] Ferrando, now confident, sings of his love for Dorabella. [Now Despina takes a hand in the plot, and assures Don Alfonso that she can bring about the desired result].

 

[19] The scene changes to the garden, where Fiordiligi and Dorabella still lament the departure of their lovers. ) Ferrando and Guglielmo come in, apparently resolved to poison themselves for love; they drink and fall down prostrate on the grass. Despina is summoned to he1p, recommends a doctor, [20] and re-appears shortly afterwards so disguised, offering the latest remedy with a large magnet to draw out the poison, a reference to the Mozarts’ friend Anton Mesmer and his theories of animal magnetism.

 

CD 2

 

[1] The two men are revived [2] and beg a kiss, but are again rejected. Nevertheless the plotters see success in sight.

 

Act II

 

[3] The second act opens in a room in the house, where Despina reasons with her two mistresses [4] and expresses her philosophy, explaining that any girl of fifteen ought to know how to handle men. Little by little the two girls decide that there is no harm in an innocent flirtation [5] and in a duet declare their preference, Dorabella claiming the dark one and Fiordiligi the fair-haired one. Don Alfonso calls them into the garden. [6] By the landing-stage there is a boat decked with flowers and the two lovers have arranged a serenade, played by a wind band, while Ferrando and Guglielmo ask the friendly breezes to convey their message of love. [7] Don Alfonso urges the reluctant young men on, taking Dorabella’s hand as Despina takes Fiordiligi’s, leading them forward. The lovers are now left alone. [8] Fiordiligi and Ferrando walk off together, and Guglielmo protests further his love for Dorabella. He replaces Ferrando’s miniature that she wears with a locket of his own.

 

[9] As Guglielmo and Dorabella walk away, arm in arm, the other couple returns, Ferrando still pleading with Fiordiligi, and threatening suicide. [10] As he leaves, she expresses her changing feelings, [11] begging pardon of the absent Guglielmo. [12] She walks away, and Ferrando and Guglielmo re-appear. The former delights Guglielmo with news of Fiordiligi’s apparent constancy, but is dismayed at what he learns of his Dorabella, who has evidently given away his portrait, which Guglielmo now shows him. [13] Guglielmo now expresses his doubts, [while Ferrando, returning, sings of his disillusionment, betrayed, scorned]. Don Alfonso applauds his misery and tells the relatively complacent Guglielmo to wait a little longer.

 

[14] The next scene is set in a room with a number of doors, a looking-glass and a little table. Despina tells Dorabella that she has acted sensibly, when Fiordiligi bursts in and announces that she loves her new wooer, but will still resist the temptation. [Dorabella tells of the power of love], but Fiordiligi still will not give way, and tells Despina to bring down the young men’s uniforms and swords from upstairs, where they are stored, and to order horses so that she and her sister may join their old lovers at war. Guglielmo, overhearing all this, is full of admiration. [15] She tells of her hope to join Guglielmo, but is interrupted by Ferrando, who threatens to die of love, if she deserts him. She gives in, and the two go out together, while Don Alfonso restrains Guglielmo with difficulty. [16] When Ferrando retums, Don Alfonso suggests that the best thing to do is to marry the girls that very evening. Women are fickle but they cannot he1p it; in fact Così fan tutte, they are all alike, a verdict heartily endorsed by the two young heroes. Despina re-appears to say that the girls have agreed to the marriage.

 

[17] The scene is now a richly decorated room. There is an orchestra in attendance. There is a table set for four, with silver candlesticks, and four servants, richly dressed. Despina is giving orders for the candies to be lit, while Don Alfonso expresses his delight. [18] The chorus welcomes the couples, accompanied by the orchestra, as they come in and take their places at the table and start to eat. [19] Don Alfonso ushers in the lawyer, Despina in disguise, with the marriage contracts which she intones through her nose. At this moment the soldiers’ chorus of the first act is heard off-stage and Don Alfonso announces the imminent return of the lovers from the war. The “Albanians” are hustled out, with Despina, [20] and the two men quickly return as themselves, while Despina comes in again, without her lawyer’s hat, explaining that her costume was intended for a masked ball. Don Alfonso allows the marriage contracts that the girls, but not the men, had signed, to fall to the floor. Ferrando and Guglielmo pretend to find the papers and reproach their faithless partners. Don Alfonso then reveals the plot, as Ferrando and Guglielmo retire for a moment and return wearing something of their old disguise. [21] The girls realise at last what has happened and seek forgiveness, which is readily granted, and all ends happily.

 

Keith Anderson

 

 

Producer’s Note

 

This first recording of Mozart’s Così fan tutte was originally released by HMV on English pressings which were widely distributed during the late 1930s. These pressings usually contain a high crackle content making them unsuitable for remastering purposes. Occasionally, however, one can locate HMV pressings that yield quieter than average surfaces with almost no crackle. The present transfer was made from two sets of such pressings. Two perfect condition sets of RCA Victor pressings were auditioned but were not used since they proved to be inferior in all respects.

 

Ward Marston

 

In 1997 Ward Marston was nominated for the Best Historical Album Grammy Award for his production work on BMG’s Fritz Kreisler collection. According to the Chicago Tribune, Marston’s name is ‘synonymous with tender loving care to collectors of historical CDs’. Opera News calls his work ‘revelatory’, and Fanfare deems him ‘miraculous’. In 1996 Ward Marston received the Gramophone award for Historical Vocal Recording of the Year, honouring his production and engineering work on Romophone’s complete recordings of Lucrezia Bori. He also served as re-recording engineer for the Franklin Mint’s Arturo Toscanini issue and BMG’s Sergey Rachmaninov recordings, both winners of the Best Historical Album Grammy.

 

Born blind in 1952, Ward Marston has amassed tens of thousands of opera classical records over the past four decades. Following a stint in radio while a student at Williams College, he became well-known as a reissue producer in 1979, when he restored the earliest known stereo recording made by the Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1932.

 

In the past, Ward Marston has produced records for a number of major and specialist record companies. Now he is bringing his distinctive sonic vision to bear on works released on the Naxos Historical label. Ultimately his goal is to make the music he remasters sound as natural as possible and true to life by ‘lifting the voices’ off his old 78 rpm recordings. His aim is to promote the importance of preserving old recordings and make available the works of great musicians who need to be heard.


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