Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Email Password  
Not a subscriber yet?  
Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

Robert J Farr
MusicWeb International, March 2012

In 1966, as now, the Salzburg Festival drew the cream of singers, and this cast includes some of the all time great Mozart interpreters. In no order, Reri Grist’s Susanna, petite and pert in manner, true in vocal characterisation and excellent in diction, is a particular delight. Her act four recit and aria is a wonderful postlude to an outstanding contribution (DVD 2 CH. 27). As her eponymous paramour, Walter Berry is quite some revolutionary. It would take a very strong count Almaviva to master him. His singing is full-toned with his rounded bass baritone flexible and expressive in Figaro’s arias (e.g. DVD 1 CH.6 and 17). His acting is convincing.

Of the Almavivas and their entourage, Claire Watson’s warm-toned and womanly Countess comes over well. She finds no difficulty with the tessitura of her two big arias whilst bringing expression and feeling to the emotions they convey (DVD 1 CH.18 and DVD 2 CH.10). Ingvar Wixell sings strongly as the Count, albeit overshadowed a little by his servant in terms of vocal strength. That lovely Mozartian Edith Mathis, as the young buck Cherubino, looks a little too feminine of face. She sings her two arias with great beauty and acts the role convincingly, particularly after entering Susanna’s room via a window (DVD 1 CH 11-17) and then having to hide herself as the Count arrives. She graces both arias with tonal beauty and phrasing too rarely heard these days.

Karl Böhm’s phrasing and gently sprung rhythms allow the composer’s music to flow whilst giving the singers adequate time to phrase with delicacy and character. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

John P McKelvey
American Record Guide, February 2010

Before getting into the finer details there is some caution to be observed in other matters. This 1966 production is filmed in black-and-white, and the sound, though clear, detailed, well-balanced and undistorted, is monaural. Also, this same video was released by TDK six years ago. This new one is better packaged, more thoroughly annotated and user-friendly. Subtitles can be had in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, or Chinese.

But there is good news also. Mozart’s ideas about stage settings, time and place of action, and other such details are observed. It is not set on the dark side of the moon, inhabited by insects and reptiles, or other such silly nonsense.

Walter Berry is a splendid Figaro. His appearance is totally in character, he moves easily about the stage, and his voice is rich, smooth, dark, and velvety. I suppose it could be considered too dark for such a presumably youthful role, but his physical agility and his control of tessitura is such that it’s quite effective. Reri Grist is actually the star of the show. Her smooth, piping, near-vibratoless delivery and her attractive slim figure all contribute to a performance visually and musically close to the top of the heap. Claire Watson is visually and vocally effective as the Countess and Ingvar Wixell as her better half. Finally, Edith Mathis as Cherubino, the sex-driven teenager who is always getting in the way and having to hide in a closet only to be exposed at the most difficult moment, is brilliant, eclipsed only by Maria Ewing in another recording.

David Shengold
Opera News, November 2009

Arthaus Musik’s new black-and-white, mono DVD presents a starry 1966 Salzburg Festival Nozze di Figaro. The program starts, unfortunately, with a blast of vulgar, martial music, followed by silent footage of Mitteleuropa’s elite in fleets of Mercedes sedans arriving at the exclusive Kleines Festspielhaus; this distraction stems from the original Austrian television transmission. Still, one welcomes the preservation and expert restoration of a Nozze showcasing five major postwar era singers too rarely captured on film.

Günther Rennert’s production, with sets and costumes by Ludwig Heinrich, contains some scenic and blocking elements in common with his 1975 Met staging—though, fortunately, the Countess does not attempt to seduce Cherubino in this version. Ensemble is good, but here and there Rennert encouraged his gifted comedians too far in the direction of arch faces and movements.

Above all this is Karl Böhm’s Figaro, marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first time he led the piece at Salzburg. Böhm helped develop the Viennese postwar Mozart style of which Walter Berry, the exuberant Figaro of this broadcast, was a charter exponent. Böhm’s brand of Mozart was more driven and less philosophical and contemplative than that of Josef Krips or Wilhelm Furtwängler. His direction here is sure and swift, but only rarely delicate or text-centered. Don’t expect decorations or appoggiaturas. The very first word we hear (from the mouth of Berry’s likable, resonant “everyman” valet) is “Chin-kvay”: Berry, Zoltán Kelemen (an amusing if bluffly sung Bartolo) and Klaus Hirte (a rough Antonio) persist in “Viennesing” all Italian “q” sounds.

Of course, Mozartean casting has lightened appreciably in intervening decades. Just to give an idea, Berry made his acclaimed Met debut as Barak the same year he sang this Figaro, and Claire Watson, the disc’s very classy Countess, was enjoying triumphs in Munich and Vienna as Elsa. Her touching Rosina, credible as an aristocrat, opens Act II with commendable poise and with tone that is handsome if not ravishing by the era’s highest standards (della Casa, Schwarzkopf, Stich-Randall). The tricky “Porgi amor,” deftly turned, wins a warm ovation; “Dove sono” goes less smoothly, with some pitch problems.

Reri Grist is an enchanting Susanna. She is the complete mistress of the stage and of her role, despite a lack of colors in her bright-toned voice. She takes the high Cs in the marvelous trio of Act II. The musical, fresh-voiced Swiss soprano Edith Mathis, who recorded Susanna under Böhm two years later, is pretty enchanting herself, if more gamine than gamin as Cherubino. The video features Swedish baritone Ingvar Wixell (Count Almaviva) in one of his first international forays: he looks at Böhm more often than do the others. The cultivated finish of his voice is of uncommon beauty, particularly in recitatives. His dramatic performance gains in animation and confidence after Act I. “Vedrò mentr’io sospiro” shows no trill (after a slightly smudged run) but an easy F-sharp. Several of these fine artists break character for post-aria bows to the audience, a bit of a shock to see today.

David Thaw (Watson’s husband offstage) brings high musical intelligence to Basilio. The cast’s fourth American, Margarethe Bence of Kingston, NY, offers a seedily amusing Marcellina. The senior intriguers don’t get their oft-cut arias. The lack of color and stereo may rule out this issue for many, but its merits remain considerable.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group