Robert J Farr
, December 2001
"This new recording from Naxos gives a glimmer of the silver lining consumers can enjoy in the current crisis in the classical recording industry. As the 'majors' cut their artist rosters, abort projected recordings and cancel contracts, it gives smaller companies a chance to cast some previously exclusive singers of international renown in their opera recordings. Here we have the Danish baritone Bo Skovhus in the name part. Ten years or so ago he and others here would be appearing in complete opera recordings for the likes of Decca, EMI and RCA, etc. at three times the price of this Naxos issue: a silver lining in the consumersÝ pocket, especially when the results are as good as this...
The conductor of this set is Michael Halasz. He has been resident at the Vienna State Opera since 1991 and already has widely, and justifiably, acclaimed recordings of Fidelio and Die Zauberflote for Naxos under his belt. He conducts a well paced performance with plenty of rhythmic vitality whilst also allowing his singers space for characterisation and phrasing. Particularly impressive is his handling of the two concerted act finales; a septet to Act 1 and sextet to Act 2.
The singers, many with Vienna State Opera connections are well matched for quality and the men clearly vocally differentiated for character. The mellifluous tones of Skovhus, with his slightly Germanic Italian, is easily differentiated from the native Italian Leporello of Renato Girolami who, whilst not having the beauty of tone of his master, is the master with the words as is heard in his 'catalogue' aria (CD1 tk.10). Particularly welcome is the fact that Skovhus doesn't over-point the accents as other famous lieder singers have done in opera recordings; he lets his voice follow the natural flow of Mozart's music.
Boaz Daniel has already sung the Don at the Vienna Volksoper and as Masetto, his steady even tone is welcome. The young German tenor Torsten Kerl, with a keen edge to his voice is no wimpish Ottavio. Only in the passagio, the transition from chest to head voice, does he evince any difficulty with the tessitura.
All the women sing well, although greater differentiation of voice colour would have been welcome. The Anna of Adrianne Pieczonka, (a Glynebourne Elvira in 1995) has no trouble with her high lying part. Regina Schorg is a lightish Elvira with good diction and her Mi Tradi (CD3 tk.20) lies easily on my ear. The singer who brings a tear to my eye, by clear tone and elegant phrasing is the Zerlina of Ildiko Raimondi. Her Batti, batti (CD2 tk.4) is lovely -Strike her? Never!
The November 2000 recording is well set in a natural airy ambience with a nigh perfect balance between the small orchestra and the voices. This balance is particularly important in the ensembles and the engineers are to be congratulated. My only wish is that they had made the arrival of the Commendatore at Giovanni's party more immediate and hence threatening.
This performance and recording stands ahead of many in the catalogue, even if not supplanting Giulini's 1959 recording for EMI, which may never be bettered, but that cost is at full price. The accompanying booklet has good, brief notes, a track related synopsis and a libretto but no translation."