On his 86th birthday last month, the great Austrian conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt announced his retirement. To honor the maestro, “Trove Thursday” presents a Harnoncourt specialty, Mozart’s early Lucio Silla starring Edita Gruberova, Ann Murray, Jill Gomez, Rachel Yakar and Philip Langridge.  

Harnoncourt made a fine recording in 1989 of Silla with the very young Cecilia Bartoli, but this live performance may be even better—its passionate cast excelling under his dynamic conducting. To me, Gruberova always sounds all wrong in the Italian bel canto roles she covets, but the fiendishly florid role of Giunia is instead surely one of her best portrayals. Rather than the CD’s effortful, Teutonic Peter Schreier, this version profits from a commanding Langridge in the title role. Murray, his wife, always struck me more as a “lazy” soprano than as a mezzo, so Cecilio’s high-lying music suits her.

Mozart: Lucio Silla
Theater an der Wien, Vienna
18 May 1981

Giunia: Edita Gruberova
Celia: Rachel Yakar
Cecilio: Ann Murray
Lucio: Cinna Jill Gomez
Lucio Silla: Philip Langridge
Aufidio: Peter Straka

Conductor: Nikolaus Harnoncourt

Soon “Trove Thursday” will present another version of this opera, one by J.C. Bach “The London Bach,” written in 1776, four years after Mozart’s.

Lucio Silla, Haydn’s oratorio Die Jahreszeiten conducted by James Levine and all previous “Trove Thursday” offerings are available for download from iTunes or via any RSS reader.