For Mozart’s 262nd birthday on Saturday “Trove Thursday” celebrates with a crazy-quilt of his finest concert arias in live performances from over 60 years sung by (in alphabetical order) Anna Caterina Antonacci, Montserrat Caballé, Gianna d’Angelo, Sabine Devieilhe, Elina Garanca, Reri Grist, Barbara Hendricks, Edda Moser, Jessye Norman, Alex Penda, Sandrine Piau, Graziella Sciutti, Beverly Sills, Joan Sutherland, Lydia Teuscher and Julia Varady.
I crushed very early on Mozart operas so I then discovered in eighth grade or so the concert arias first via Moser’s astonishing recordings of K. 316 & 368. In high school armed with my trusty Craig 3” portable reel-to-reel I recorded Norman’s K.505 & 528 and listened to them over and over, particularly K.505. Mozart was especially inspired by the soprano voice and the piano so what could be better than this masterpiece which intertwines them so eloquently?
My Norman recordings had long since vanished when I found copies about ten years ago. But when I started to gather this miscellany I couldn’t find them! But both turned up by accident one day burned on a CD as filler for a Zelenka cantata!
This survey reveals as many approaches as fifteen very different sopranos (and one mezzo) can provide. Some may work better than others but I hope this hodgepodge might be stimulating especially for those who don’t yet know these jewels well. One particular rarity is the jaw-dropping Sutherland K. 419 about which I have almost no information though it comes from pre-Lucia day, possibly from a BBC broadcast.
Commercial recordings of these pieces turn up with some regularity but in my experience one doesn’t get to hear them all that often live although Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart does its bit. I heard Cecilia Bartoli in one of her first NYC appearances in 1990 when she sang K. 505 but the only other time I’ve heard that piece in performance was when Magdalena Kozena sang it with Yefim Bronfman at the piano also at MM.
I managed to catch Thomas Quasthoff doing the bass concert arias at Mostly Mozart where a couple years ago Erin Morley dazzled in “Vorrei spiegarvi” and “No, che non sei capace.” About fifteen years ago also at MM the Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and her company Rosas presented Un moto di gioia, an appealing evening-length dance piece set entirely to a selection of concert arias usually written for insertion into operas by other composers.
“Un moto di gioia” is however a piece that Mozart wrote for a soprano singing Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro to replace “Venite, inginocchiatevi.” It might be remembered that Bartoli’s decision to sing both of Mozart’s replacement Susanna arias (including the marvelous “Al desio”) at the Met in 1998 caused Jonathan Miller to have a conniption ft.
Sixteen of these delicacies in a row might be too rich for some so I’ve divided the arias into 3 groups of five or six arranged in order by Köchel number.
K. 217: “Voi avete un cor fedele”
18 August 1963
K. 272: “Ah, lo previdi!”
Anna Caterina Antonacci
Orchestra da Camera del Gran Teatre del Liceu
28 November 2005
K. 316: Popoli di Tessaglia!”
Cité de la Musique, Paris
2 December 2014
K. 369: “Misera, dove son!”
Orchestre des Champs-Elysees
4 October 1995
K. 383: “Nehmt meinen Dank”
New York Philharmonic
17 April 1966
K. 416: “Mia speranza adorata!”
The Esterhazy Orchestra
30 January 1963
K. 418: “Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio!”
15 August 1965
K. 419 : “No, che non sei capace”
K. 486a: “Basta, vincesti”
9 August 1981
K.505: “Ch’io mi scordi di te?”
Robert Levin (piano)
Boston Symphony Orchestra
K. 528: “Bella mia fiamma”
28 August 1977
K. 538: “Ah se in ciel, benigne stelle”
6 July 1968
K. 57y: “Al desio, di chi t’adora”
San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Davies Symphony Hall
29 January 2015
K. 578: “Alma grande”
27 January 2006
K. 580: “Schon lacht der holde Frühling”
K. 583: “Vado, ma dove?”
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin
12 July 2015
Each of the three concert aria programs can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on its audio player and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.