The operas of Mozart hold such irrepressibly vivid and contrasting arias that it is surprising more singers have not devised concert programmes of them in the past 12 months. Linking one’s star to Mozart’s in his 250th anniversary year was never likely to do anybody any harm.
Of the singers who have spotted the opportunity, Magdalena Kozená has shone as brightly as any. Her compact disc of Mozart arias has won good reviews and this European concert tour – five cities down; Paris, Cologne, Luxembourg and Bruges to follow in December – is in effect promoting the album live on stage.
Nominally, Kozená is a mezzo, but her voice lies in that borderline territory where sopranos and mezzos mingle with ease. Almost all the Mozart soprano arias are available to her, with only the very highest roles – such as Konstanze and Blonde in Die Entführung or the Queen of Night firing off her stratospheric top notes in Die Zauberflöte – lying out of reach.
On stage, she sings Dorabella in Così fan tutte, but here offered the other two female roles instead. As the servant Despina, she was wittily acerbic. As Dorabella’s high-minded sister Fiordiligi, she struck a nice balance between girlish freshness and noble womanhood, embellishing the music with just the right amount of extra ornamentation. From La clemenza di Tito she again sang two roles, sketching equally vivid portraits of scheming, imperious Vitellia and bold Sesto, for whose arias she had brilliant help from an unidentified basset-horn player.
The conductor on Kozená’s Mozart CD is Simon Rattle, but for the live concerts she has left her partner at home in Berlin and gone on the road with Il Giardino Armonico under Giovanni Antonini. Little has been lost in the exchange and Antonini filled out the evening with short symphonies by Boccherini and C.P.E. Bach that were lively enough to make this seem more than just another celebrity promotion.
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