As the Mozart 250th anniversary year nears its end, perhaps it is time to take stock. Have we learnt anything new about Mozart or has the year’s onslaught of performances around the world only reinforced everything that we knew already?
Certainly, the Mozart celebrations of 2006 have been nothing like as eye- opening as the 200th anniversary of his death in 1991. That caught the period instrument revolution at its height, when almost every Mozart performance seemed to involve revelations of new sounds, new speeds and new ideas.
John Eliot Gardiner and his Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra were then in the thick of their series of the seven mature Mozart operas. Several of their recordings from that period – notably the Idomeneo and the Don Giovanni – still rank among the most compelling and it is not surprising that Gardiner should want to revisit them.
This celebration of the Mozart operas consisted of scenes and solos from the same seven operas, here in barely staged performances. No doubt it helps that there are minimal props and the only costumes are coloured gloves when the show is on the road. This European tour took in Madrid and Paris last week, arrived in London on Sunday, and ends in Pisa tonight.
The problem with offering a medley of highlights like this is that none of the operas has time to establish what it is about. In addition, some of the solo voices here were less distinguished than one might expect in a celebratory evening, despite the hard-working Christopher Maltman, who made his mark triply as Papageno, the Count and Don Giovanni, and some accomplished singing from Camilla Tilling, Anna Chierichetti and Kyle Ketelsen.
And yet Gardiner is as fiery a Mozart conductor as ever and his Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra are second to none. The act finales to Idomeneo and La clemenza di Tito made any number of other recent performances seem feeble by comparison and the closing scene of Don Giovanni had the hairs bristling on the back of one’s head. Surely that is how Mozart should still feel to us in 2006. ★★★☆☆
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