Mozart / Le Nozze di Figaro, 2014

Teodor Currentzis, conductor

The artists and orchestra of Musica Aeterna: Fanie Antonelou (Susanna), Christian van Horn (Figaro), Simone Kermes (Countess), Andrei Bondarenko (Count), Mary-Ellen Nesi (Cherubino), Maria Forsstrom (Marcellina), Nikolai Loskutkin (Bartolo), Krystian Adam (Don Basilio), James Elliott (Don Curzio), Garry Agadzhanian (Antonio), Natalya Kirillova (Barbarina)

At first heft, this is an extraordinary project. The liner notes constitute a 311-page book, together with three CDs. This new release of Figaro is the first in a set of three Da Ponte operas being planned by Sony, in contract with a company I admit knowing nothing about.

It seems the good people of Perm (population 1,000,000 and located on the Kama River in the European Urals) have decided to invest in opera, in culture, and in identity. Judging by this first recording, they’re serious.

So are its artists.

According to Sony, “In 2011, when invited to meet the Artistic Director at Perm's opera house, Currentzis negotiated unheard-of conditions: unlimited rehearsal time; the freedom to schedule performances depending on the quality reached in rehearsals; and finally, the resources to explore with his musicians anything deemed necessary for a fuller understanding of the repertoire, from Baroque dance steps to 20th-century poetry and avant-garde cinema.”

This all sounds rather Kleiber-esque, and unlikely. Or so I thought until I listened to the recording itself. It is a wonder. A tonic. It is bracing and fun, rigorous and demanding. Recorded at low pitch (430) it sounds as bright as any version of the opera you may have heard, and for very good reason.

The recording presumes its listeners are as young, electrically-charged, alert and nimble as its performers. This is Mozart for those who find in him all the litheness and daring of youth, and in Figaro all the cheekiness and enchantment of innocence just-lost but still-remembered. If the video is to be believed, he records with his orchestra standing up! There is, assuredly, optimal energy in this approach.

Currentzis himself is a dynamo. Watch this and see him at work.

If you prefer the gravitas of a Furtwängler or a Klemperer, this recording is not for you. If you prefer the wit of a Beecham or the lushness of a Karajan, this too will seem foreign and inapt.

But if you wish to hear Figaro with ears unimpaired by ordinary tradition and tempered expectation, you may find this new release one of the most exciting in years.

I did.


Teodor Currentzis, conductor

Nicolas Bartholomée, producer
Maximilien Ciup, recording engineer
In associations with the PI Tchaikovsky State Opera and Ballet Theatre, Perm, Russia
Recorded 24 September – 4 October 2012
Sony Classical 88883709262

$50.00 CDN
Available at Sikora’s Classical Records

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