Review – Mozart Arias (Ildebrando D’Arcangelo/Noseda)

In Classical Music, Mozart, Opera on May 16, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Mozart recitals by female artists are an almost weekly occurrence so it’s always always a pleasant change to be confronted by performances of Mozart’s lesser-recital’d arias for bass/baritone. And when the artist is the consummate ‘poster boy’ Ildebrando D’Arcangelo then the appetite is clearly whetted in advance. Add to that the conductor is Gianandrea Noseda and the combination should be perfect.

Having seen D’Arcangelo in Don Giovanni at Covent Garden, I was looking forward to a more-than-enjoyable recital disc. On stage he is a consummate actor, his Leporello was just the right balance of servile accomplice and wannabe grandee. In fact I seem to remember he almost stole the show with his almost feral sexuality and sense of nihilism.

And on the whole the performances are literally flawless. That is to say that, note for note, bar one single aria, the performances are flawless. D’Arcangelo’s voice is rich and deep, with a pleasing and equal resonance through every register. The orchestra of the Teatro Regio Di Torino also play flawlessly for Noseda. Having now left the BBC Philharmonic after a wonderful final performance of Otello (see Verdi’s Otello – A Fitting Farewell), I understand that he will be spending more time conducting this orchestra. They clearly have a good relationship as the playing is also incredibly refined, particularly the playing by the wind sections.

Yet while the performances are flawless, they lack any sense of character. D’Arcangelo essays all the major roles of Don Giovanni, Figaro and Cosí together with some of the insertion and concert arias that Mozart composed. Yet from his entrance in Madamina, il catalogo è questo – in the Prague version apparently – that vital element of characterisation is missing. This isn’t Leporello singing jealously of his master’s sexual conquests across Europe but simply a performance. And similarly his Don isn’t the great seducer in Deh! Vieni alla finestra. Had he sung like this in reality perhaps the servant girl would have stayed in and washed her hair!

And so it goes on, his Figaro cuts no dash and his arias drawn from Cosí simply lack interest.

Potentially of more interest are the concert/insertion arias that are included on the disc. Yet again there is no sense of characterisation. Indeed more here than in the more famous opera arias, there is a real sense of D’Arcangelo simply going through the motions. Alcandro lo confesso… Non sò d’onde viene (K512) almost topples into disaster. He is clearly uncomfortable in the coloratura, which is quite extensive for a bass aria, with the result that this is the single turgid performance on the disc. However it has to be said that none of the arias in this category really hit the mark.

Naturally it must be difficult in a recital situation to perfectly capture the character of differing individuals. Yet Mozart’s music and the libretti make for more than ample tools for at least an attempt. Changing dynamic range simply isn’t enough. Naturally his diction is very good, but the texts do not come alive in anyway. There is no sense of irony in Se vuol balare, and no sense of swagger in Fin ch’han il vino for example. And fan of Noseda as I am, even I must admit that the orchestral playing simply serves as accompaniment rather than supporting any sense of portrayal. Where are the heckling wind and brass in the catalogue aria? I missed their expected intrusion.

Perhaps, as is often the case with recital releases now, D’Arcangelo will now tour a series of concerts. And maybe his performances will come alive when he is in front of a concert hall audience.

I certainly hope so because until then this CD simply remains – for me at least – just another technically flawless recital disc.

  1. I’m impressed, I must say. Really rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. Your idea is outstanding; the issue is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.

  2. … [Trackback]…

    […] There you will find more Infos: […]…

  3. […] is a cipher. This is a shame as I have seen him as Leporello at Covent Garden and even his solo recital CD was a stronger performance that we have […]

  4. “Had he sung like this in reality perhaps the servant girl would have stayed in and washed her hair!” – you’re wrong! – in reality, he wouldn’t need even to sing – she would rush out instantly, merely seeing him.

  5. […] what of Gianandrea Noseda? As I said of Noseda on the Mozart recital disc with Ildebrando d’Arcangelo, his accompaniment seems for the most part simply there to […]

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