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MOZART La Finta Semplice KV 51/46a;
Barbara Hendricks, Siegfried Lorenz, Douglas Johnson, Ann Murray, Eva Lind, Hans Peter Blochwitz, Andreas Schmidt. Kammerorchester Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach/Peter Schreier
Philips 422 528-2 142' 76"

This is Vol. 28 of the Philips Complete Mozart Edition, and it might well have passed me by but for the recent production at Royal Opera Covent Garden by the Classical Opera Company (see two reviews in S&H, March 2000). La finta semplice is a twelve-year-old's miracle, a genuinely witty and delightfully tuneful comic opera graced by a classy libretto by Carlo Goldoni, reworked and sharpened by Marco Coltellini. It had a bad start and failed to achieve the intended production and hoped for success in Vienna, despite the encouragement of the Emperor himself; the impresario was in financial difficulties and could not risk another failure. It had to await the twentieth century for proper evaluation.

Whilst building on conventions of the time, the young Mozart showed ample evidence of what was to come, and it is all enormously fluent and thoroughly enjoyable. There are a few high spots which lift it quite above the common operatic fare of the time. There is a comical duel duet with the rash challenger quickly seeking any excuse to call the whole thing off and a mimed duet (more effective when seen). Rosina (Barbara Hendricks) has several beautiful arias - sample track 19, the ravishing Senti l'eco, with oboe, cor anglais and horns prominent in its accompaniment.

The plot goes through complicated hoops to get most of the characters married at the end. A title like The pursuit of marriage might have helped to rescue it from centuries of oblivion? The usual English title The pretended simpleton, as given here, is quite inadequate; the French La fausse naïve better. In Seen&Heard, Alexa Woolf provides a serious analysis of this intriguing and thought-provoking farcical comedy about growing up towards inter-dependence.

This recorded performance has been done con amore with its starry cast all relishing their singing opportunities; invidious to pick out particular singers. It was made at the Berlin Christ's Church in November 1998 (not a hundred years earlier, as misprinted!) and well balanced by the unnamed engineer. Chief credit for its success should perhaps go to the famous tenor and conductor, Peter Schreier, who gets a lively and sympathetic response from his orchestra and keeps everyone on their toes throughout - and to the miraculous boy himself!

A very worthwhile addition to your Mozart opera collection.


Peter Grahame Woolf


Peter Grahame Woolf

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