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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Il Sogno di Scipione, Dramatic Serenade, K126 (1771)
Scipione – Stuart Jackson (tenor)
Costanza – Klara Ek (soprano)
Fortuna – Soraya Mafi (soprano)
Publio – Krystian Adam (tenor)
Emilio – Robert Murray (tenor)
Licenza – Chiara Skerath (soprano)
Choir and Orchestra of Classical Opera/Ian Page
rec. St Augustine, Kilburn, London, 2016
SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD499 [58:17 + 49:57]

Mozart wrote Il Sogno di Scipione in 1791 as a homage to his employer, Prince Archbishop Schrattenbach of Salzburg, but he died before the first performance, so Mozart quickly tweaked the work so that it could apply to Schrattenbach’s successor, Hieronymous Colloredo, the Archbishop with whom Mozart had such a famously stormy working relationship. In practice that required only a change of the dedication in the final recitative, though Mozart took the opportunity to recompose the final aria.

It’s a testament to Ian Page’s vision of completeness for his Mozart series on Signum that he even includes as an appendix the original aria that Mozart jettisoned. I’m a big fan of Classical Opera’s series so far, and I really enjoyed this one too. As always with this company, there is fantastic recorded sound, and the orchestral playing crackles with energy and fits the music like a glove. The Overture sounds fantastically exciting, and the Menuet section that follows the Allegro opening is led by a cracking oboe sound. Obbligati are also very well taken, the horns sounding super in Publio’s aria of military heroism.

The voices are also lovely throughout, led by the marvellous tenor of Stuart Jackson, who we heard before (wonderfully) on Zaide.  His voice is a perfect combination of assertive heroism and honeyed lyricism, so he embodies the soul of the philosopher-poet-general perfectly. He also has a great way with the text, and he only rarely sounds like a tourist with his Italian. True: his out-of-nowhere top note at the end of his first aria is a little ridiculous, as are some of his florid ornamentations, and his second aria isn’t quite up to the original’s high standard, but on the whole I enjoyed him very much.

As Fortune, Soraya Mafi’s voice is a little lost at the bottom, but is delightfully bright at the top, and her gleaming coloratura matches the fickleness of her character.
Klara Ek has a lovely, no-nonsense soprano which she deploys to great effect in a rather safe first aria but, refreshingly, she then throws caution to the winds in the dazzling coloratura of her second. Chiara Skerath sings the Licenza dedication alone, and her voice is very different to the other sopranos, more occluded and a little darker.

Krystian Adam’s tenor is lighter of substance than Jackson’s, so he is well contrasted with him as his ancestor, Publio. Robert Murray is, perhaps, less well contrasted as Emilio, Scipio’s father, but he still makes a beautifully smooth sound. How wonderful to have such an excellent complement of tenors!

The chorus bristle with militaristic swagger in their appearance as a chorus of dead heroes in Elysium, though they sound less energetic in the (admittedly much more stilted) final chorus of adulation to the archbishop.

Still, cavils aside, this is a worthy addition to the Mozart discography, and another sign that Classical Opera’s series is going in the right direction.

Simon Thompson

Previous review: Dominy Clements



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