Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro (In English) - McIntyre, Harwood, June; Mackerras. London 1965
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Le Nozze di Figaro in English should not work. Da Ponte’s words are so intrinsic to the opera’s success that translating them, especially translating them in a rather fussy manner, should be a recipe for disaster. And yet, the translation used here is no impediment to one of the most enjoyable performance of the work I have ever heard. Part of the credit goes to the cast, whose humor, poise and delivery is largely impeccable, but the real hero here is Charles Mackerras, who not only conducts the opera with great sensitivity, wit, and impeccable timing, but also is responsible for the tasteful vocal decorations included in this performance. Ornamentation in Mozart is fairly controversial, but when done as well as it is done here, it rather puts the argument to bed. Donald MacIntyre brings all the intelligence he would later bring to his Wagnerian roles as a warm, sarcastic Figaro, and Raymond Herincx is, for once, a formidable opponent as the Count. Elizabeth Harwood is a pointed if occasionally mush-mouthed Susanna, and Anne Pashley’s rather pallid Cherubino warms up for a lovely ”Voi che sapete”. Ava June’s deeply depressed Countess brings a lovely shade of melancholy to the proceedings, and “Dove sono” is sung exquisitely. Marcellina and Basilio’s arias are included, the latter delivered drolly by one of my favorite character tenors, John Fryatt, and the former in the hands of no less a person than future Brünnhilde, Rita Hunter. Even the Antonio (Eric Stannard) is unusually good. The sound is merely fair, unfortunately, and there are noticeable tape problems during Figaro’s first aria. In addition, thirty seconds of music are missing from a crucial point in the Act IV finale. Included as a bonus are excerpts featuring Harwood, in rich voice, singing Strauss’s Four Last Songs with the Scottish National Orchestra, as well as Mackerras conducting the Rosenkavalier trio in English.