Mozart: Cosi Fan Tutte / Krips, Janowitz, Ludwig, Waechter

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MOZART Così fan tutte Josef Krips, cond; Gundula Janowitz ( Fiordiligi ); Christa Ludwig ( Dorabella ); Walter Berry ( Guglielmo ); Adolf Dallapozza ( Ferrando ); Olivera Miljakovic ( Despina ); Eberhard Waechter ( Don Alfonso ); Vienna St Op O ORFEO 6970721 (2 CDs: 154: 17) Live: Vienna 9/22/1968

Yet more live archival opera on Orfeo from the Vienna Staatsoper, and this time, a sparkling Così fan tutte from September 22, 1968. It is led by Josef Krips, a student of Felix Weingartner, whose early, successful career at the Staatsoper was blighted by the Nazis. Banned from working there, he only resumed conducting after the fall of the Thousand Year Reich. Krips then led the first postwar revival of Così in August of 1945, a production that was to prove very popular, with a cast that frequently included Irmgard Seefried, Sena Jurinac, Emmy Loose, Anton Dermota, Erich Kunz, and Paul Schöffler.

The conductor was known for his congenial enthusiasm, but he was also a taskmaster. Kunz, who was quite a wit, remarked more than once in remembrance, “We had Figaro on Sunday, and Figaro on Tuesday. And on Monday, Krips spent at least four hours rehearsing Figaro .” Textures, articulation, pacing, phrasing, ensemble performance, expressiveness: these are the elements he emphasized in Mozart. He became internationally known as something of a Mozart specialist, yet precious little of it was caught on disc. There was a fine Don Giovanni (still available on Decca 466 389) with Siepi, Corena, della Casa and Danco), and two recordings of Die Entführung (the better of the two for EMI in 1966, one of my favorite versions with Gedda, Rothenberger, and Frick), but no Figaro, Zauberflöte , or Così . This release helps to rectify that very old oversight, in part. While there are the usual problems of “untidiness” associated with live performances, this is more than just a faded tribute to an important, neglected artist.

The cast lacks the legendary patina of those first postwar years, but it’s none the worse for that. I recall Janowitz being compared in the 1960s to Schwarzkopf, and there is a similar resort to a “white column of sound” vocal production, at times. (Schwarzkopf was another one of Janowitz’s predecessors as Fiordiligi at the Staatsoper.) I find it more noticeable here than in many of her studio recordings, but especially on higher notes where the vibrato is narrow and quick, giving the sense of something delicate. The lower notes occasionally give her problems, but “Temerari, sortite” is handled very well: the leap on “del mondo” is a delight. Distant microphone placement hurts the sweetness of her tone in “Come scoglio,” but the beauty of her voice, its placement, and her grasp of theatrics bring deafening applause—justifiably so, in my opinion.

As good is Ludwig, whose remarkably fluent technique allows Krips to wish on her a fast and marvelously furious “Smanie implacabili.” Her Guglielmo in act II, Berry, was married to her at the time. Their duet, “Il core vi dono,” is probably the highlight of the entire performance. Ludwig is dramatic, torn, interpreting in detail but without losing sight of preeminent Mozartean musical values. Berry is sensuous enough to make one wish he had been given a chance at the eponymous anti-hero in Don Giovanni , so many excellent performances of Leporello by him notwithstanding.

Dallapozza isn’t at this level, but it’s not for lack of trying. He attempts to scale back his bright voice without much success in “Un aura amorosa,” and his intonation is repeatedly suspect. Too many phrases are cut short, as well, despite conscientious attempts to sing cantabile . Yet during the ensembles, his accurate, easy coloratura is a delight. (Both his “Ah, lo veggio” and “Tradito, schernito” are cut, as is Dorabella’s “È amore un ladroncello.”)

Waechter’s voice sounds slightly worn during this performance, but he uses it with great skill. His is a more patrician, less smiling Don Alfonso than many I’ve heard, suave and self-assured in both “La mano a me date” and “Tutti accusan le donne.” Miljakovic modulates her darker voice attractively for “In uomini, in soldati,” but her “squeeze doll” notary voice is the most irritating I’ve ever heard, even after the abuse that role has suffered from numerous Despinas over the years.

However, the real star of the night is Krips. He shapes this Così at every moment, in larger ways and in small details. The first act is the quicker of the two, ironically smiling throughout, though not without its foreshadowing of later, deeper moments—as in the small trio “Soave sia il vento,” paced perfectly to avoid sentimentality on the one hand and scrambling on the other. Krips makes the act II scenes between Fiordiligi and Ferrando, and between Dorabella and Guglielmo, central to his interpretation, the points in the opera where the emotional conflict waged by pride, arrogance, passion, and the desires to love and be loved takes place. Expressive phrasing and loving detail at a measured but supple pace bring these qualities out; and while those who see Così as nothing but a puppet play staged by opera singers will object, I found it utterly right.

Elsewhere, Krips’s hand may be seen in the remarkable sense of ensemble that pervades this performance. “Soave sia il vento” has already been mentioned for its basic tempo that, like Weingartner’s Beethoven, seems inevitable. The balance among the principals is also perfect, and with a transparency of texture that reminds me of listening to a very fine string quartet. Much the same can be said of the quintet “Il destin così defrauda,” and the trio “E voi ridete?” Even when momentary smears occur, as during “Un quadretto più giocondo” in the act I finale, I can’t help admiring the poise, interaction, and beauty Krips invokes.

Orfeo supplies some good background notes about the conductor and singers, but only a synopsis—no libretto. The sound is extremely good for a live venue of the period.

It remains to note that there are numerous imperfections in this performance, the usual early or late entries, slips of intonation, and even one moment when the strings briefly lose the beat. For myself, I find none of this matters compared to what has been achieved. I’m glad to finally hear a Krips Così, and to discover that in concept it’s just as good as the other Mozart he recorded.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: ORF-C697072

  • UPC: 4011790697222

  • Label: Orfeo

  • Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

  • Conductor: Josef Krips

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna State Opera Orchestra

  • Performer: Adolf Dallapozza, Christa Ludwig, Eberhard Wächter, Gundula Janowitz, Olivera Miljakovic, Walter Berry