Reviews: recordings: Divas of Mozart's day: operatic arias by Domenico Cimarosa (1749–1801), Vicente Martin y Soler (1754–1806), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791), Vincenzo Righini (1756–1812), Antonio Salieri (1750–1825), Stephen Storace (1762–1796): Patrice Michaels (soprano), Peter van de Graaff (bass-baritone) / Classical Arts Orchestra / Stephen Alltop (conductor and fortepiano) Cedrille CDR 90000 064, 2002; one disc, 1'16".
Eighteenth-Century Music, 1, (1), . (doi:10.1017/S1478570604330071).
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Mozart was what Germans would call an Opernnarr: an opera nut. He could not get enough of the theatre
and the singers on its stage. He loved to spend time with them, write about them, perform with them and
most importantly compose for them. Those who have read the portions of Mozart’s correspondence on the
subject of musical theatre know about his critical ear: there was no special quality of voice for which he did
not imagine he could craft the most fitting music. So this CD, an ambitious attempt to fashion a musical
portrait of five of the most prominent prima donnas of Mozart’s Vienna – Catarina Cavalieri, Anna Selina
(Nancy) Storace, Adriana Ferrarese del Bene, Louisa Laschi Mombelli and Louise Villeneuve, all of whom
created major roles in his operas – comes as a welcome contribution. The study of opera remains apropos in these days of musicological multidisciplinarity: it combines the social history of institutions, music analysis,
performance history and performance practice. Indeed, opera’s own collaborative nature blurs the distinction
between author and performer. The history of opera, one could argue, is less the history of lonely
musical heroes and more the history of groups: composers and performers in dialogue with one another and
with the conventions of the genre. A recording such as this one, constructed around a group of composers
who collaborated with a group of singers in 1780s Vienna, is both the natural and appropriate answer to the
questions opera can raise.
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