The A-Z of Mozart Opera

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Re-released on Signum Classics in March 2014, Classical Opera’s début recording, The A-Z of Mozart Opera, was selected for Gramophone magazine’s annual Critic’s Choice in 2007. Founded on the coincidence that Mozart’s first opera (Apollo et Hyacinthus) begins with A and his last (Die Zauberflöte) with Z, this disc takes the listener on a chronological journey through Mozart’s operatic canon, featuring an aria or ensemble from fifteen of his operas.

The outstanding cast features acclaimed British artists Susan Gritton, Mark Stone and Matthew Rose, Swedish soprano Klara Ek, Dutch mezzo soprano Cora Burggraaf and five of Classical Opera’s former Associate Artists – sopranos Rebecca Bottone, Martene Grimson and Anna Leese and tenors Allan Clayton and Andrew Staples. The recording was devised and conducted by Ian Page.

“This is one of the most impressive pieces of programming I have experienced in a long time. Not only do Ian Page and his Classical Opera Company take us chronologically from Mozart’s first opera (Apollo et Hyacinthus, which starts with an “A”) to his last (Die Zauberflöte, which has a prominent “Z”), with samples from almost every opera composed in between, but they also show us an astonishing range of dramatic situations, convey an idea of how Mozart’s musical language changes between 1767 and 1791, and cleverly mix well known favourites with relative obscurities, unpredictable choices from famous operas, and some dramatic set-piece ensembles seldom heard out of context.

These young singers and a period-instrument orchestra – packed with many of the wisest practitioners in the business – deliver uniformly superb interpretations. The band is by turns boldly brilliant or sweetly evocative according to the dramatic context, and the big cast (five sopranos share the spoils) is excellent. “The Classical Opera Company deserves enormous credit for an auspicious debut recording of intelligence, finesse and quality. It would be cause for celebration if this could be followed up with a complete opera recording.” David Vickers, Gramophone

“What a winning idea: an exact chronological run through every Mozart opera, from A (Apollo et Hyacinthus) to Z (Die Zauberflöte). A fine showcase, too, for Ian Page’s Classical Opera Company. The singing team mixes familiar names and young sparks. Not everyone can shimmer like Susan Gritton or sing in 3-D like Matthew Rose, but you warm to the fresh ebullience. And the orchestra knows just how to sparkle and charm.” Geoff Brown, The Times

“This exquisite collection of arias and ensembles from Apollo et Hyacinthus to Zaide is sung by some of the most exciting young voices to emerge in recent years and played on period instruments. Ian Page, the conductor of The Classical Opera Company, is an instinctive accompanist whose awareness of the text is craftily underlined in his phrasing. The ravishing finale from Il re pastore is a highlight. Rebecca Bottone and Martene Grimson’s duet from Mitridate another, while Mark Stone’s world-weary Don Giovanni adds a pinch of danger.” Anna Picard, Independent on Sunday

“The A-Z of Mozart Opera involves eleven superb performers including soprano Susan Gritton, baritone Mark Stone and the outstanding young tenor Allan Clayton. They perform fifteen numbers from Mozart’s operas in order of composition. It’s a fascinating device which allows the listener to chart the composer’s emotional development over his career, and is performed with captivating style and flair.” Warwick Thompson, Metro

“A fascinating idea, superbly and revealingly carried out.” Rob Ainsley, HMV Choice

“My personal pick for giving this year is the Classical Opera Company’s glorious The A-Z of Mozart Opera, which is fresh, diverse, insightful and illuminating (everything that such recital anthologies usually fail to be).” David Vickers, Gramophone

“I’m delighted that Signum has re-released this 2007 Sony Recording, which I missed then. A-Z – Apollo et Hyacinthus to Die Zauberflöte – covers the whole range in 15 well-sung and played numbers. Page and his young musicians have a real feeling for Mozart, and the excerpts, beginning with the 11-year old composer’s astonishing duet ‘Natus Cadit’ (‘My Son is Dead’), are artfully chosen to make the best case for early Mozart. Even so, the emotional intensity of the Idomeneo quartet is a bombshell.” David Cairns, Sunday Times

“Page, to my mind one of the most talented of today’s younger British conductors, immediately announced himself with this CD as a natural Mozartian. Indeed, one of the chief pleasures is the juxtaposition of graciously phrased cantabiles—listen, for example to the line he achieves in the delectable ‘Ruhe sanft’ (Zaide)—and the dramatically incisive rhythms of an aria like ‘Se vuol ballare’ (Figaro), all splendidly played.” Brian Robins, Early Music Review