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
- Duetto: “Natus cadit, atque Deus” from Apollo et Hyacinthus5:37
- Aria: “Amoretti, che ascosi qui siete” from La finta semplice4:50
- Aria: “Diggi, daggi, schurry, murry” from Bastien und Bastienne1:29
- Duetto: “Se viver non degg’io” (original version) from Mitridate, re di Ponto7:47
- Aria: “Fra i pensier più funesti” from Lucio Silla3:13
- Cavatina: “Geme la tortorella” from La finta giardiniera4:42
- Finale: “Viva l’invitto duce” from Il re pastore6:26
- Aria: “Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben” from Zaide5:59
- Quartetto: “Parti, te lo commando… Andrò ramingo e solo” from Idomeneo6:00
- Aria: “Konstanze… O wie ängstlich, o wie feurig” from Die Entführung aus dem Serail4:37
- Cavatina: “Bravo signor padrone… Se vuol ballare, signor Contino” from Le nozze di Figaro3:12
- Canzonetta: “Deh vieni alla finestra” from Don Giovanni2:06
- Quintetto: “Di scrivermi ogni giorno” from Così fan tutte2:32
- Duetto: “Ah, perdona al primo affetto” from La clemenza di Tito2:52
- Quintetto: “Hm! hm! hm! hm!” from Die Zauberflöte6:17
This recording takes its inspiration from the coincidence that Mozart’s first opera begins with ‘A’ and his last with ‘Z’. Considering the almost universal appeal and popularity of his music, it seems extraordinary that less than half of Mozart’s operas command a regular place in the repertoire of the world’s opera houses, and this chronological journey offers the opportunity not only to see how his genius developed between Apollo et Hyacinthus and Die Zauberflöte, but also to appreciate the immense range and versatility of his writing. Of course no one can pretend that the early operas are as accomplished as the masterpieces of his maturity, any more than one would argue that the plays of Shakespeare are all uniformly great, but like Shakespeare, Mozart had a staggeringly profound and compassionate understanding of human nature which, to a greater or lesser degree, shines through in every one of his stage-works.
This is even true of the first three operas – Apollo et Hyacinthus (1767), La finta semplice (1768) and Bastien und Bastienne (1768) – all written before Mozart became a teenager – and the first two in particular contain numerous intimations of the beauties and expressive depths to come. The duet “Natus cadit” from Apollo et Hyacinthus, in which father and daughter lament their estrangement from the god Apollo, is symptomatic of the young composer’s unerring ability to capture the mood and emotional truth of a dramatic situation.
At the beginning of the 1770s, Mozart’s father took him on three separate trips to Italy – still considered the ideal training ground for aspiring composers and singers – and each trip culminated in the premiére of a new opera in Milan. These were Mitridate, re di Ponto (1770), Ascanio in Alba (1771) and Lucio Silla (1772), and they each reveal Mozart’s growing assurance and mastery of his craft. In December 1771, though, Archbishop Schrattenbach of Salzburg died, and his successor, Archbishop Colloredo, took a far less favourable view of the Mozarts’ frequent absences.
For the rest of the decade they were required to stay in Salzburg and fulfil their duties as court musicians, and for Wolfgang the only meaningful exceptions were a trip to Munich to supervise the premiére of La finta giardiniera in 1774-75, and the ill-fated visit to Paris in 1778-79, during which his mother died. In Salzburg he was commissioned to write Il re pastore in 1775 in honour of a visiting archduke, but he found his home town parochial and limiting, and was increasingly frustrated by its lack of a proper theatre. In 1779-80 he began work on a new opera in German, Zaide, but he was destined never to finish this intriguing work.
It was with the composition of Idomeneo, commissioned for the 1781 carnival season in Munich, that Mozart really came of age as an opera composer. It received its premiÃ¨re a couple of days after his twenty-fifth birthday, and remains to this day one of his greatest and most underrated masterpieces. The work is charged with an elemental energy which drives the drama forward with visceral force, and recitatives, arias and ensembles lead into each other with a seamless flow. Nowhere is this more evident than in the extraordinary quartet from the final act, where all four characters give vent to their various states of anguish and misery.
Idomeneo provided Mozart with the acclaim and the confidence to escape at last from his servitude in Salzburg, and in 1781 he made a famously acrimonious break from Archbishop Colloredo and set up as a freelance composer in Vienna. He soon received a commission to write a new German comedy, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, which was first performed at the Burgtheater on 16 July 1782, and the next few years were among the happiest of his life. But while he continued to pour out a seemingly endless supply of new music, he struggled to find the right material for his next opera. He started but failed to complete both L’oca del Cairo and Lo sposo deluso, and in 1786 wrote the one-act comedy Der Schauspieldirektor for a performance in the gardens of Schünbrunn Palace, but it was his collaboration with the librettist Lorenzo da Ponte which took his operatic writing onto a new level. They collaborated on three operas, Le nozze di Figaro (1786), Don Giovanni (1787) and CosÃ¬ fan tutte (1790), and this famous sequence of works represents the pinnacle of Mozartâ€™s achievement as an opera composer.
By the summer of 1791, though, Mozart was out of favour at the Viennese court, debtridden and in ill-health. He agreed to collaborate with Emanuel Schikaneder on Die Zauberflöte, a magnificent vaudeville comedy written specifically for the ‘popular’ audiences at the Theater auf der Weiden, and when this work was almost completed, Mozart received a commission to write a new opera for Prague to celebrate the coronation of the new Emperor Joseph II as King of Bohemia. He allegedly wrote La clemenza di Tito in an astonishing eighteen days before returning to Vienna to complete Die Zauberflöte, the premiére of which he conducted on 30 September, but before the end of the year he was dead. It is tempting to view his tragically short career as a perfect, inevitable whole, possessing the same symmetry that marks his operatic voyage from A to Z. But one cannot help wondering what might have been had he lived as long as such contemporaries as Haydn, Gluck or Salieri.
Ian Page is the founder, conductor and Artistic Director of Classical Opera and The Mozartists. He began his musical education as a chorister at Westminster Abbey, and studied at the University of York and the Royal Academy of Music. Before founding in Classical Opera in 1997, he worked on the music staff at Scottish Opera, Opera Factory, Drottningholm and Glyndebourne.
With Classical Opera he has conducted most of Mozart’s early operas, including the world premières of the ‘original’ version of Mitridate, re di Ponto and a new completion of Zaide, as well as Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte and La clemenza di Tito. He has also conducted the UK premières of Gluck’s La clemenza di Tito, Telemann’s Orpheus, Jommelli’s Il Vologeso and Haydn’s Applausus, and the first new staging for 250 years of Johann Christian Bach’s Adriano in Siria. In 2009 he made his Royal Opera House début conducting Arne’s Artaxerxes at the Linbury Studio Theatre, and his studio recording of the work was released in 2011 on Linn Records.
He has devised and conducted numerous recordings for Classical Opera, including ‘The A-Z of Mozart Opera’ and ‘Blessed Spirit – a Gluck retrospective’ (both selected for Gramophone magazine’s annual Critic’s Choice), ‘Where’er You Walk’ with tenor Allan Clayton and ‘Perfido!’ with soprano Sophie Bevan (both shortlisted for the International Opera Awards in 2016 and 2017 respectively), and ‘Mozart in London’, which was recorded live during Classical Opera’s festival of the same name at Barbican’s Milton Court in 2015. In 2012 he embarked on a new complete cycle of Mozart opera recordings, aiming to record all of Mozart’s stage works over the course of twenty years . He is the creator and driving force behind MOZART 250, a ground-breaking 27-year journey through Mozart’s life, works and influences, and in 2017 he founded The Mozartists to facilitate the company’s ever-expanding concert work.
He is widely recognised for his work in developing talented young singers, and is in demand as a vocal coach. He serves on the coaching staff for the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House and for the Royal College of Music, and provides bespoke training to young singers through Classical Opera’s Associate Artist Scheme.
Updated 3 July 2018
Comprising some of the leading players from both the UK and further afield, The Mozartists have won widespread acclaim from public and critics alike. They play on period instruments and perform symphonies and concertos as well as operas.
Rebecca Bottone studied at the Royal Academy of Music, and was one of Classical Opera’s inaugural Associate Artists. Her appearances with the company have included Sabina (Adriano in Siria), Sifare (Mitridate, re di Ponto), Servilia (Gluck’s La clemenza di Tito), Melia (Apollo et Hyacinthus), Despina (Così fan tutte), Elisa (Il re pastore), Semira (Artaxerxes) and Worldly Spirit (The First Commandment), as well as numerous concerts at Wigmore Hall and Kings Place. She sings the role of Semira on the company’s recording of Artaxerxes and also appears on ‘The A-Z of Mozart Opera’. Other roles and engagements include Queen Tye (Akhnaten) for English National Opera, Blonde (Die Entführung aus dem Serail) for the Aix-en-Provence Festival and Scottish Opera, First Innocent (world première of Birtwistle’s The Minotaur), Maid (Ades’ Powder Her Face) and First Niece (Peter Grimes) at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Cricket and Parrott (world première of Dove’s Pinocchio) for Opera North and Minnesota Opera, Tytania (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) for Garsington Opera, and Hugh Wood’sEpithalamion at the BBC Proms. Recordings include the role of Cis in Albert Herring with Richard Hickox and EMI, and two Rossini roles for Opera Rara: Eurice (Adelaide di Borgogna) and Cleone (Ermione). She appeared in the BBC documentary ‘The Genius of Beethoven’, David Starkey’s ‘Music and Monarchy’ and in Steven Poliakoff’s acclaimed film Capturing Mary.
Update on 3 July 2018
Klara Ek has previously appeared with Classical Opera as Vitellia (UK première of Gluck's La clemenza di Tito) and Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro), and in concerts at Wigmore Hall, the Barbican and, in September 2016, at the annual Haydn Festival at the Esterházy palace in Eisenstadt. She can also be heard on the company's début recording 'The A-Z of Mozart Opera'.
Other operatic roles include Pamina (Die Zauberflöte) for Staatstheater Stuttgart, Ilia (Idomeneo) for Danish National Opera, Erste Dame (Die Zauberflöte) for Théâtre de la Monnaie, Brussels and Arminda (La finta giardiniera) for the Academy of Ancient Music, and she has appeared in concert with many of the world's leading orchestras.
Martene Grimson became an inaugural Associate Artist of Classical Opera in 2006. She is a former winner of the Maggie Teyte Competition, and won second prize at the 2006 Kathleen Ferrier Awards. Her previous engagements with Classical Opera include Hyacinthus (Apollo et Hyacinthus), Arbate (Mitridate, re di Ponto), Cinna (Lucio Silla), Aminta (Il re pastore), Sesto in the UK premiére of Gluck's La clemenza di Tito and concerts at Wigmore Hall and the Barbican. She also appeared on the company's début CD, 'The A-Z of Mozart Opera'.
Other operatic appearances have included Glauce (Cherubini's Medea) for Nationale Reisopera, Holland, Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro) for Opera East and Longborough Festival Opera, Ilia (Idomeneo) for Pinchgut Opera, Sydney, First Witch (Dido and Aeneas) for Opera North, and Laurette (Bizet's Le Docteur Miracle) and Mrs Gleaton (Floyd's Susannah) for Wexford Festival Opera.
Soprano Susan Gritton is acclaimed for her versatility in music ranging from Handel and Mozart to Berg, Britten and Strauss. Susan appears on Classical Opera's début recording 'The A-Z of Mozart Opera'.
Notable operatic appearances include Liù (Turandot), Micaëla (Carmen) and Marenka (The Bartered Bride) for the Royal Opera, Ellen Orford (Peter Grimes) for La Scala, Opera Australia and Tokyo's New National Theatre, Governess (The Turn of the Screw) and Female Chorus (The Rape of Lucretia) at Aldeburgh, Vixen (The Cunning Little Vixen) for English National Opera and the title role in Theodora for Glyndebourne. Mozart roles include Konstanze (Die Entführung aus dem Serail) for Bayerische Staatsoper and Deutsche Staatsoper, Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte) for Bayerische Staatsoper and ENO, Elettra (Idomeneo) for The Netherlands Opera, and Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) for Opéra de Montreal and Bolshoi.
Anna Leese became an inaugural Associate Artist of Classical Opera in 2006. She studied at the University of Otago and the Royal College of Music in London, and won the 2005 Richard Tauber Prize and the 2007 Maggie Teyte Competition. Her previous appearances with Classical Opera include Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte), Countess Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro) and Tamiri (Il re pastore), as well as our début recording 'The A-Z of Mozart Opera' and numerous concerts. She made her début at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, as Musetta (La bohème), returning as Micaëla (Carmen), First Lady (Die Zauberflöte) and Echo (Ariadne auf Naxos). Further operatic engagements include Tatyana (Eugene Onegin) for the Flanders Opera and New Zealand Opera, Musetta for the Canadian Opera Company, and Suzel (L'amico Fritz) for Opera Holland Park. She has also released a recording for EMI with Graham Johnson.
Cora Burggraaf graduated from the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague before continuing her studies in London at the Royal College of Music and the National Opera Studio. She appears on Classical Opera's recording of Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots and on 'The A-Z of Mozart Opera'.
Opera roles include Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro) for San Francisco Opera, Zerlina (Don Giovanni) for Netherlands Opera, Bella in Tippett's Midsummer Marriage for the Royal Opera House and Stéphano in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette in the Salzburg Festival and Teatro alla Scala in Milan. Cora has appeared as a recitalist at venues such as Wigmore Hall, and has received prizes including the 2009 VSCD New Generation Award, the 2009/10 ECHO Rising Star Award, and the Elizabeth Everts Prize 2006.
Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston appears on Classical Opera's début recording 'The A-Z of Mozart Opera'. A former BBC New Generation Artist, she is a graduate of Cambridge University and the Royal College of Music, and is the recipient of numerous awards. She has appeared in opera at the Salzburg Festival, Bayerische Staatsoper, Festival d'Aix en Provence, Opéra de Lille, Beijing Festival, Baltic Sea Festival, Scottish Opera and Opera North, and she sang the role of Jocasta on the London Symphony Orchestra's live recording of Oedipus Rex.
Allan Clayton studied at St John's College, Cambridge and at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He made his début with Classical Opera singing in Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots in 2007, becoming an Associate Artist later that same year. In 2015 he performed a programme of Handel, Boyce, Arne and J. C. Smith at Wigmore Hall and the Newbury Festival, and he subsequently returned to make a studio recording of this programme, 'Where'er You Walk', which was released as his début solo recital disc in May 2016. Opera roles include Castor (Castor et Pollux) and Tamino (Die Zauberflöte) for Komische Oper, Cassio (Otello) and Lysander (A Midsummer Night's Dream) for English National Opera, and Ferrando (Così fan tutte) for Glyndebourne Festival Opera and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Allan appears regularly at the BBC Proms, where his work has included the title role in Oedpius Rex with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sakari Oramo, and Vaughan Williams' Pastoral Symphony with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
Andrew Staples became an inaugural Associate Artist of Classical Opera in 2006. With the company, he has appeared as Ferrando (Così fan tutte), Alessandro (Il re pastore) and Artabanes (Artaxerxes), and has sung in numerous concerts at Wigmore Hall, the Barbican and Kings Place. He also appears on our recording 'The A-Z of Mozart Opera'.
Andrew made his Royal Opera House début as Jacquino (Fidelio), returning as Flamand (Capriccio), Tamino (Die Zauberflöte), Artabenes (Arne's Artaxerxes) and Narraboth (Salome), and has sung Belfiore (La finta giardiniera) for the National Theatre, Prague and Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni) for the Salzburger Festspiele. Other engagements include concerts with the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic Orchestras, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and London Symphony Orchestra among others.
Mark Stone studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and, in 1998, was awarded the Decca Prize at the Kathleen Ferrier Awards. With Classical Opera, he has sung at Wigmore Hall and also appears on our recording â€˜The A-Z of Mozart Operaâ€™.
Opera roles have included the title role in Don Giovanni for the Hamburg State Opera and Deutsche Oper Berlin, Il Conte (Nozze di Figaro) in Hamburg and Cologne, Eisenstein (Die Fledermaus) and Belcore (L'Elisir dâ€™amore) at the Welsh National Opera and Mountjoy (Brittenâ€™s Gloriana) for the Royal Opera House. At the English National Opera, Mark has sung the title role in â€˜Don Giovanniâ€™, Il Conte (Le nozze di Figaro) and Figaro (Il barbiere di Siviglia), among others.
Matthew Rose appears on Classical Opera's recording 'The A-Z of Mozart Opera' and has also appeared with the company at Wigmore Hall. Other recordings include a critically acclaimed Winterreise with pianist Gary Matthewman and Schwanengesang with Malcolm Martineau (both Stone Records).
In concert, Matthew has appeared at the Edinburgh Festival, BBC Proms and the Mostly Mozart Festival, New York. he has worked with orchestras including the London Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Dresden Staatskapelle, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra among others.
His recital appearances include the Brighton, Chester and Cheltenham International Festivals, and at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, London's Wigmore Hall, and the Kennedy Center, Washington.