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Mozart – Lo sposo delusa & L'oca del Cairo

Ann Murray, Joseph Wagner, Marisa Martins, Jeremy Ovenden, Matthias Klink, Silvia Moi, Miljenko Turk, Malin Hartelius Actress: Marianne Hamre Dancer: Graham Smith
Camerata Salzburg/Michael Hofstetter

Salzburg Festival 2006 – 196 mins

Deutsche Grammophon M22– 072 425 GH

One of the most ambitious projects undertaken by the Salzburg Festival in Mozart's anniversary year was Joachim Slomer's trilogy entitled “Irrfahrten”, freely translated as “Odysseys”. Starting with the premise that “Mozart was the first 18th century composer to try to live an independent life as an artist conscious of his own worth” the three self-contained presentations set out to illustrate the struggle of an artist breaking free from established dependencies.

The first evening was devoted to a performance of Mozart's comic opera La finta semplice, which fell short on several counts. The remaining two evenings are boxed together in a 2-DVD set, and are a real patchwork of individual, fragmentary and unfinished pieces.

Once again, musical standards are very high. Ann Murray sings Abendemfindung , surely one of the most beautifully melancholy songs ever written, and a clutch of “replacement arias”, all performed with the finesse one expects from an artist of her calibre, but even she can't suppress an air of mild embarrassment at the antics the director sees fit to impose upon her – variously attacking her long blond wig with a pair of wallpaper shears or sitting perched on a suitcase in an uncomfortably short skirt – one cannot but mirror her feelings. Meanwhile Marianne Hamre butts in with chirpy narration and dancer Graham Smith expertly performs a complex gymnastic display. The glass harmonica features strongly in the intervening instrumental extracts.

The final evening is an opera buffa melange of Lo sposo deluso and L'oca del Cairo . Mozart composed these fragments during the same year, and they have similarly cumbersome farcical plots. Around 20 minutes of music survive for the first and 45 minutes for the second. The young cast throw themselves wholeheartedly into the frenetic staging – the goose (a live one) makes a brief appearance before being despatched with a gun shot – and a mile of yellow ribbon wound around everything in sight represents the escape route from a tower. Josef Wagner and Marisa Martins stand out amongst the singers, but they are all good.

After the interval and yet another reprise of Abendemfindung the evening ends with Mozart's sketches for the four sections of the Dies Irae, sung gently by the Ludwigsburger Festival Choir. Close your eyes and listen with delight – no doubt some will enjoy the antics on stage.

Serena Fenwick

For a frank, uninhibited apprasal of this series at Amazon, you may find refreshing "It's increasingly amusing to see various commentators at this site vying to identify the Mozart production from M22 at Salzburg which best deserves the title of the stupidest and ugliest" !