Mozart's opera seria tells of the King of Crete who is saved from a terrible storm by promising the gods that he sacrifice the first person he meets when reaching land, only to be greeted by his beloved son Idamante. In this Salzburg staging under Sir Roger Norrington Mexican tenor Ramón Vargas sings the title role, with Czech mezzo Magdalena Kozena giving an acclaimed performance as Idamante. Salzburg favourite Anja Harteros is the jealous Elettra, with Ekaterina Siurina as Idamante's beloved Ilia.
Only a few years since emerging as a notable singer, mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozená hasn't stopped enchanting her audience. It is, after all, a rare pleasure to experience this unique voice with its warm and elegant timbre. Some of its aspects are apparent in her preceding recital, an unusual–and unusually beautiful program of Czech love songs. With this account of Handel's Italian Cantatas, Kozená confirms the immense scope of her gifts.
Mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozená's collection of vocal solos (plus a few instrumental tracks) from the early Baroque, Lettere Amorose, "Love Letters," is a delight. The recital includes some familiar pieces like d'India's Cruda Amarilli, Monteverdi's Sì dolce è il tormento, and Sanz's giddy dance, Canarios, but consists largely of repertoire that's more obscure but no less engaging. Merula's lullaby chaconne Hor ch'è tempo di dormire is a jewel, gorgeously idiosyncratic and deeply emotional. Caccini's erotic Odi, Euterpe, 'I dolce canto could be mistaken for mature Monteverdi at his most mischievous, but it dates from 1601 or 1602, when Monteverdi was at an early stage in his career. A real standout of the album is Strozzi's L'Eraclito amoroso: Udite amanti, which alternates sections of extravagantly expressive recitative with a ravishingly lyrical chaconne. Kozená easily has the technique to make the music glow and the dramatic gifts to bring it movingly to life. Her sharply characterized interpretations of the songs make each of them seem as fully realized and potent as a short operatic scene. Her voice has the burnished warmth of a mezzo, but can gleam when she soars into her upper register, and throughout she maintains an exquisite purity.
This marks the first release with Robin Ticciati leading the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin, and it makes the requisite splash. There's a world premiere: even if you're not on board with the trend of enlarging the repertory through arrangements of works that are perfectly good in their original form, you will likely be seduced by mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozená's ravishing reading of Debussy's voice-and-piano Ariettes oubliées, inventively arranged by Brett Dean. There's a little-known work: the opening one, Fauré's Prelude to Pénélope (a sparsely performed opera, with a slightly less sparsely performed prelude) is a lush and beautifully controlled arc. Controlled and detailed are two words that come to mind for Ticciati's interpretation of La mer, the warhorse work on the program; it may seem a bit deliberate, but there are many hues in his performance. The two Debussy works are balanced by two of Fauré's: the fourth work is the suite from Fauré's incidental music to Pélleas et Mélisande (in Charles Koechlin's version), also deliberate and lush. Linn recorded the performance in Berlin's Jesus Christus Kirche, which allows the full spectrum of orchestral colors to come through. Worth the money for Kozená fans for her turn alone, and a fine French program for all.
Mezzo Magdalena Kožená returns with another early music adventure on Archiv Production after her highly acclaimed Vivaldi album: Kožená explores the early Italian Baroque music of Claudio Monteverdi with rewarding results. Inspired by the improvisational nature of much of this music, Kožená reveals yet another aspect of her musical personality with selections from L’incoronazione di Poppea, Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda and more.
"If anyone has recorded a lovelier Mozart recital in recent years, I've yet to hear it. In her early thirties, Kozená is now consummate mistress of her art. Her liquid high mezzo, with its easy upward extension, combines warmth with the bloom and freshness of youth, while her coloratura, on display in 'Al desio di chi t'adora' . . . is as brilliant and expressive as Bartoli's, yet without the Italian diva's intrusive aspirates . . . Fortepianist Jos van Immerseel is an equally sympathetic partner in an impassioned yet intimate performance . . ." ~Gramophone
Sir Charles Mackerras leads a fine performance of Mozart's last opera seria, a work that should be far better appreciated than it is. Full of dignity and poise, aria follows duet follows aria, fascinatingly scored, and exactly the correct length. The numbers are expressive and filled with the information we need to know these characters. Sesto, a travesty role, is taken by Magdalena Kozena, who follows in the footsteps of Teresa Berganza, Cecilia Bartoli, and Anne Sofie von Otter and proves their equal. Her gorgeous voice and technique shine through. Hillevi Martinpelto's Vitellia is handsomely sung; Christine Rice, sounding much like Kozena, is fine as his friend Annio; Lisa Milne's pretty, silvery tone is just right for Servilia. As Tito, Rainer Trost sings with dignity and accuracy in the character's noble and sometimes very florid music, and John Relyea lends his dark bass to the part of Publio. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra is augmented by some period players on brass, and the effect is exciting. This may not be your number-one choice–Hogwood and Bartoli and Gardiner and von Otter are better–-but it's an excellent performance nonetheless.–Robert Levine
J S Bach wrote a bunch of cantatas (hundreds) and most of them on very short notice (usually, one week), all the while fathering a bunch of kids, and being this Giant of Western Music. No easy task. That so many of these cantatas turned out to be sublime, is nothing short of miraculous. On this video we got three such Bach cantatas, performed by the English Baroque soloists (orchestra), the Monteverdi Choir, and mezzo soprano Magdalena Kozena, all conducted by John Elliot Gardiner. For those of you whose interest is casual, please note that this ensemble and conductor are pretty much at the pinnacle of contemporary Bach performance–I am not hard put to think of words to describe their work: grace, nobility, sensitivity, and especially, a perceived commitment to the work performed by every person involved.