For her debut solo album on Warner Classics, soprano Marina Rebeka selected ten arias from five operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, six with recitative introductions. These are studio recordings made over the course of five days with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sperenza Scappucci. Taken as a whole, the album is an impressive cross-section of Mozart’s operatic repertoire, particularly since it involves Rebeka taking on the role of both Donna Anna and Donna Elvira from the K. 727 Don Giovanni.
From a technical point of view, Rebeka has a well controlled voice. Her command of the coloratura demands for Elettra, Konstanze, and the Queen of the Night is solid; and only in Konstanze’s “Martern aller Arten” (tortures unrelenting) from the K. 384 Die Entführung aus dem Serail (the abduction from the seraglio) did her upper register lapse into the suggestion of a shriek. What was missing, however, was a well controlled plan to differentiate the characters of the seven roles she was portraying. Admittedly, the singer is at a great disadvantage when any of these arias is ripped from the context of the entire opera; but there is a disconcerting uniformity across the recording as if technique was the only factor that mattered. Perhaps the most striking example is that there is a significant difference in “vengeance context” between Elettra and the Queen of the Night; but all Rebeka has to offer is consistent fidelity to the technical hoops through which she must jump.
It may be that at least part of the problem can be attributed to the conductor. Like Rebeka, Scappucci conducts with a disciplined sense of control; but there is no sense that she is aware of the extent to which the orchestra can provide the soloist with a dramatic context. This is most evident in Mozart’s greatest instrumental tour de force in this collection, “Marten aller Arten.” What is particularly impressive about this aria is that Mozart seems to have conceived of it as a concerto grosso movement with the soprano voice as one of the “instruments.” Scappucci never seemed to grasp this critical element of Mozart’s compositional logic, and this left Rebeka with far less musical support than the role deserves.