To present a CD of Mozart arias, in the currently highly competitive recording context, means an absolute risk-taking. Hence it is all the more considerable as the French coloratura Géraldine Casey exceeds expectations.
Casey is in the lineage of the best on the subject (performance, professionalism), comparable to an Arleen Augér, but with a certainly more dramatic element in the voice. Every sound is full, assured (even at the Queen of the Night), and she knows how to bring to each aria its particular atmosphere.
Expressiveness and emotion are completely contrasted in the eight extracts of this CD, from "La Finta Giardiniera" to "Lucio Silla", from "Zaïde" to the "Schauspieldirektor", up to both Konstanze's grand arias and the 1st aria of the Queen of the Night. A more than ambitious program, but Casey always knows how to convince - much more than certain current "big names".
Up to Mlle Silberklang's fine irony, which could possibly be discussed, the level is at the highest. Mady Mesplé, Reri Grist, Edita Gruberová : musically, Casey leaves all of the ladies quoted behind her. In the Concert Aria "Nehmt meinen Dank" KV.383, she is even absolutely equal to the great Lucia Popp, bringing even more (reasonable) ornamentations than her renowned predecessor. Only occasionally does the German pronounciation of the singer seem to meet some insignificant difficulties - a problem which is regrettably more and more encountered in German opera.
The South West Philharmonic Orchestra of Constance, in service since 1932 and which we have had little opportunity to hear up till now, delivers a remarkable execution. Regrettably, its permanent conductor Vassilis Christopoulos, born in 1975 in Munich, lacks experience and a new reading of Mozart (very covered rubati in the "Martern" aria, certain phrasings and conclusions which are not in custom anymore).
Not that his interpretations are divested of inspiration or strength - the Openings of the "Schauspieldirektor" and "La Finta Giardiniera" really equal the best recordings of the 80s, and his Marche of the Priests from the "Zauberflöte" distinguishes itself pleasantly by not uncalled-for tempi. But Christopoulos is still young and so we gladly forgive him smaller clumsinesses. It will be good to hear in the future this young conductor leave behind him certain "old devils" of energy and charm