- Der Schauspieldirektor, opera, K. 486
Mozart's "Der Schauspieldirektor" (The Impresario) has always been a challenge to convincingly produce. It consists only of an overture and four musical numbers, hardly enough to make for a full operatic experience, even a brief one. This version, in a new edition with updated spoken dialogue by Eberhard Streul, though, is both musically and dramatically completely satisfying. This is the result of the wit of Streul's new texts, Otto Schenk's star turn in the speaking role of the Impresario, and the spirit of spontaneity and comedy that the entire cast brings to the opera. Schenk is a born comedian, and based on the ongoing riotous laughter of the audience, he has them in his pocket from the moment he steps on-stage. The rest of the cast enters into the same sense of fun, and the little opera comes across as genuinely hilarious. Beginning with a nimble reading of the sparkling overture, Neville Marriner, leading the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, brings a supple playfulness to the score. The vocal soloists may not meet the absolute highest international standards of singing, but they negotiate the music with ease and grace, and sopranos Noëmi Nadelmann and Ofelia Sala beautifully embody the self-importance of the dueling prima donnas. While this may not be the most vocally stunning recorded version, it's almost certainly the most entertaining, and should make converts of opera fans who have never before warmed up to Mozart's little charmer.