This opera had its premiere in 1979, without Mozart in attendance(!). It was composed in 1772 for the Archbishop of Salzburg, who died before it could be performed; it is an allegory in which Constancy, Fortune, and License appear to Scipione and tell him how he can lead a good life. It has no action–it’s more oratorio than opera, but it’s less than two hours long. Its da capo arias are pretty formulaic, each about seven minutes, filled with what Mozart later would call “noodles”–that is, lots of coloratura.
A previous recording in the complete Philips set was good–Edita Gruberova, Lucia Popp, and Edith Mathis being better than the three tenors. In this new recording, the women are almost as good as on the Philips set, and while they’re still better than their male counterparts, the men here are better–more fluent and less afraid of the coloratura, not to mention the high-E that tenor Francois Soons interpolates at the close of Scipione’s second aria. In general, all the tenors are more expressive, while among the women, Claron McFadden and Claudia Patacca are really worth hearing. Jed Wentz leads his group with real spunk, and the nice, prominent harpsichord is a fine touch. This amounts to a good buy–if, of course, Scipio’s dream and yours are one and the same.