Hugh Canning
The Sunday Times
September 2015

Francesco Benucci was the principal buffo bass in Vienna’s Italian opera company when Mozart was composing his comic masterpieces: the singer created Figaro in 1786 and Così fan tutte’s Guglielmo in 1790; and Mozart wrote new music for his Leporello in the first Vienna performances of Don Giovanni (1788). Inevitably, Mozart dominates Rose’s programme here, but he gives us music discarded from Così (Guglielmo’s lengthy, boastful Act I scena) and added to Don Giovanni (the not very distinguished duet for Leporello and Zerlina). Although Rose is described as a baritone on the cover, he is more of a high bass, ideal for Benucci’s roles, which included serio parts as well as buffo ones: the tyrant Axur, king of Ormus (Salieri), has a powerful aria di furore, and Rose includes two solos from Soler’s Una cosa rara, the opera quoted by Mozart in the supper scene in Don Giovanni. If his Italian is not always idiomatic, his words are clear and his singing is full of character, while Cohen’s period band shines in the overtures to Paisiello’s Il re Teodoro in Venezia and Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Figaro.