Four Essential Recordings By Fiorenza Cossotto

By Francisco Salazar

Fiorenza Cossotto is widely considered one of the greatest mezzo-sopranos of the 20th century and arguably this writer’s favorite mezzo of all time. In honor of her 82nd birthday, OperaWire has decided to take a look at some of our favorite recordings the mezzo recorded throughout her lengthy and prolific career.

“La Favorita” with Alfredo Kraus 

Donizetti’s operatic masterpiece was one of the many Bel Canto roles that Cossotto inhabited. However, this was the role that allowed her to show her vocal fireworks as well as bring the dramatic power to Donizetti’s music. In the video recording from Tokyo, Cossotto was joined by a stellar cast that included Alfredo Kraus and it is quite a treat for opera lovers. While I will admit that she is not my favorite actress, her aria “O Mio Fernando” is dispatched with such intensity and with so much commitment that one forgets any flaws in her acting. The desperation in Leonora’s character is truly captured and Donizetti’s tragedy is truly given first class treatment.

Eboli in “Don Carlo” with Gabriele Santini 

Fiorenza Cossotto’s account of Eboli was one of her most important roles and in the legendary recording with Antonietta Stella, Ettore Bastianni, and Boris Christoff, she brings the most of Eboli’s complex character. Her first entrance aria shows her lyrical abilities throwing the coloratura runs with flexibility and ease. She brings a coquettish feel to the character who eventually to power and authority in the third act trio. And her “O Don Fatale” is a powerhouse as Cossotto brings out numerous emotions to the aria. It is a showstopping and one of the highlights of the recording.

Amneris in “Aida” with Muti 

Cossotto dominated the role of Amneris and has numerous recordings. However, if there is one recording that stands out is the one with Plácido Domingo and Monserrat Caballé under Riccardo Muti. The mezzo-soprano’s judgment scene is a masterclass in itself. Each phrase is sung with ease and her top notes ring with such power. And Caballé and Cossotto’s second act duet is my absolute favorite part of the recording as you really get to understand each character. The text coming through with insightful accuracy.

Azucena in “Il Trovatore” with Zubin Mehta 

While the other three roles and recordings were important to Cossotto’s career, there is one role that defines her, Azucena. Picking a favorite recording of this work is so hard because Cossotto has numerous recordings of the work with Maria Callas, Franco Corelli, a DVD with Plácido Domingo and a recording with Carlo Bergonzi, among others. However, the one that stands out is one she did with Leontyne Price, Plácido Domingo and Sherrill Milnes under the direction of Zubin Mehta. Here she is in her prime singing the role with authority and a well-defined character. From her “Condotta ell’era in ceppi” to her duet with Manrico, Cossotto delivers a character that is off-putting and scary. There is subtlety in the quiet moments but power in the dramatic and intense orchestral outpourings that Verdi wrote for this character. After one hears this recording, it is impossible to hear another Azucena.


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