HOUSTON — IF the many recordings of Mozart's operas, here are several favorites: * The classic "Le Nozze di Figaro" was recorded in 1959 in Vienna with a magnificent Vienna State Opera Mozart ensemble cast, galvanized by Cesare Siepi's Figaro and Erich Kleiber's virtually definitive conducting (London, 3 mid-priced compact discs.)
* Herbert von Karajan's mono recording of "Cosi fan tutte" is as luxuriant and haunting a reading as the score has ever received in the studio and boasts an astonishing cast (Angel/EMI, 3 mid-priced CDs). Karl Bohm's stereo account (Angel/EMI, 3 full-priced CDs) has more pepper in the performance and a very fine sextet of singers.
* "Don Giovanni" has daunted recording companies from the beginning. My two picks among an imperfect lot are ones led by Carlo Maria Giulini, with Joan Sutherland as an astonishing Donna Anna (Angel/EMI, 3 full-priced CDs), and the other by Joseph Krips and a vintage Vienna cast headed again by Siepi (London, 3 mid-priced CDs).
* Of the numerous worthy recordings of "The Magic Flute," the most straightforward and satisfying remains Angel/EMI (2 full-priced CDs), strongly cast and fleetly conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch. And of the two extant versions of "Clemenza di Tito," I would give the London set (2 mid-priced CDs) the edge for Istvan Kertesz's superb conducting and Teresa Berganza's thrilling Sesto.