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Karine Babajanyan – Puccini Arias
Armenian soprano Karine Babajanyan has made an international impact as Cio-Cio San in numerous Madama Butterfly productions and is one of today's outstanding performers of Puccini’s divas.
“Karine Babajanyan succeeds not only acting wise but also gives us a musically complex portrayal of the title heroin...” the press wrote about her debut at the Opera House Graz as Cio-Cio-San, a role she has since performed at the New National Theatre Tokyo, the Hamburg State Opera, the Opera House Frankfurt, the State Theatres of Saarbrucken and Wiesbaden, and at the Stuttgart State Opera.
Karine Babajanyan began her musical education with piano lessons at the age of seven and continued with singing and choir direction studies at the Erivan City Conservatory, graduating with distinction. After participating in master classes in Italy the young artist returned to her native country. Here, she received her first engagement at the Armenian National Opera.
The versatile artist is hailed by both the press and the public for her “…warm-timbred, youthful dramatic voice…” in all the important roles of her repertoire e.g. the Contessa in ‘Le nozze di Figaro’, Fiordiligi in ‘Cosi fan tutte’, Mimi in ‘La Bohéme’, Leonora in ‘Il Trovatore’, just to name a few.
In 2007 the attractive soprano made her widely noticed debut as Tosca at the Bregenz Festival in Austria – seen by cinema-goers worldwide in the opera scene in the James Bond film ‘Quantum Of Solace’.
Further guest performances took Karine to the Aalto Theatre in Essen, the Mannheim National Theatre, to Bern, Basle, Oslo, Dorset and Mexico, where she keeps celebrating triumphs in roles such as Tatjana (Eugen Onegin), Norma, Leonora (La forza del destino), Maria (Mazeppa)‚ Maddalena (Andrea Chénier) and the press comments “not only is her voice true, powerful and beautiful, but she has that natural presence with which only few are blessed”.
“There was great excitement at the British debut of Armenian soprano Karine Babajanyan in the title role, and she fully satisfied the anticipation. She has attracted rave reviews in Germany, Switzerland and Israel, and local audiences were indeed fortunate to see this remarkable singer so early in her career. Not only is her voice true, powerful and beautiful, but she has that natural presence with which only few are blessed, and her performance was magnetic” Blackmore Vale Magazine on Karine Babajanyan’s UK debut in Norma with Dorset Opera
“Her technique sounds rock solid and her musical instincts are unerring. The surprise of the disc is the excellent condition of the 68-year-old Giuseppe Giacomini in the Butterfly and Manon Lescaut duets. He rounds off with a ringing Nessun dorma that puts most tenors half his age to shame.” Sunday Times, 5th April 2009 ***
“Thanks partly to her appearance in the opera scene in Quantum of Solace, the Armenian soprano Karine Babajanyan is reaching a wide audience. Her appearance as Tosca is echoed here in a stirring "Vissi D'Arte", while her experience as Cio-Cio San comes through in the Butterfly arias "Un Bel Di, Vedremo" and the duet "Bimba Dagli Occhi Pieni Di Malia"; her partner in that, Giuseppe Giacomini, gets a showcase in "Nessun Dorma".” The Independent, 27th March 2009 ***
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Barbirolli at the Opera
Listening now to this album one regrets that Sir John Barbirolli’s appearances in the opera house were so few. After all, though he himself was born in London his family was steeped in the Italian operatic tradition: before leaving Italy both his father and grandfather had been members of the orchestra at La Scala, Milan (along with a young cellist named Arturo Toscanini), and in 1887 they had played in the premiere of Verdi’s Otello. By the age of 25 he was appearing at the head of his own orchestra. His potential was quickly recognised by Frederic Austin of the British National Opera Company, who engaged him on the spot. Over the next seven years, either for BNOC or at Covent Garden (where he first appeared in 1928) Barbirolli conducted Aida, Falstaff, Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, La bohème, Tosca, Turandot, Madama Butterfly, Gianni Schicchi, The Barber of Seville, Romeo and Juliet, Hansel and Gretel, Don Giovanni, The Bartered Bride, Die Fledermaus, Die Meistersinger, Der Rosenkavalier and The Wreckers.
The Barbirolli years after 1933 were filled by orchestral appointments and it was not until 1951 that he was able to return to Covent Garden. Over the next three seasons he was prominent there conducting old favourites such as Turandot, Aida, La bohème and Madama Butterfly, and adding to them Tristan und Isolde and Orpheus and Eurydice. At the time it was widely thought that Barbirolli might take over at Covent Garden, but his orchestral responsibilities had become all-consuming and in fact after the 1953-4 season he never appeared there again. His love of operatic music remained as strong as ever, though, and found its outlet in concert performances of complete operas and evenings of operatic excerpts. Such events became popular and, on account of Barbirolli’s prestige, would draw huge crowds. Some of these carried into the recording studio: the present album is a fine souvenir of his devoted approach to his beloved Puccini. But he was not now seen in any opera house. Only in his last decade did he find time to conduct Aida in Rome, and to make commercial recordings of Madama Butterfly, Otello and Dido and Aeneas.
“Loving and vibrant accounts by Barbirolli of suites, overtures and other substantial extracts from the operatic repertoire he understood so well.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2013 *****
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Un Bel Di ...
Margaret Burke Sheridan (soprano)
Soprano Margaret Burke Sheridan (1889-1958) is Ireland's most enduring legend of the operatic stage. Born in Castlebar, County Mayo, she was orphaned at the age of eleven yet, by the time she was 29, Margaret Burke Sheridan made a dramatic debut on the professional stage. At four days' notice, still in vocal training, she was chosen to replace the indisposed soprano as Mimi in Puccini's La Bohème at Rome's Costanzi.
She performed with all the greats, including the tenors Aureliano Pertile and Beniamino Gigli, and conductor Arturo Toscanini, and was coached by Puccini himself. Singing on stages throughout the world, among them Covent Garden, in Milan and Naples, and at the prestigious Carnivale season at Rimini, Margaret Burke Sheridan ultimately retired early due to a combination of tragic personal and professional circumstances. There followed a long and desultory retirement in Dublin where, as one acquaintance noted, she became "an alien among her own, outrageous and witty." She died on 16th April 1958 and is buried in Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin.
Un Bel Di contains fifteen digitally remastered tracks including a live performance from Covent Garden in 1926 and five ballads never brought together on one CD before. This is truly the definitive Margaret Burke Sheridan collection.
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Margaret Sheridan (soprano)
This Irish soprano had outstanding talent coupled with powerful determination to succeed. Amazingly, she made a successful career in Italy between the World Wars. The years from 1922-1924 were her great years at La Scala. She enjoyed great popularity especially in the role of Butterfly which is included here.
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Great Swedish Singers: Elisabeth Soderstrom
This recent compilation of extracts from live performances in Sweden gives a good idea of the breadth of Elisabeth Soderstrom’s interests. One of Scandinavia’s most famous singers, the performances here are alive with an intellectual energy and cover recordings from 1952 to 1977. Well reviewed in Gramophone.
Tebaldi and Corelli: Great Opera Duets
Made in 1972 and is a fitting tribute to one of the great vocal partnerships in opera, showcasing as it does the two singers in excerpts from four popular Italian operas, as well as one of the rarities of the repertory, Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini.
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Flaviano Labo: Opera Arias, Vol. 3
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