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Rossini - Colbran, the Muse
“A superstar in the Rossini repertory” Chicago Tribune
After the success of her first Virgin Classics recital – Furore, arias by Handel – Joyce DiDonato turns to the composer whose heroines first brought her to international stardom: Gioacchino Rossini.
“Is Joyce DiDonato the world's best Rossini singer?”, asked the New York magazine Opera News after the American mezzo sang the finale of La Cenerentola at Carnegie Hall in January 2009. “That title certainly seemed hers by sovereign right,” it continued; “Her phrasing was silky, her timbre rich and glowing, and her ornaments were impeccably stylish and utterly beguiling. Most impressive was DiDonato's combination of immaculate technical control with an air of wild, unstoppable joy. This was truly a moment to treasure from an artist who is at the very top of her game.”
If La Cenerentola does not appear in this new recital, recorded in Rome in June, her other signature Rossini role holds a place of honour: she has been described by the UK’s Sunday Times as “the world’s reigning Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia”. In 2009 alone she sings the role in Vienna, London (to be recorded for DVD by Virgin Classics) and New York, and the role has also taken her to Paris, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Houston, San Francisco, Bologna and Rossini’s birthplace, Pesaro.
Rossini’s two best-known comic operas proved essential in building the Kansas-born singer’s reputation over the last decade, but this recital focuses primarily on his serious works – although the tragic tensions do not perhaps run as consistently high as in DiDonato’s first Virgin Classics recital: Furore, the Handel programme released last year and described by The Daily Telegraph as “an exhilarating roller-coaster of a recital from a charismatic singing-actress”.
This Rossini programme includes two arias from La donna del lago, which DiDonato is scheduled to sing over the coming seasons in Geneva, Paris, Milan and London. She takes the role of Elena, written for a soprano, but a great success in the 1980s for DiDonato’s idol, fellow high mezzo Frederica von Stade. The other arias on the CD were also all composed for soprano: they come from Otello, Semiramide, Armida, Maometto II and Elisabetta regina d'Inghilterra. DiDonato proved that she can triumph in music written for soprano with her recent complete recording of Handel’s Alcina and her debut last year in the role of Mozart’s Donna Elvira; the performances at London’s Royal Opera House prompted The Guardian to describe her as “the real star … singing her first Elvira and nailing even the topmost notes,” while The Daily Telegraph praised her performance in a similar vein: “The star of the show was … Joyce DiDonato, who sang Elvira with a style, sensitivity and bravura that outclassed everyone else on stage.”
To return to Rossini and Rosina, the role for DiDonato’s debut at the Vienna State Opera in April 2009, the Wiener Zeitung had this to say: “She tossed off crystal-clear coloratura, presented a dark, secure low register, a confidently nuanced mid-range, bright and voluminous high notes – in short, everything that makes for great, modern bel canto style. She appears undaunted by the role's many technically tricky passages, and even more: she sang musically challenging variations on every repeated phrase, shaped every single bar with brio, and presented a psychologically multi-faceted characterisation with wildly joyful abandon.”
“DiDonato is proving herself one of the most delightful artists of our time. She sings with a rare purity of tone, ease on the high Bs, an impressive degree of technical skill and lively powers of characterisation. She is invigoratingly precise in her placement, fluent in scale work and well furnished with staccati and trills. ...the difficult repertoire is sung with charm and mastery, and from all we read, their original exponent, to whom the recital is dedicated, is worthily honoured. Choral and orchestral work are equally stylish, and the short tenor solos by Lawrence Brownlee are a treat.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2009
“DiDonato’s pearly tone and easy coloratura make this difficult music sound effortless: she sports a more than acceptable trill, brilliant high staccato notes and long-breathed cantilena lines, prerequisites for a singer of the bel canto repertoire...This is outstanding Rossini singing by any standards, idiomatically accompanied.” Sunday Times, 22nd November 2009 ****
“In everything she does, DiDonato convinces...There’s more on display than simple technical triumphs. Her clear diction, controlled breaths and phrasing, and the diversity of her emotional colouring always bring her characters to life and make each one an individual... Long live the yankeediva.” The Times, 20th November 2009 ****
“A majestic display from first to last, DiDonato balancing precision and emotion.” The Independent, 20th November 2009 *****
“This is an artist who moves between registers with grace and skill, whose legato is seamless and whose tone is pearly. Indeed so creamy in 'D'amor al dolce impero', also from Armida, that you feel you could eat it on a spoon. Then there's that hushed quality to DiDonato's singing; a thrilling sensation that she's holding back, say at the beginning of 'Tanti affeti' from La donna del lago. Conductor Edoardo Müller is the perfect partner showing DiDonato off to her best advantage.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2010 *****
“This disc features some of the most authoritative bel canto singing that I have heard since Cecilia Bartoli emerged 20 years ago. Joyce DiDonato combines superb coloratura technique and clarity of tone with musical intelligence.” The Telegraph, 18th February 2010 *****
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The magnificent voice of Monterrat Caballé
Deh! Con te li prendi ... Mira,o Norma (from Norma)
Notte cupa, truce (from Mefistofele)
Depuis le jour (from Louise)
Qui di sposa eterna...Ah! Verrano a te sull'aure (from Lucia di Lammermoor)
Il dolce suono mi colpì di sua voce! … Spargi d'amaro pianto (from Lucia di Lammermoor)
La mamma morta (from Andrea Chénier)
Vicino a te (from Andrea Chénier)
O beau pays de la Touraine (from Les Huguenots)
Temerari!...Come scoglio! (from Così fan tutte)
Ei parte...Per pietà (from Così fan tutte)
Suicidio! (from La Gioconda)
Ecco la barca … addio (from La Gioconda)
Signore, ascolta! (from Turandot)
Tu che di gel sei cinta (from Turandot)
Vissi d'arte (from Tosca)
Quant'è grato all'alma mia (from Elisabetta, Regina d'Inghilterra)
Questo cor ben lo comprende (from Elisabetta, Regina d'Inghilterra)
Es ist kein Laut zu vernehmen (from Salome)
Né sulla terra creatura alcuna...Vola talor dal carcere...Seide celebra non gioia e festa (from Il Corsaro)
Ah conforto è sol la speme (from Il Corsaro)
La terra, il ciel m'abborino (from La Corsaro)
Venerabile Padre (from I Masnadieri)
Lo sguardo avea degli angeli (from I Masnadieri)
Qual mare, qual terra (from I Masnadieri)
Ecco l'orrido campo … Ma dall'arido stelo divulsa (from Un ballo in maschera)
Padre, ricevi l'estremo addio (from Luisa Miller)
Monterrat Caballé (soprano)
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“This sparkling disc brings together a collection of arias Rossini composed for one of the great prima donnas of the 19th century, his wife, Isabella Colbran. It's tempting to wonder whether even she could match Cecilia Bartoli, one of the most luscious, most exciting voices in opera. All those dazzling chromatic runs, leaps, cadenzas and cascading coloraturas are handled with consummate ease. Throughout she sounds as if she's enjoying the music; there's always an engaging smile in the voice, although she's properly imperious in the extracts from Elisabetta and disarmingly simple in the prayerful 'Giusto ciel, in tal periglio' from Maometto II. The orchestral and choral forces provide a delightful intimacy, with some cheeky woodwind solos and fruity brass passages.
The recording, produced at the Teatro La Fenice by Decca veteran Christopher Raeburn, favours the voices but gives it just enough distance to accommodate high Cs and astounding A flats at the bottom of the range. The orchestral perspective is changeable but satisfactory. For Rossini and Bartoli fans, this disc is a must.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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Nelly Miricioiu - Rossini Gala
Nelly Miricioiu (soprano), with Bruce Ford, Alastair Miles, Barry Banks, Enkelejda Shkosa, Garry Magee, Patrizia Biccire, Dominic Natoli, Dean Robinson, Simon Bailey, Antonia Sotgiu
The Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, David Parry
Nelly Miriciou explores the rich diversity of Rossini's art, focusing on some of his lesser-known pieces
“Rossini is a difficult composer to anthologise.
Callas and Walter Legge or Sutherland and Bonynge might have come up with something fascinating and fabulous had they been so minded. Caballé did: the eminently collectable Rossini Rarities disc she produced for the Rossini bicentenary in 1968. For the rest, successful recitals have been few and far between, indifferent singing or poor planning principally to blame. Not so Opera Rara's Rossini Gala. Patric Schmid's inventive programme focuses on Rossini's Naples period and the extraordinary array of roles he created for the great Spanish soprano Isabella Colbran. What distinguishes this recital is that it doesn't only anthologise set-piece arias.
Rossini gave Colbran some grand entrances and some even grander exits, and there are examples of both here: Queen Elizabeth's arrival and Zelmira's final florid song of thanksgiving. But there are also two wonderful quartets, two exquisite duets, a famous coup de théâtre (the Act 2 finale of Mosè in Egitto with its terrific lightning- strike), and one of Rossini's finest pieces of music-theatre: the scene near the start of Act 2 of Semiramide where the Queen and her lover, the adulterous regicide Assur, have rows worthy of the Macbeths over events which are beginning to overshadow them.
Miricioiu isn't a bel canto specialist; Santuzza is as much her territory as Semiramide. In neither role is the technique perfectly honed, but the effect is rarely less than compelling. Every one of the heroines presented here is vividly depicted, with a distinguished supporting cast helping to etch each scene into the imagination.
The gala ends with an intriguing rarity which has nothing to do with Colbran or Miricioiu.
Vallace is a shortened, revised and relocated version of Guillaume Tell prepared for La Scala, Milan, in 1836-7. Austrian tyranny being an uncongenial subject to Milan's Austrian rulers, the libretto was recast to show English tyranny instead: Edward I's bloody crusade against the Scots, with William Wallace as a Scottish Tell.
Rossini wasn't much involved in the adaptation, though he did agree to recast the finale scene so that the opera could end with a reprise of the overture's famous pas redoublé. It's that revised finale we have here, a travesty of Schiller (and Rossini), but great fun.
Playing, choral work and conducting for this Rossini Gala are all of a high order of excellence.
As is the engineering (the lightning strike in Mosèin Egitto isn't for the faint-hearted). As always with Opera Rara, the accompanying 116-page booklet is superlatively informative. At the price of a single full-price CD, the disc is a terrific bargain, not least for the splendid hawk's-eye view the programme provides of 'serious' Rossini.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“A brilliant recording” Penguin Guide
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