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Vesselina Kasarova (mezzo-soprano) Duets
with Juan Diego Florez (ten); Eva Mei (sop); Ramon Vargas (ten)
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)

Armida (1817)
Amor... possente nome!... Vacilla a quegli accenti (with Juan Diego Florez )
Münchnen Rundfunkorchester/Arthur Fagen
Recorded April 1998
Tancredi (1813)
Recitative and Duet, L'aura che intorno spiri. (with Eva Mei)
Recitative and Duet, M'abbraccia, Argirio. (with Ramon Vargas)
Recitative and Duet, Lasciami: non t'ascolto (with Eva Mei)
Münchner Rundfunkorchester/Roberto Abbado
Recorded 1996
Maometto II (1820)
In questi estremi istanti. (with Juan Diego Florez and Anna: Barbara Lavarian)
Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi/Vjekoslav Sutej
Recorded April 2003
Otello (1816)
Ah, vieni, nel tuo sangue (with Juan Diego Florez )
Munchner Rundfunkorchester/Arthur Fagen
Recorded April 1998
La cenerentola (1817)
Tutto e deserto... Una volta c'era... Un soave non so che. (with Juan Diego Florez, Monica Schmitt and Henrike Paede)
Munchner Rundfunkorchester Arthur Fagen
Recorded April 1998
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
I Capuleti e i Montecchi (1830)
Scena e Duet, Deserto e il luogo… Arresta. Qual mesto suon echeggia? (with Ramon Vargas)
Choir of Bayerischen Rundfunks/ Münchner Rundfunkorchester /Roberto Abbado
Recorded June 1997
BMG RCA RED SEAL 82876 52929 2 [72.16]


Within two years of leaving the Conservatory in Sofia in her native Bulgaria in 1989, Vasselina Kasarova had hit the operatic headlines for her singing. She premiered at the major addresses including Saltsburg (La Clemenza di Tito) and where she caused a sensation replacing the formidable Marilyn Horne in Rossini's Tancredi with Edita Gruberová as Ameniade. These prestigious concert performances were given at Salzburg to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Rossini's birth. (see footnote) Her first recording was with Gruberová, as Agnese in Bellini's Beatrice di Tenda on the Nightingale label. She was signed up by RCA who issued a complete Tancredi followed by an admired 'Portrait' CD that included examples of her Handel and Mozart as well as the bel canto repertoire. In the Tancredi Eva Mei and, the then young, house tenor Ramon Vargas joined her as Arigio. These enjoyable extracts are taken from that complete set (trs. 2.3 and 7). For better or worse, on three full priced discs, that Tancredi came off worse in comparison with the two CD bargain priced Naxos issue featuring the Polish Ewa Podles in the title role. Although Kasarova's lower tones do not compete with those of Podles, her warm middle timbre and secure coloratura are heard to good effect in these extracts. The young Ramon Vargas is vocally elegant and if Eva Mei is no Gruberová, she is secure and affecting.

RCA were quick to fill up Kasarova’s discography and followed a widely admired Mozart disc under Colin Davis with complete recordings of her as the servant Fatime (Oberon), Romeo (I Capuleti e i Montecchi), and Charlotte (Werther). In the Bellini Kasarova was again partnered by Eva Mei and Ramon Vargas, the latter rather too vocally elegant as the vengeful Tebaldo in Deserto e il luogo and Arresta. Qual mesto suon echeggia? (trs. 4-5). Kasarova joined Vargas in his entertainingly innovative Vargas between Friends CD in 2003. It is interesting to compare the vocal development of both singers over the intervening years in Rossini’s In questi estremi istanti from Maometto (tr. 6). Vargas’s tenor has grown stronger but less flexible with Kasarova’s lower voice more secure if a little nasal. What will capture the eye on the front cover, and the ear on the first track, is the name Juan Diego Florez. He shot to fame in 1996 when he substituted, at a very late date, at the Pesaro Festival. He was signed by Decca and has become the tenore di grazia of our day. He starts the disc with some elegantly phrased soft singing in Amor... possente nome! from Rossini’s Armida (tr. 1). Just why he has become unsurpassed in this repertoire can also be heard as he treats us to a sample of his pinpoint coloratura, outstanding florid singing and some pinging high notes in the extracts from the composer’s Otello, (tr. 8). In these vocal respects, and extracts, he is well matched by Kasarova. The long finale from La Cenerentola finds both singers well matched for expression, elegant phrasing and sheer vocal bravura (tr. 9). It is a fitting conclusion to a very enjoyable disc.

The disc might well have been titled bel canto duets for both its repertoire and fine singing. Some collectors look down on compilations such as this. In my view they allow collectors of limited space or budget to hear favourite or new artists in repertoire that might otherwise be denied them. When the compilation is as well recorded, and contains as much quality singing in relatively rare repertoire as this disc, I am more than happy to go along with the practice. Despite the sparse booklet note that contains no words, or even synopses, I thoroughly recommend readers to add this disc to their collection. It contains much fine singing by a generation of artists who, despite their manifest qualities, have little chance of adding any more studio recordings of complete operas in this oeuvre to their discography.

Robert J Farr

Footnote: I am indebted to Mr Michell Thitathan who has drawn attention to an article titled 'La Rossiana. A conversation with Marilyn Horne'. Williams Opera Quarterly 1993 pp 65-91. Here Miss Horne explains her withdrawal as being due to the fact that the Salzburg performances were to be of the original Venice happy ending and not the more dramatic and normally performed tragic ending that Rossini wrote for Ferrara. This article is available on a restricted site at (oq.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/9/4/65.pdf ) . Mr Titathan also points out that Kasarova's 1996 recording of Tancredi, on three CDs, includes both endings (09026 68349-2)



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