This release from the
CD Accord label features the Polish
soprano Joanna Kozlowska singing arias
from the operas of those master Italian
composers, Puccini and Verdi. I have
not been able to find out much information
about this singer, however, we are told
that twenty years ago she appeared at
Covent Garden whilst still a student,
to win the Gold medal in the International
Benson & Hedges vocal competition.
has appeared in many of the world’s
most prestigious opera houses, although
in what roles we are not informed. I
have come across the excellent voice
of Kozlowska previously on a copy of
a CD, from my collection, of the Mozart
comic opera La Finta Giardiniera,
K 196. The recording features
Joanna Kozlowska in the role of Marchioness/Sandrina,
in a 1989 recording, with the Théâtre
de la Monnaie Orchestra, Brussels under
the direction of Sylvain Cambreling,
on Brilliant Classics 92348.
In the opening aria
of the release, Si, mi chiamano Mimi
(track 1) from Puccini’s opera La
Bohème, Kozlowska, as Mimi,
sits in the cold attic room telling
the young poet Rodolfo about her life
and her desire for the warmth of springtime.
She is lively and flirtatious one minute,
serious and tragic the next. Also from
La Bohème, in the aria,
Donde lieta usci al tuo grido d'amore
(track 2), she is successful in
conveying the memories of her joyful
moments with Rodolfo, that are tinged
with the bitterness of a farewell.
From Puccini’s opera, Madama Butterfly,
in the role of Butterfly, Kozlowska
sings the celebrated arias, Un bel
di, vedremo and Tu …Piccolo Iddio
most beautifully. Throughout the
drama of her first Butterfly aria Un
bel di, vedremo (track 3),
the singer is steady and emotional and
in Tu …Piccolo Iddio (track 4)
she is suitably poignant showing tremendous
despair at having to bid farewell to
her little son.
In the aria Signore
ascolta (track 5) from Puccini’s
Turandot, Kozlowska is most convincing
as the slave girl Liù, pleading
with Prince Calaf not to marry Princess
Turandot. There is a real sense of hopelessness
with an abundance of anguish. Also from
Turandot, in the aria Tu che di gel
sei cinta (track 6), she
passionately displays Liù’s determination
in persuading Princess Turandot of the
power of love.
On track 7, we hear
Vissi d´arte, which is one of
the most famous arias from Puccini’s
celebrated opera Tosca. Sung
at a moment of high tension in the opera,
Kozlowska, with great beauty, reaches
up to the skies with admirable control.
O mio babbino caro (track 8)
is the highlight aria from one of Puccini’s
lesser known operas Gianni Schicchi.
Kozlowska, as Lauretta, is shown at
her most sentimental singing superbly.
The final two arias
on the release are from the pen of Puccini’s
elder contemporary and fellow countryman
Giuseppe Verdi. The opera The Force
of Destiny, which Verdi wrote in
1862, is the earliest work on this collection.
Kozlowska, as Leonora, in the aria
Pace, mio Dio (Track 9) is
in her mountain cave praying for relief
from her anguish and tormenting dreams.
This is superb Verdi singing of the
highest order and she excellently negotiates
the long swaying phrases and melodious
legato of the aria.
On track 10, the final
work on the release is Era più
calmo?… Emilia, te ne prego … Piangea
cantando … Ave Maria, from act four
of Verdi’s Otello, which is Desdemona’s
long scene in her bedroom. Kozlowska
as Desdemona makes use of a wide range
of tone colours with the lyrical passages
interspersed with episodes of great
This singer’s voice
may not contain the strength, beauty
of tone and richness of colour that
her famous contemporary, the soprano
Angela Gheorghiu, displayed in her prime.
Nevertheless this is most moving, well
characterised and colourful singing
from a moderately weighted soprano voice
which is highly appealing in her Puccini
roles and especially breathtaking in
the two Verdi arias. It feels rather
like splitting hairs but I did find
additional enjoyment in Kozlowska’s
lirico-spinto roles of Tosca,
Butterfly, Leonora and Desdemona.
We do hear Kozlowska’s
vibrato, throughout the arias, which
is mainly slight and never too obtrusive
even in her most extended passages.
With an agreeably rounded timbre, Kozlowska
seems more comfortable and most effective
in the middle to top ranges of her voice.
Occasionally Kozlowska does rather dive
upwards into the more dramatic notes
but this tendency does not detract from
the pleasure of her performances.
With singing as good
as this it is easy to overlook the superb
contribution from the Symphony Orchestra
of the Poznan Philharmonic under the
baton of Grzegorz Nowak. The orchestra
and conductor are in outstanding form
and are so sensitive to the requirements
of Verdi and Puccini. I was especially
impressed by the timbre of the woodwinds
and the string sound was most appealing.
Brief and informative booklet notes
are provided. The sound quality is acceptable
rather than outstanding and the total
timing of fifty minutes offers short
The career of Joanna
Kozlowska is well worth following and
her performance on this collection is
worthy of praise.