the contents of this recital and hearing the fresh voice
of Ana María Martínez brings to mind a singer of an older
generation – the late lamented Victoria de los Angeles.
Puerto-Rican born Ms Martínez has during the last few years
built an enviable reputation as one of the best lyric sopranos,
appearing at many of the world’s leading opera houses, including,
the Metropolitan, Covent Garden, Paris, Vienna and Dresden.
She also has a growing discography to her credit.
The first two
pieces find her in repertoire where older listeners may
remember Lily Pons and other nightingales. Her light, agile
voice negotiates all the roulades and coloratura. She has
easy top notes and a considerable warmth that can often
be missing in this type of voice. Listening then to the
Gianni Schicchi aria it is very much the same unaffected
tone that made de los Angeles so much loved. It seems that
what she sings comes direct from the heart, depicting the
loving daughter, phrasing so naturally and with that stream
of golden tone. She employs a larger voice for Hanna Glawari’s
Vilja-Lied, sung slowly and seductively, maybe too slowly.
It is charming and she caresses the phrases. However in
the last resort she is not quite in the Schwarzkopf league.
The lively De
España vengo, which de los Angeles recorded in the mid-1960s
on her “popular” LP “A World of Song” is another fine performance
and the lyrical mid-section is lovingly sung. That said,
one misses the charming inflexions of the older soprano.
This is the slight drawback with Ms Martínez at this stage
in her career: the ability to colour the voice, to create
individual characters that stay in the listeners’ memory.
But the aria from La Rondine, wonderfully vocalized,
also feels “lived in” and Butterfly’s aria, after a slightly
hesitant start, also grows; her voice is absolutely right
for this teenage girl. She has a marvellous legato in the
Canteloube song and her Villa-Lobos is gloriously sung.
I was not wholly satisfied with Bachianas Brasileiras
No. 5 in the complete set that I reviewed recently and
readers who feel the same should know that if they buy this
recital as a complement they will have one of the best versions
I must also
point out the delicious Violetas imperials, a song
that I can’t recall hearing before. It is from a 1952 film
and, like everything else, affectionately sung.
on the review I sound more negative than I intended to,
so I had better make everything clear. The slight reservations
I have expressed concerning a certain lack of personality
and identification are marginal. Against this should be
balanced one of the freshest, loveliest and most musical
soprano voices to have appeared for some time. Well accompanied
by the Prague Philharmonia, a band founded as recently as
1994, under the renowned Steven Mercurio and in good sound
this disc can be wholeheartedly recommended. My only further
quibble is that, if the recording date (August 2000) is
correct, it seems short of criminal to have withheld the
release for more than five years.
At little over
53 minutes’ playing time room could have been found for
a couple of further arias and no sung texts are printed
in the booklet. They can be downloaded from the Naxos