had to give up dancing in her mid-teens, Sally-Anne Russell
turned to singing and spent some years as a musical artist.
That was before she became an opera singer – a field in which
she has made herself a name. This is not her first recording
but it his her first opera recital and it is always a challenge
to expose oneself in a programme of testing roles. For this
disc she has chosen, to a great extent, arias from operas she
has already sung on stage; in one case, L’Italiana in Algeri,
one she was just about to sing. Surprisingly the first and last
numbers on the disc, two arias from Carmen, were not
in her stage repertoire at the time of recording but both are
featured frequently in her recital programmes.
Seguidilla is well conceived with seductive rubatos and
darkish tone though a bit sleepy. As Isabella in L’italiana
in Algeri she exposes an impressive contralto, heavy but
expressive. This heaviness is less suitable for the lovesick
Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro but she is – remaining
in trousers – a superb Siebel in the Flower aria from Faust.
is another man but I doubt that he wore trousers. The reading
of the famous Che faro, including the preceding recitative,
is however powerfully masculine. The whole approach is rather
old-fashioned in style – this was the way the music was sung
half a century ago, and none the worse for that. However it
jars against the playing of the orchestra – on modern instruments
no doubt but the string tone at the end of the aria is vibrato-less
next male character is Ruggiero in Handel’s Alcina and
here the singing is more in tune with the accompaniment. This
is a beautiful rendition of a beautiful aria.
female garb Dido’s Lament is characterized more by defiance
and intensity than by resignation and sorrow. This music can
take that approach too without succumbing and is a far cry from
the extremely slow and droopy reading I heard by Kirsten Flagstad
some time ago.
in Handelian repertoire she negotiates the admittedly quite
elaborate embellishments of Juno’s aria from Semele with
great confidence and beautiful tone. In the booklet notes she
recalls that she recorded the opera live with period instruments
and the aria was then run through at almost double speed, which
seems close to improbable.
cavatina from Il barbiere di Siviglia is sung with a
smile in the voice and the final note reveals that she has the
power for more dramatic roles, which is proven in the next item,
Jeanne d’Arc’s aria, sung in French, from The Maid of Orléans.
She doesn’t only have the measure for it, this is arguably the
pick of the whole recital. Her natural vibrancy is absolutely
right and she has the full range of expressive means. Brava!
aria is in the same mould, inward but with power in reserve.
The French language seems to liberate her singing. And finally
she goes backwards to where she started, to the first act of
Carmen, and to the Gypsy’s first entrance: the Habanera.
With some stage experience she will probably find more expression
but even at this stage she makes a good impression.
have heaped praise on the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s playing
in the ongoing Ring cycle on Melba and they do live up
to their reputation here, though I could have wished more forward
movement in places; hardly the orchestra’s fault. The Adelaide
Vocal Project make good contributions in the Italiana and
second Carmen excerpts. Excellent sound.
are ups and downs in this recital but several ups – Faust,
Alcina, Semele, The Maid of Orleans – are so good that they
will be on my shortlist for these arias.