Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


CD REVIEW

Some items
to consider


New App by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra for iOS and Android!

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

alternatively
Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

 

Natalie Dessay - Italian Opera Arias
Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901)

La Traviata:
1. E strano! … Ah, fors’è lui … [6:05]
2. Follie! Follie … Sempre libera [4:45]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801–1835)

I puritani:
3. O rendetemi la speme [2:08]
4. Qui la voce sua soave [9:03]
5. Vien diletto [5:26]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797–1848)

Maria Stuarda:*
6. Allenta il piè, Regina [3:51]
7. Oh nube che lieve [3:35]
8. Nella pace del mesto riposo [3:02]
Giuseppe VERDI

Rigoletto:*
9. Gualtier Maldé … Caro nome [6:44]
Vincenzo BELLINI

I Capuleti e I Montecchi:
10. Eccomi in lieta vesta [5:48]
11. Oh! quante volte [4:01]
Gaetano DONIZETTI

Lucia di Lammermoor:*º
12. Eccola … Il dolce suono [6:41]
13. Ardon gli incensi [4:52]
14. S’avanza Enrico [2:57]
15. Spargi d’amaro pianto [4:17]
Natalie Dessay (soprano)
Sascha Reckert (glass harmonica), *Europäischer Kammarchor; Concerto Köln/Evelino Pidò
rec. StollbergerStrasse, Köln, 28 July–5 August 2007
Sung texts and English, German and French translations enclosed
VIRGIN CLASSICS 395243 2 [73:25]
Experience Classicsonline



 

Hard on the heels of the superb complete Manon (DVD review) and La sonnambula comes this recital, which challenges similar efforts by some of the greatest divas of the past decades – and in some respects surpasses them. What divas do I refer to? Maria Callas of course, but she was unique and so controversial that you either love her or hate her. She had also sung in more heavyweight repertoire of a type that none of my select group of sopranos would ever contemplate. Joan Sutherland belongs in that company. Beverly Sills and Mady Mesplé should also be included. From roughly twenty years later, and still active, Edita Gruberova is a candidate and even younger is Sumi Jo. Diana Damrau, whose recent disc with Mozart, Righini and Salieri rarities I praised not long ago, is a present day competitor. I am sure that many readers would be prepared to make their own lists.

Let’s make a thumbnail sketch of each of these divas and see what pros and cons there are:

  • Maria Callas frequently sacrificed tonal beauty for dramatic truth, she wasn’t always technically so assured and her vibrato could be terribly ugly but she could also spin a serene silver thread of tone that was angelic.

  • For Joan Sutherland no technical hurdles existed, she had a breath control that was more or less superhuman and the tone was bright and beautiful in the upper regions, but she was dramatically rather lax, her articulation was notoriously non-existent, in the lower register the tone could be hooty and as time passed she developed a heavy beat in the voice that could be mistaken for a wobble.

  • Beverly Sills was as technically expert as Sutherland but had a thinner voice, which could be strident in the upper register and many felt that she lacked warmth. On the other hand she was dramatically vivid and convincing and her enunciation excellent. On later recordings she tended to be rather strained but her involvement was never in question.

  • Mady Mesplé had a typically light, fluent French high soprano. No one could sail as effortlessly up in the stratosphere and her coloratura was pinpoint clear and accurate. She was a charming interpreter but her voice could be slightly acidulous in the middle register. Hers was the smallest voice of these sopranos.

  • Edita Gruberova has, like Sutherland before her, shown a marvellous longevity and now in her sixties she is still singing her signature roles. Her technical proficiency has never been in question but sometimes a certain unsteadiness and hardness of tone has crept in. Her readings have always been well considered though somewhat generalized.

  • Sumi Jo’s voice is even smaller than that of Mady Mesplé but extremely beautiful and agile. From being primarily a Queen of the Night and Olympia she has widened her scope and some years I saw her in all three soprano roles in Les contes d’Hoffmann. As an interpreter she is affecting but a bit small-scale.

  • About Diana Damrau it is too early to give a general verdict since I have so far only heard her in Mozart and his contemporaries, but in such repertoire she has demonstrated a willingness to go into her characters and reveal what is behind those pure canary-like notes.

Now, where does Natalie Dessay stand in comparison? She lacks something of the absolute purity of Mesplé and Jo, she has less roundness of tone and volume than Sutherland and she has more warmth than but the same interpretative insight as Beverly Sills. Like Gruberova she can sometimes be slightly unsteady but she has a willingness and capacity to sing softly with penetrating intensity or disarming vulnerability that puts her on a par with Callas. It seems that she often, like Callas, manages to cut out a believable portrait of her character that can’t be mistaken for another role.

Her Violetta is a cardinal example of an intelligent – and emotional – reading, graphically illustrating her shifting moods up to an almost ecstatic end of the act. There is luxury casting, by the way, of Alfredo, whose few phrases offstage are sung by Roberto Alagna, no less. He also appears in an even more peripheral cameo role as Borsa in the excerpt from Rigoletto. The long scene from I puritani feels dramatically true and Qui la voce is ravishingly beautiful. Maria Stuarda is lean and vulnerable, more in the Sills and Gruberova mould than the heavier reading by Sutherland. Her Gilda is simple and innocent, just as the other portraits in this gallery of wronged women. It’s a touching impersonation and so is her Giulietta, where the plangent tone feels so appropriate.

Maybe the greatest challenge is Lucia di Lammermoor, a role Natalie Dessay has already recorded complete in the French version. Here we get it in the original, so original in fact that a glass harmonica plays the obbligato instead of the flute to which Donizetti later changed it. This lends the aria an eerie quality that I suspect Donizetti was aiming at. Sills and Thomas Schippers also opted for this strange instrument in their complete recording and, if I remember correctly, Anna Netrebko has a glass harmonica on her recital from a couple of years ago. All through this horrifying scene Natalie Dessay is so vocally vulnerable that as a listener one has to struggle with the tears.

I won’t say that Natalie Dessay is superior in every respect to the illustrious predecessors I have taken into account but she has nothing to fear from a close comparison. Both Sills and Gruberova recorded all the roles on this disc, while Sutherland never sang in I Capuleti e I Montecchi. Interpretatively she comes closest to Sills but is even more sensitive to the finest nuances and has more warmth while Gruberova is, as I have already intimated, excellent but more generalized. Sutherland may have been ‘La Stupenda’ but her lack of consonants and characterization rule her out, however superb her Qui la voce is in her first recording of the aria in the album ‘The Art of the Prima Donna’.

The disc as a whole is a high quality product with sensitive conducting by Pidò, good participation from chorus and orchestra and excellent contributions from the comprimario singers. It is hard to imagine better singing in this repertoire.

Göran Forsling


 


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools




Return to Review Index

Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.