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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Francesco CILEA (1866-1950)
Adriana Lecouvreur: Acerba voluttà
Camille SAINT-SAENS (1835-1921)
Samson et Dalila: Mon coeur s’ouvre à to voix, Amour! Viens aider ma faiblesse, Printemps qui commence
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Khovanschina: Marfa’s fortune-telling scene
Nicolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
The Tsar’s Bride: Lyubasha’s Arioso, The Snow Maiden: Lel’s Third Song
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Alexander Nevsky: Field of the Dead
Amilcare PONCHIELLI (1834-1886)
La Gioconda: Stella del marinar!
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Il Trovatore: Stride la vampa
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Carmen: L’amour est un oiseau rebelle (Habanera), Près des ramparts de Seville (Seguidilla), Carreau! Pique! (Card Scene)
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
L’Italiana in Algeri: Cruda sorte! Amor tiranno!
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
Die Fledermaus: Ich lade gern mir Gäste ein!
Marina Domashenko (mezzo-soprano), Philharmonia of Russia/Constantine Orbelian
Recorded 31 March, 4, 8, 9, 11, 12 April 2001, Great Hall, Moscow Conservatoire
DELOS DE 3285 [57.45]

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The Siberian mezzo-soprano Marina Domashenko is (or was when the booklet notes were written earlier this year) 27. She made her European début in 1998 in Prague, and since then has chalked up theatre appearances in San Francisco (alongside Domingo), Paris, Bologna, Amsterdam, Athens, Venice, Vienna (and, shortly to come, Berlin), as well as concert appearances in London and New York.

She impresses here as a real dramatic mezzo-soprano, with enough heft for "Stride la vampa" but also with plenty of agility for the Rossini piece. Her voice is even and well-produced, with a rich sheen which accompanies it right through its range up to a fine high B. I hope that she will not put extra pressure on her vibrato, which might then flay out and undermine the good work, but as it is it is natural and attractive.

Having found the voice a fine one and a well-schooled one, I might only add that she is a very musical singer and conclude that she has all the requisites to become a major presence in our theatres over the next couple of decades.

I believe this is so, but it would be too much to expect at this early stage the sort of spot-on insights into particular words that some of the greatest singers of the past could give. Take the first Samson aria (the well-known one). When Callas sings "mon bien-aimée" we somehow know that this is a woman whose love is so pathologically obsessive that she is prepared to do great harm to the man she loves to keep him enchained to her. Domashenko just sings it. You might, though, find her voice more inherently suited to the music (it is a mezzo role and Callas was not a mezzo). Her Carmen is less mannered than Callas’s, but lacks a profile of its own as yet. The hiccups of Orlofsky’s aria are neatly negotiated without quite sounding really tipsy. The slower pieces, notably the Prokofiev, allow us to savour her gorgeous timbre.

The raw material is great, then; much will depend on the conductors, producers and other musicians she comes into contact with. Some readers might wonder how she compares with another great talent to have emerged recently from the other side of the former Iron Curtain, Vesselina Kasarova. Kasarova has a more tangible personality, but is another type of mezzo, a smaller voice well-suited to Donizetti and the French repertoire but unlikely to branch into Azucena. Kasarova has also proved to be a fine lieder recitalist. Domashenko is more a "normal" operatic mezzo and may be for the next generation what Barbieri and Simionato were for the last. Which is saying something. I shall certainly look forward to her first complete opera on CD.

Christopher Howell


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