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MOZART Wolfgang Amadeus

Die Zauberflöte: Der Hölle Rache; Ach, ich fühl's
Lucio Silla: Vanne, t'affreta … Ah se il crudel periglio
Zaide: Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben; Tiger! Wetze nur die Klauen
Ascanio in Alba: Dal tuo gentil sembiante
Die Entführung aus dem Serail: Welcher Wechsel … Traurigkeit ward mir zum Lose; Martern aller Arten
Idomeneo: Solitudini amiche … Zeffiretti lusinghieri
Die Zauberflöte: O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn!

Natalie Dessay (soprano), Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Louis Langrée
Virgin VC 5 45447 2 [66' 32"]
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The fairly ample booklet contains detailed notes on the music (and full texts) in three languages, but not a word about the soprano. In today's star-oriented world this might seem a fault in the right direction, but I should like to have known which of these roles Natalie Dessay has sung on stage. Maybe the answer to this question would explain why the Entführung arias, and perhaps that from Idomeneo, go so much better than all the rest. Has she had particular stage experience of these works under a conductor with a firm hand?

To tell the truth the early stages of this disc left me dismayed, and somewhat embarrassed as to what I could write about it. In the opening Queen of the Night piece her squally tone around the Gs and As left little hope for her top Fs, but this part of the voice proved to be sweet and natural (elsewhere she manages a passable top G, and, at the other extreme, she can also descend to a B without recourse to chest tones). So if the raw vocal material is there what an uneven instrument it is between the various registers. The squally area in the middle-upper register comes under control only in a few pianissimo passages (which are exquisite on occasion) and the coloratura alternates between successfully negotiated passages and those which are virtually screamed out. As far as the first 7 tracks are concerned, no piece is really free of these defects (though they could not disguise the fact that the first of the Zaide arias is a particularly beautiful piece). But then come the Entführung arias and, while the same problems can be detected, they are held firmly in check. Traurigkeit is really a beautiful piece of singing while the manifold difficulties of Martern aller Arten are confidently negotiated.

Were some of the other arias prepared specially for this disc, and prepared too quickly? It takes a long time to get new music well and truly into the voice and Dessay proves that she could have sung all this music really well. As it is, I don't see how I can recommend the disc for just two or three arias and I hope to be able to write better of this soprano on another occasion. The conductor, a name new to me, obtains playing of notable precision and vitality and the recording is excellent.

Christopher Howell

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