> Puccini's Heroines Te Kanawa [PL]: Classical Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 – 1924)
Puccini’s Heroines: ‘The Power of Love’

‘O mio babbino caro’ (Lauretta) from Gianni Schicchi (1918) [2.18]
‘Senza mamma, o bimbo’ (Suor Angelica) from Suor Angelica (1917) [4.49]
‘Vissi d’arte’ (Tosca) from Tosca (1899) [3.03]
‘Sì, mi chiamano Mimì’ (Mimì) from La Bohème (1896) [4.53]*
‘O soave fanciulla’ (Mimì, Rodolfo) from La Bohème (1896) [4.13]
‘Donde lieta uscì’ (Mimì) from La Bohème (1896) [3.11]**
‘In quelle trine morbide’ (Manon) from Manon Lescaut (1893) [2.40]
Intermezzo (Act 3) from Manon Lescaut (1893) [5.08]
‘Sola, perduta, abbandonata’ (Manon) from Manon Lescaut (1893) [5.37]
‘Signore, ascolta!’ (Liù) from Turandot (1926) [2.38]
‘Tu, che di gel sei cinta!’ (Liù) from Turandot (1926) [2.09]
‘Ch’il bel sogno di Doretta!’ (Magda) from La Rondine (1917) [2.52]
‘Se come voi piccina io fossi’ (Anna) from Le Villi (1884) [5.04]
‘Un bel dì vedremo’ (Butterfly) from Madama Butterfly (1904) [4.07]
Intermezzo (Act 2) from Madama Butterfly (1904) [7.33]
‘Una nave da Guerra’ (Butterfly, Suzuki) from Madama Butterfly (1904) [7.28]***
Kiri te Kanawa (soprano) & Lyon Opera Orchestra, cond. Kent Nagano (the Intermezzi are orchestral items) except as follows:
Barbara Hendricks (soprano) & Orchestre National de France, cond. James Conlon*
Cristina Gallardo-Domas (soprano) & Münchner Rundfunkorchester, cond. Maurizio Barbacini**
Jennifer Larmore (mezzo-soprano), Hei-Kyung Hong (soprano) & Münchner Rundfunkorchester, cond. Jesús Lopez Cobos*** DDD
WARNER CLASSICS 0927-44282-2 [68.53]


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This is technically a compilation, but in fact (so far as I can establish) all but four of the sixteen items come from a single previous disc, Erato 0630 17071-2, which carried the title ‘Sole e amore’. That title (Sunshine and love) was derived from one of three songs imaginatively included on the original release, in which Kiri te Kanawa was accompanied by the Australian pianist Roger Vignoles. In the quest (one imagines) for bigger sales, Warner have re-released this disc without the items which initially caused it to stand out from the crowd (the songs) and, to take their place, have incorporated additional tracks by different artists. Whatever their strengths, these interpolations could be said to disturb the flow of Kiri te Kanawa’s recital. And for reasons unclear, the original (for the most part chronological) sequence has been discarded too.

I’m baffled by all this, not least because two of Mimì’s arias from La Bohème (‘Sì, mi chiamano Mimì’ and ‘Donde lieta uscì’) which were featured on the original issue appear here in different versions, sung (admirably, it has to be said) by Barbara Hendricks and Cristina Gallardo-Domas respectively. Of the two added duets, Kiri te Kanawa is joined by Richard Leech as Rodolfo in ‘O soave fanciulla’ – also from La Bohème, and also conducted by Nagano. As the La Bohème tracks are grouped together, we get three Mimìs in three consecutive tracks! The final item on the disc (an odd way to conclude, you might argue) is the Butterfly-Suzuki duet from Madama Butterfly, ‘Una nave da Guerra’, sung by Jennifer Larmore (mezzo-soprano) and Hei-Kyung Hong (soprano) and conducted by Lopez Cobos.

In referring to Warner’s ‘quest for bigger sales’ I confess I am aware that this disc is already selling in big numbers: innumerable Puccini fans, opera lovers and followers of Kiri te Kanawa will doubtless already have acquired this. Knowing this dissuades me from embarking on my pet rant about recital (or ‘excerpts’) discs, which (by offering us only the big-tune cherries off the Puccinian cake) do not enable us fully to experience the composer’s control of dramatic pace, of theatrical effect, or even his mastery of orchestral colour. The first track is a case in point: Lauretta’s little song ‘O mio babbino caro’ (please don’t mention that television programme…) is an oasis in the fast-moving Falstaff-like comedy which is Gianni Schicchi! As long as we don’t pretend that we know Gianni Schicchi because we know ‘O mio babbino caro’; or Götterdämmerung because we know ‘Siegfried’s Rhine Journey’; or – whilst we’re talking of such things – Beethoven, because we know the first movement of Op 27 No 1. Here endeth the lesson!

Dame Kiri brings a lifetime’s experience on the stage and in the studio to this disc, which – though the voice doesn’t glow quite like it used to – is as good as anything she’s recorded previously. Such range, such presence! And Nagano provides sumptuous accompaniments: indeed the two orchestral items (the Intermezzi from Manon Lescaut and Madama Butterfly) positively ooze warmth and affection. The tracks from their fellow artists are good, but perhaps lack the conviction and authority that distinguish the main Kanawa-Nagano partnership. All the recordings sound well. The CD booklet (one of those silly toilet-paper-like strips with no end of folds) gives you the briefest of multi-lingual synopses, rather than texts.

Self-limiting, perhaps, but self-recommending.
Peter J Lawson


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