> Lella Cuberli: Bellini - Donizetti - Rossini [CH]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
Bianca e Fernando (1826): Ove son?*, Che m’avvenne?*
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)

Rosmonda d’Inghilterra (1834): Volgon tre lune …, Perché non ho del vento*, Torna, torna, o caro oggetto
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)

L’assedio di Corinto (1826): L’ora fatal s’appressa, Giusto ciel in tal periglio, Matilde di Shabran (1821): Matilde, ebben?*, Ami alfin? E chi non ama?, Non è vero? … Anzi è verissimo†, Ermione (1819): Esso corre al trionfo! …, Di che vedesti piangere, Ah! Voglio il ciel†‡, Amato, l’amai‡, Un’empio mel rap캇
Lella Cuberli (soprano), *Martine Dupuy (mezzo-soprano), †Francesco Ruta (bass), ‡Itala Calcagno (soprano), ºAldo Bertòlo (tenor), Milan RAI Chorus and Orchestra/Bruno Bartoletti
Recorded July 1983, Teatro Carcano, Milan
WARNER FONIT 0927 43352-2 [58’ 51"]

Lella Cuberli has mostly been heard on disc in Mozart, having been chosen for major roles in all three of Daniel Barenboim’s Berlin cycle of the Da Ponte operas: Donna Anna, in "Don Giovanni", the Countess in "Figaro" and Fiordiligi in "Così fan tutte". She also sang Giunia in Silvain Cambreling’s recording of "Lucio Silla". Her principal non-Mozartian appearance was the soprano part in Herbert von Karajan’s last recording of the Beethoven "Missa Solemnis". In every case her performance has been considered one of the strong points of the set.

And yet it was in the pre-Verdian Italian school – Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti – that she first made her mark. In spite of her name, which she acquired by marriage anyway (she was born Miss Terrell), she hails from Austin in Texas, but Italians took her to their hearts and in the first years since she won a major competition in 1975 it seemed she was the answer to a prayer, the long-needed soprano able to cope effortlessly with the virtuoso writing, but also the long legato lines, of the bel canto school.

Yet it didn’t quite work out like that, and nobody seems to know quite why. This disc has an essay by one of Italy’s most knowledgeable writers on voices and singing, Rodolfo Celletti (translated into good English), which points out that, though she has performed, occasionally and almost by chance, Lucia di Lammermoor, Violetta and Mimì, she has been called on above all to present a wide range of little-known operas, oratorios, masses and concert works. Perhaps she prefers it that way, for hers is not a rabble-rousing art. In all of the arias on this disc, many of them recording premières in 1983, she demonstrates a voice which is even and easy right through its range, as able to spin a long legato line as to negotiate the most virtuoso roulades. In fast music she is well able to differentiate between what has to be kept mellifluous and what has to be brilliant. She is careful over words, always placing them so that they are present and "felt", but are not permitted to break the beauty of the musical line; this is also true of the recitatives which are certainly not inexpressive, but one feels that it would be against her aesthetic ideals to pitch in dangerously in the Callas manner, risking the odd scream or two. So, while she is far from cold or inert, she is in some ways a musician’s singer, and to this extent perhaps it not entirely unjust that she has dedicated so much of her time to making rare works like those on this disc shine again rather than carting her Violetta and her Lucia around the world’s capitals. All the same, future generations who happen upon these performances and look round at the discography of these three composers in the 1980s and 1990s will surely wonder why on earth we made so little use of Lella Cuberli.

Fortunately, care has been taken not only by Cuberli but by all concerned, so we get each scena complete with supporting singers – a mixed blessing in the case of Aldo Bertòlo’s rough tenor, but Martine Dupuy’s contributions are a joy – and chorus. The RAI’s Milan orchestra, since disbanded during a particularly dismal episode in Italy’s cultural history, plays excellently under the vastly experienced baton of Bruno Bartoletti; it boasts some extremely fine woodwind soloists who were rather less in evidence at the orchestra’s weekly concerts during the same period and I wonder who they were. The recording is very clear without loss of warmth.

The booklet has, as I said, an essay on Cuberli by Celletti which is also translated and full texts which are in Italian only. Even if you can read that language you may feel, like me, that it would have been helpful to have at least a brief outline of the actual stage situation in which the excerpts are sung. But let’s not complain; some rare and often very beautiful music (try the excerpt from "Rosmonda d’Inghilterra") can be heard in performances of the highest quality.

Christopher Howell


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