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Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Francesca da Rimini, ‘Francesca’s Aria’
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Eugene Onegin, ‘Tatiana’a Letter Scene’
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Don Carlo, ‘Tu che le vanitá’.
Luisa Miller, Tu puniscimi, O Signore’
Simon Boccanegra, ‘Come in quest’ora bruna’
Ernani, ‘Surta è la notte…Ernani involami’
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
Norma, ‘Casta Diva’
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1868)

Maria Stuarda, ‘O nube ! che lieve per l’aria t’aggiri’
Gasparo SPONTINI (1774-1851)

La Vestale, ‘O nume tutular’
Marina Mescheriakova (sop)
Slovak Philharmonic Chorus
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Michael Halász
Recorded in the Concert Hall of the Slovak Radio, Bratislava, from 9th –14th September 2002
NAXOS 8.557109 [56.16]
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This recital was recorded over five days in 2002, just two months before Marina Mescheriakova sang the Countess in Naxos’s recently issued Marriage of Figaro under the same conductor. I was not impressed by her portrayal of the Countess finding her singing in ‘Porgi amor’ uneven and unsteady. She was also unable to float the phrases in ‘Dove sono’. This was something of a disappointment, for, in her 1998 recording of Hélène in Verdi’s Jerusalem (Philips), she had been vocally more secure in legato and coloratura if not idiomatic or incisive in diction.

This recital includes items that demand lightness of touch, full-lown Verdian phrasing and elegance of Bellinian cantilena. The first of these demands are called for in Tatiana’a Letter Scene (tr. 1). Tatiana is an impressionable adolescent at this stage of the opera. Mescheriakova lightens her tone appropriately but as she expresses her feelings and colours the voice vocal unevenness becomes all too evident.

Mescheriakova’s strengths in Verdi have deteriorated since her Hélène with choppy phrasing, unevenness and poor diction. Her Tu che le vanitá (tr. 3) bares no comparison with that of the Latvian soprano Inessa Galante on her recording of late Verdi arias or the Romanian Angela Gheorghiu on her ‘Verdi Heroines’ CD (Decca). Both rival singers launch the aria with good even tone and portray the meaning of what is being sung so much better than Mescheriakova who is too inclined to the use of an excessively earthy chest voice. Higher up the stave her words are unintelligible. To compare Gheorghiu’s ethereally sung Come in quest’ora bruna, voice well supported and the phrases inflected with meaning, with Mescheriakova’s laboured efforts (tr. 5) is to rub salt in the wound.

Recitals as varied in repertoire as this have a welcome place in the catalogue, particularly in this price bracket, although the timing at 56 minutes for five days in the studio is somewhat skimpy. The Naxos booklet gives the words with English translation. The recording is well balanced between orchestra and soloist in an airy acoustic. The content is interesting but the singing is, is to me, a disappointment.

Robert J Farr

see also review by Colin Clarke

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