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Puccini Passion
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

Le Villi ‘Se come voi piccini.’
Edgar ‘Adio mia dolce’
Manon Lescaut ‘Il quelle trine morbide’; ‘Sola, perduta, abbandonata’
La Boheme ‘Si, mi chiamano Mimi’. ‘Quando me’n vo’. ‘Donde lieta usci’
Tosca ‘Vissi d’arte’
Madama Butterfly ‘Un bel di vedremo’. ‘Che tua madre dovrà’. ‘Con onor muore’
La Rondine ‘Chi il bel sogno di Doretta’. ‘Ore dolci e divine’
Suor Angelica ‘Senza Mamma’
Gianni Schicchi ‘O mio babbino caro’
Turandot ‘Signore, ascolta’. ‘Tu che di gel sei cinta’
E l’uccellino
Sole e amore

Cheryl Barker (soprano)
Orchestra Victoria/Richard Bonynge
Rec. South Melbourne Town Hall, Australia
MELBA MR-301085 [63:34]
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This CD is sub-titled ‘The Richard Bonynge Edition’. As the note in the bulky booklet, with translations in German, French and Italian points out, Bonynge’s 40+ year career, whilst being notable for the role he has played in reviving interest in the ‘bel-canto’ and French operatic repertoire, has only involved him in conducting four Puccini operas. Maybe this should have been sub-titled: ‘Vol. 1 of the Cheryl Barker Edition’! Whilst not as well known world-wide as Bonynge, Barker has a devoted following in Australia, her native country, as well as in Europe, particularly Britain, where she is known as a highly skilled and committed singer who gives her all on the stage.

Cheryl Barker has a very individual vibrant lyric soprano voice that conveys much emotion. There is within the voice a beat that helps in conveying the passion in Tosca’s ‘Vissi d’arte’ (tr. 8) and agony in Butterfly’s ‘Un bel di’ (tr. 9). But these are big ‘sings’ in the opera house, and in a large theatre, such as London’s Coliseum, where she sang two series of Tosca in 2003, Barker must beware of pressing her tone too hard, or that vocal vibrancy so appealing here in those two mentioned roles, could become a wide vibrato and worse, a wobble. Here on CD, there is no such worry and her tone, support of the voice and vocal characterisation is a joy. She is also heard to particularly good effect as Mimi (trs. 5-7), Angelica (tr. 14) and Manon (trs. 3-4) whilst she is perhaps not gentle enough as Liu (trs. 16-17). The voice is too large for Magda (tr. 12) where there is a little waver towards the end of the aria.

As the renowned opera critic Rodney Milnes writes in his detailed and informative essay on ‘Puccini’s Little Women’, the composer gave them big music to sing. Consequently great sopranos have been drawn to the genre and many have set their interpretations down on disc. Kiri Te Kanawa (Erato) has a lovely even lyric voice but her conveying of character wouldn’t set the world on fire, ever; on the contrary Barker’s voice and interpretation has that potential. Whilst, as yet, lacking the skill Caballe exhibits on EMI under Mackerras, Barker’s interpretations make as satisfying a disc of this demanding repertoire as I have heard in a long time. The content is more complete than most and has the advantage of chronology. Barker conveys the two songs (trs. 18-19) with grace and eloquence to orchestrations by Brian Castles-Onion.

The capacious booklet has a libretto with translation into English only. Beware: the total timing shown, as 71:20, is wrong; it should read 63:34. It would have been helpful if the track numbers had been given in the libretto and page numbers cross-referenced in the track-listing.

Robert J Farr


Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924) La Bohème (1894-95) - Opera in Four Acts Rodolpho - David Hobson Mimi - Cheryl Barker Marcello - Roger Lemke Musetta - Christine Douglas Colline - Gary Rowley Schaunard - David Lemke Benoit - Graeme Ewer Parpignol - Jin Tea Kim Opera Australia Chorus prepared by Richard Gill Opera Australia Ballet and Orchestra/Julian Smith Recorded in the Sydney Opera House Originally produced for Television by Australian Broadcasting Corporation Opera Australia 1993 Photography ã Don Mcmurdo / Kiren Chang Production Director Baz Luhrmann DVD Aspect Ratio 4:3 ARTHAUS MUSIK 100954 [113 minutes] [DD]

Simply one of the most enjoyable I have heard … truly thrilling at times. … if you are seeking a first class version of this work your search is over … see Full Review

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