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Jennifer Larmore - Bravura Diva
Sir Michael COSTA (1806-1884)

Eloisa, Scene and aria. Suon profondo
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Antonello Allemandi
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)

Bianca e Falliero, Aria. Tu non sai
London Philharmonic Orchestra/David Parry
Elisabetta Regina d'Inghilterra, Cavatina. Quant'e grato
Geoffrey Mitchell Choir. London Philharmonic Orchestra/Giuliano Carella
Giuseppe Saverio MERCADANTE (1795-1870)

Andronico, Duet. Vanne se alberghi in petto (with Majella Cullagh, sop)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Antonello Allemandi
Luigi ARDITI (1822-1903)

Il Desio, Duet. Quanto al cor mi parlo. Il cantar tuo gentil (with Majella Cullagh, sop)
David Harper, piano
Lauro ROSSI (1810-1885)

Amelia, Cavatina. L'alma mia che in Adolfo (with Majella Culagh, sop)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Antonello Allemandi
Giovanni PACINI (1796-1867)

Carlo di Borgogna, Duet. Lombra mira di colei (with Bruce Ford, ten)
Academy of St Martin in the Fields/David Parry
Temistocle, Cavatina. Tacete! ohime, quei cantici
Geoffrey Mitchell Choir
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Antonello Allemandi
Jennifer Larmore (mezzo)
Recorded at St Clements Church, London and Henry Wood Hall, London. Various recording dates
OPERA RARA ORR 231 [78.13]

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My first opportunity to hear Jennifer Larmore on record came with Deutsch Grammophonís 1992 recording of Rossiniís Semiramide. With Cheryl Studer in the name part, Sam Ramey as Assur and Frank Lopardo singing Adreno in a cast of established internationally acclaimed recording artists, Larmore was very much the new girl. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, she had trained in the small conservatoire in Princetown before spending three years honing her technique in Washington. At auditions in New York in 1985 she was offered a principalís contract at the Opéra de Nice where she spent three years. It was very much in at the deep end with around ten major roles each year. As well as Mozart she sang the bel canto repertoire including Donizettiís Jane Seymour in Anna Bolena and Rossiniís Cenerentola, Isolier (Le Comte Ory) and Rosina. She moved up the status ladder with Covent Garden (Rosina), La Scala (Isolier) and Salzburg (Dorabella) following in quick succession and before her New York debut in Belliniís I Capuletti in 1994. A contract with Teldec yielded her Rosina (1993), Cenerentola (1994) and Isabella in LíItaliana in Algeri (1997) as well as a clutch of well received recital discs. In the theatre Miss Larmoreís roles have extended from the trousers roles of Monteverdiís Ottavio and Handelís Giulio Cesare to a sexy Carmen. She also developed an affinity with French roles such as Charlotte (Werther) whilst always keeping the bel canto repertoire, with its particular vocal demands for bravura and coloratura, well practised. My initial response to Arsaceís cavatina Eccomi alfine in Babilonia in that DG Semiramide was to sit up with interest. Her creamy tone and fine legato were impressive although she didnít seem to have quite the bite of the redoubtable Marilyn Horne in the abbreviated 1965 Decca recording with Joan Sutherland as Semiramide. However, in the following duet with Sam Rameyís Assur (Bella imago degli Dei), and in the duets with Studerís Semiramide, I became convinced that here was a bel canto singer to match what had seemed to be the hegemony of Cecilia Bartoli. In my review of the re-issued Cenerentola I found Larmoreís singing to be poignant and expressive with her coloratura secure and free.

More impressive still was her Falliero in Opera Raraís recording of Rossiniís Bianca e Falliero (review). I admired the tonal evenness across her wide vocal range in the demanding bravura runs and tessitura of Se per líAdrai and Il ciel custode as well as her florid singing in the duets with Majella Cullaghís Bianca. On this collection Jennifer Larmoreís singing of Fallieroís Tu non sai and concluding caballeta Ma piu che onore e vita (trs. 4-6) is an ideal representation of her bravura singing on that recording as well as her more elegiac skills, always with that lovely creamy timbre. As her contract with Teldec, now subsumed into the Warner empire, died, she found a natural artistic home with Patric Schmidís Opera Rara. In a press release with this issue, he glories in the benefits of working with her, a singer whose musical education and intelligence allows her to write her own ornaments and have the vocal skills to realise them. She has recorded several complete operas with the company including Rossiniís Elisabetta where she is formidable in the name part with bravura singing really the name of the game in the cavatina Quantíe grato. This was written with Isabella Colbran in mind and she had a range of three octaves (trs. 10-11). As far as I can ascertain the items conducted by Antonello Allemandi have not been issued before. In the extracts from Mercadanteís Andronico (trs. 7-9) and Rossiís Amelia (trs. 13-15) Larmore is partnered by Majella Cullagh. With their contrasting timbres, florid singing, trills and concluding high notes they complement each other very well indeed. In the Arditi (tr. 120, a soirée piece accompanied by piano, their vocalising and trilling in unison is a delight.

Opera Rara give this issue the full luxury boxed packaging. The extensive booklet not only gives the words and translation into English but also the context of the composition and the singers involved. It only lacks a biographical note on Miss Larmore. In the Costa and Mercadante excerpts (trs. 1-3 and 7-9) the name of Maria Malibran is to the fore. Costa was born in Italy but worked in England and took British nationality. The opening chords of track 1 could be by Verdi, but this was written for Malibran, and Costa soon has the singer needing to extend her voice over a considerable range of textures, expression and tessitura. That Larmore encompasses the challenge with aplomb is the summation of this most appropriately named collection. It has that WOW factor that sets it apart from more mundane collections of arias. I can only hope that Jennifer Larmore and Patric Schmid continue their artistic collaboration to provide lovers of bel canto singing more riches of complete operas and recitals such as this. Highly recommended.

Robert J Farr

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