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
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