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Alexia Voulgaridou: A Portrait
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
Don Pasquale – Quel guardo… So anch’io [5:48]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
La Boheme – Donde lieta usci… [3:04]; Si, mi chiamano Mimi…[5:04]
La Rondine – Chi il bel sogno di Doretta [3:11]
Turandot – Signore ascolta…[2:23]; Tu che di gel sei cinta…[2:22]
Gianni Schicchi – O mio babbino caro…[2:21]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
I Capuleti e i Montecchi  - Eccomi in lieta vesta…Oh quante volte [9:11]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Manon – Adieu notre petite table… [3:48]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Romeo et Juliette – Je veux vivre… [3:38]
Faust – Je voudrais bien savoir…Il etait un roi…Ah, je ris…[11:40]
Alexia Voulgaridou (soprano)
Munchner Rundfunkorchester/Nicola Luisotti
Rec. 24-29 May 2004, Munich. DDD.
ARTE NOVA VOICES 82876 57832 2 [60:15]



Those that follow the fortunes of record companies will know that the BMG subsidiary label Arte Nova has suffered mixed fortunes. There have been a few out and out successes (Zinman’s Zurich-based Beethoven, Schumann and Richard Strauss cycles). Sadly, more often than not, there has been one element or other that has let the side down. Uneven distribution and availability has taken its toll, whilst interesting repertoire has been let down by the quality of execution (e.g. the Furtwängler symphony cycle). On occasions where repertoire and artists were up to the task (Mandeal’s Enescu and Brahms sets), the quality of the recordings worked against the success of the end result in some critical quarters.

Of all Arte Nova releases, the Voices series has been amongst the most interesting, with young singers being given their first recording opportunities, in repertoire that occasionally strayed beyond the standard. Releases featuring Sergij Larin, Laura Brioli, Deon van der Walt, Elena Zaremba, Anda-Louise Bogza and Elena Mosuc, amongst others, are all worth hearing. More often than not though the weak point has been the reliance on Slovak or Hungarian forces as orchestral support, leading to average rather than distinguished results.

There are signs however, with this current release that things could be improving. Voulgaridou is a Greek-born soprano now resident in Munich, so it is entirely appropriate that she be partnered here by that city’s radio symphony orchestra. Though the voice is on the light side it has conviction, and is used tellingly to capture emotion, with Voulgaridou unafraid to go to her limits: pushing the tone almost to the edge of a note in Donizetti, or employing the merest thread of voice in Bellini.

What comes across is not so much the fire-eating Greek temperament that you get with say Agnes Baltsa or Maria Callas, both very different voices from Voulgaridou’s, but the believability of her interpretations and identification with the roles. Her already wide stage experience plays into the recording, as she captures facets of each role. There are no examples of her Mozart, Verdi, Offenbach, Richard Strauss, Bernstein or other contemporary composers she has performed live on stage. I hope that some of these may follow if Arte Nova decides to take things beyond this initial recording, which it should consider doing. Comparisons with other singers in this repertoire would lead to endless lists of qualities. Were this a complete recording of a single work this might be instructive, but as things stand in giving an impression of a developing artist Voulgaridou creates an immediately favourable impression.

Conductor Nicola Luisotti was not a name known to me, however he proves fully idiomatic throughout, offering dynamic and sensitive readings. With experience in a wide range of European and American centres, his too is a name to look out for. His Covent Garden debut in the 2007 season with Il Trovatore is an event to await with interest. I hope that it will not be too long before Voulgaridou makes it to the UK as well.

The Munich Radio orchestra acquit themselves with spirited and keen playing, thereby proving my point that it is worth record labels investing in orchestras above the bargain basement level, even for bargain price releases. With this release you get more than you pay for on all fronts except documentation – biographies but no texts or translations. Nevertheless recommended without hesitation.

Evan Dickerson




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