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Ana María Martínez: Soprano Songs and Arias
Léo DELIBES (1836 – 1891) Les filles de Cadix; Charles GOUNOD (1818 – 1893) Roméo et Juliette: Je veux vivre; Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 – 1924) Gianni Schicchi: O mio babbino caro; Franz LEHÁR (1870 – 1948) Die lustige Witwe: Vilja-Lied; Pablo LUNA (1879 – 1942) El Niño Judío: De España vengo; Francis LÓPEZ (1916 – 1995) Violetas imperiales; Giacomo PUCCINI La Rondine: Chi il bel sogno di Doretta; Joseph CANTELOUBE (1879 – 1937) Chants d’Auvergne: Baïlèro; Giacomo PUCCINI Madama Butterfly: Un bel di vedremo; Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887 – 1959) Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 for voice and 8 cellos: Aria (Cantilena); Dança (Martelo)
Ana María Martínez (soprano)
Prague Philharmonia/Steven Mercurio
Recorded in the Dvořák Hall, Rudolfinum, Prague, in August 2000
NAXOS 8.557827 [53:26]




Glancing through the contents of this recital and hearing the fresh voice of Ana María Martínez brings to mind a singer of an older generation – the late lamented Victoria de los Angeles. Puerto-Rican born Ms Martínez has during the last few years built an enviable reputation as one of the best lyric sopranos, appearing at many of the world’s leading opera houses, including, the Metropolitan, Covent Garden, Paris, Vienna and Dresden. She also has a growing discography to her credit.

The first two pieces find her in repertoire where older listeners may remember Lily Pons and other nightingales. Her light, agile voice negotiates all the roulades and coloratura. She has easy top notes and a considerable warmth that can often be missing in this type of voice. Listening then to the Gianni Schicchi aria it is very much the same unaffected tone that made de los Angeles so much loved. It seems that what she sings comes direct from the heart, depicting the loving daughter, phrasing so naturally and with that stream of golden tone. She employs a larger voice for Hanna Glawari’s Vilja-Lied, sung slowly and seductively, maybe too slowly. It is charming and she caresses the phrases. However in the last resort she is not quite in the Schwarzkopf league.

The lively De España vengo, which de los Angeles recorded in the mid-1960s on her “popular” LP “A World of Song” is another fine performance and the lyrical mid-section is lovingly sung. That said, one misses the charming inflexions of the older soprano. This is the slight drawback with Ms Martínez at this stage in her career: the ability to colour the voice, to create individual characters that stay in the listeners’ memory. But the aria from La Rondine, wonderfully vocalized, also feels “lived in” and Butterfly’s aria, after a slightly hesitant start, also grows; her voice is absolutely right for this teenage girl. She has a marvellous legato in the Canteloube song and her Villa-Lobos is gloriously sung. I was not wholly satisfied with Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 in the complete set that I reviewed recently and readers who feel the same should know that if they buy this recital as a complement they will have one of the best versions available.

I must also point out the delicious Violetas imperials, a song that I can’t recall hearing before. It is from a 1952 film and, like everything else, affectionately sung.

Looking back on the review I sound more negative than I intended to, so I had better make everything clear. The slight reservations I have expressed concerning a certain lack of personality and identification are marginal. Against this should be balanced one of the freshest, loveliest and most musical soprano voices to have appeared for some time. Well accompanied by the Prague Philharmonia, a band founded as recently as 1994, under the renowned Steven Mercurio and in good sound this disc can be wholeheartedly recommended. My only further quibble is that, if the recording date (August 2000) is correct, it seems short of criminal to have withheld the release for more than five years.

At little over 53 minutes’ playing time room could have been found for a couple of further arias and no sung texts are printed in the booklet. They can be downloaded from the Naxos website.

Göran Forsling





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