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Sally-Anne Russell - Enchanting
Georges BIZET (1838–1875)
1. Seguidilla: Près de ramparts de Séville from Carmen [2:34]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792–1868)
2. Cruda sorte from L’Italiana in Algeri [4:44]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791)
3. Voi, che sapete from Le nozze di Figaro [2:56]
Charles GOUNOD (1818–1893)
4. Faites-lui mes aveux from Faust [2:47]
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714–1787)
5. Sposa! Euridice! … Che faro senza Euridice from Orfeo ed Euridice [5:37]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685–1759)
6. Verdi prati from Alcina [3:50]
Henry PURCELL (1659–1695)
7. Dido’s Lament: Thy hand, Belinda … When I am laid in earth from Dido and Aeneas [4:27]
George Frideric HANDEL
8. Iris, Hence Away from Semele [3:36]
Gioachino ROSSINI
9. Una voce poco fa from Il barbiere di Siviglia [6:05]
Pyotr Il’yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840–1893)
10. Oui, Dieu le veut … Adieu, foréts from The Maid of Orleans [7:45]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835–1921)
11. Mon Coeur s’ouvre à ta voix from Samson et Dalila [6:18]
Georges BIZET
12. Habanera: L’amour est un oiseau rebelle from Carmen [4:30]
Sally-Anne Russell (mezzo)
Adelaide Vocal Project (2, 12)
Adelaide Symphony Orchestra/Nicholas Milton
rec. 11-13 April 2006, Adelaide Town Hall
Texts and English translations included
ABC CLASSICS 476 5963 [54:59]

 


Having had to give up dancing in her mid-teens, Sally-Anne Russell turned to singing and spent some years as a musical artist. That was before she became an opera singer – a field in which she has made herself a name. This is not her first recording but it his her first opera recital and it is always a challenge to expose oneself in a programme of testing roles. For this disc she has chosen, to a great extent, arias from operas she has already sung on stage; in one case, L’Italiana in Algeri, one she was just about to sing. Surprisingly the first and last numbers on the disc, two arias from Carmen, were not in her stage repertoire at the time of recording but both are featured frequently in her recital programmes.

The Seguidilla is well conceived with seductive rubatos and darkish tone though a bit sleepy. As Isabella in L’italiana in Algeri she exposes an impressive contralto, heavy but expressive. This heaviness is less suitable for the lovesick Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro but she is – remaining in trousers – a superb Siebel in the Flower aria from Faust.

Orfeo is another man but I doubt that he wore trousers. The reading of the famous Che faro, including the preceding recitative, is however powerfully masculine. The whole approach is rather old-fashioned in style – this was the way the music was sung half a century ago, and none the worse for that. However it jars against the playing of the orchestra – on modern instruments no doubt but the string tone at the end of the aria is vibrato-less and thin.

The next male character is Ruggiero in Handel’s Alcina and here the singing is more in tune with the accompaniment. This is a beautiful rendition of a beautiful aria.

In female garb Dido’s Lament is characterized more by defiance and intensity than by resignation and sorrow. This music can take that approach too without succumbing and is a far cry from the extremely slow and droopy reading I heard by Kirsten Flagstad some time ago.

Back in Handelian repertoire she negotiates the admittedly quite elaborate embellishments of Juno’s aria from Semele with great confidence and beautiful tone. In the booklet notes she recalls that she recorded the opera live with period instruments and the aria was then run through at almost double speed, which seems close to improbable.

Rosina’s cavatina from Il barbiere di Siviglia is sung with a smile in the voice and the final note reveals that she has the power for more dramatic roles, which is proven in the next item, Jeanne d’Arc’s aria, sung in French, from The Maid of Orléans. She doesn’t only have the measure for it, this is arguably the pick of the whole recital. Her natural vibrancy is absolutely right and she has the full range of expressive means. Brava!

Dalila’s aria is in the same mould, inward but with power in reserve. The French language seems to liberate her singing. And finally she goes backwards to where she started, to the first act of Carmen, and to the Gypsy’s first entrance: the Habanera. With some stage experience she will probably find more expression but even at this stage she makes a good impression.

I have heaped praise on the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s playing in the ongoing Ring cycle on Melba and they do live up to their reputation here, though I could have wished more forward movement in places; hardly the orchestra’s fault. The Adelaide Vocal Project make good contributions in the Italiana and second Carmen excerpts. Excellent sound.

There are ups and downs in this recital but several ups – Faust, Alcina, Semele, The Maid of Orleans – are so good that they will be on my shortlist for these arias.

Göran Forsling


 


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