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Gitta-Maria Sjöberg -Verdi and Puccini Arias
Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901)

Aida (1871)
1. Ritorna vincitor [6:58]
2. O patria mia [7:02]
La forza del destino (1862)
3. Pace, pace, mio Dio [6:19]
Un ballo in maschera (1859)
4. Ecco l’orrido campo [8:53]
Otello (1887)
5. Ave Maria [5:03]
Don Carlo (1867)
6. Tu che la vanità [10:51]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858–1924)

La Bohème (1896)
7. Si, mi chiamano Mimi [5:01]
8. Donde lieta usci [3:10]
Turandot (1926)
9. Signore, ascolta [2:43]
10. Tu, che di gel sei cinta [2:49]
Tosca (1900)
11. Vissi d’arte [3:33]
Manon Lescaut (1893)
12. Sola, perduta, abbandonata [4:50]
Madama Butterfly (1904)
13. Un bel di vedremo [4:57]
14. Con onor muore [4:58]
Gitta-Maria Sjöberg (soprano)
Odense Symphony Orchestra/Matthias Aeschbacher
rec. Carl Nielsen Hall, Odense, Denmark, 24-26 November 2003, 14-19 June 2004
Italian texts included.

Swedish-born Gitta-Maria Sjöberg studied with Kim Borg at the Opera Academy in Copenhagen. She is now the leading soprano of the Royal Danish Opera, where she had the honour to open the new Copenhagen Opera House in January 2005, singing Aida beside Roberto Alagna. She has an extensive repertoire in Italian operas, several roles of which are represented on this disc. She also sings Wagner (Sieglinde, Eva), Strauss (Arabella) and Janáček (Jenufa, Emilia Marty). As guest she has appeared all around Europe as well as Japan, Singapore, Săo Paolo and Toronto.

Judging from this disc – I have yet to hear her in the flesh – she has a basically lyrical voice which can grow impressively at climaxes. Her readings are characterized by sensitive nuances and expressive colouring of the voice. She seems ideal as Aida with her youthful timbre – a role that can be too matronly when sung by a heavy soprano, however impressive and brilliant the voice is in itself. Ms Sjöberg catches the anxiousness of the Ethiopian slave girl in Ritorna vincitor and her lyrical singing is ravishing. The Nile aria is restrained, vulnerable and very beautiful. She is impressive when the voice expands at the end – and then she scales down to a marvellous pianissimo. Her Leonora in La forza del destino is on the same exalted level: deeply involved and sensitive – in fact one of the finest readings of the aria I have come across. Her Amelia is tragic and noble. In Desdemona’s Ave Maria there is a streak of chill in the voice, foreboding death. Elisabetta in Don Carlos is subdued, making the dramatic high-points tell the more.

Throughout the Verdi section nuance and restraint are the keywords. She has brilliance when needed but she is never brilliant for the sake of brilliance.

Her Puccini is in the same mould. As a lovely Mimi she rises to the climax il primo bacio dell’aprile `e mio! with ease and conviction and she is divinely sensitive in the third act aria. She is a touching Liù, again among the best I have heard, and as Tosca her despair is pronounced but not lachrymose. She is heartbroken but still dignified when she grows in intensity and hurls out her question Perché, perché Signore, perché me ne rimuneri così?

Her Manon Lescaut has already reached the final stage of her short traversal of life in her final aria. There are no big theatrical gestures, just a frail woman in agony.

Of all the tragic fates of Puccini’s heroines Madama Butterfly’s is perhaps the most cruel. Even more than Aida, Cio-Cio-San must have a young voice and Gitta-Maria Sjöberg again demonstrates her ability to fulfil the requirements of the diverse roles she creates. Butterfly’s death is arguably the most moving impersonation on this recital.

Bigger-voiced and more brilliantly equipped sopranos have produced more overtly thrilling recitals with more or less the same repertoire; few have so consistently delved below the surface and found the soul of the characters, presenting them as weak, vulnerable human creatures. For me this is probably the most satisfying recital of its kind in many a year. The Odense Symphony Orchestra under Matthias Aeschbacher provide excellent support and the recording can’t be faulted. Playing time is unusually generous at 77 minutes and the booklet has bios and short introductions to the arias. The only thing that could be regretted is the absence of translations of the Italian texts – not every opera-lover is fluent in Italian. On the other hand these are standard arias and most readers will have the translations in one or several versions already.

Göran Forsling


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