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Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
I vespri Siciliani - Mercè, dilette amiche [3:36]
Il Trovatore - Timor di me? ... D'amor sull'ali rosee [5:07]
Il Corsaro - Egli non riede ancora...non so le tetre immagini [5:33]
La Traviata - È strano! è strano!...Sempre libera [6:47]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
Norma - Casta Diva [6:13]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Tosca - Vissi d'arte [3:23]
Madama Butterfly - Un bel di, vedremo [4:25]
La Rondine - Chi il bel sogno di Doretta [2:45]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
Lucia di Lammermoor - Il dolce suono mi colpi … Spargi d’amara pianto -The Mad Scene [6:47]
Liping Zhang (soprano)
Prague Philharmonic Orchestra/Giordano Bellicampi
rec. May 2008. Rudolfinum, Prague
EMI CLASSICS 2372502 [52:20]
Experience Classicsonline

Liping Zhang was born in China and after five years as a dance student entered the Wuhan Conservatoire to study voice. As a young student she was selected to sing with Placido Domingo in Tian'anmen Square. She moved to Canada, joining the Vancouver Opera's Young Artist Programme and sang various roles throughout her adopted country including Mimi (La bohème), Leila (Les pêcheurs de perles), Liu (Turandot), Marguerite (Faust) and Lucia (Lucia di Lammermoor). After moving to London she was plucked from seemingly nowhere by the impresario Raymond Gubbay to star as Butterfly in an acclaimed ‘in the round’ production. As opera critic Hugh Canning reports in a somewhat eulogistic sleeve-note, her career has been on an upward curve with acclaimed debuts at Covent Garden, the New York Metropolitan Opera, the Deutsche Oper Berlin and elsewhere.
Liping Zhang’s successful debut at Covent Garden was as the gentle and loving Liu in Puccini’s Turandot. She has since followed this up with Micaela in Carmen and Mimi in La bohème, each being well received. These roles are ideal for a lyric soprano with a bright tone and forward direction such as hers. In this collection she has chosen exclusively from the Italian repertoire and includes arias from roles that I would hope, on the evidence, that she is not yet planning to add to her stage appearances. Those that suit her voice and histrionic skills the best are the Puccini roles of Butterfly where she exhibits plenty of power in un bel di (tr.6), vocal sparkle as Magda in Chi il bel sogno di Doretta from La Rondine (tr.8) and dramatic potential as Tosca in a well sung Vissi d’arte (tr.4). It’s a pity we could not hear her Mimi too. There is plenty of free space on this debut disc.
Roles I hope Liping Zhang would not attempt in the near future are the eponymous Norma (tr. 2) and Leonora in Verdi’s Il Trovatore (tr.3). Neither, although pleasant on the ear, is convincing as dramatic and involved vocal portrayals. She is no Caballé yet! Likewise, as Verdi’s Medora in Il Corsar, she lacks true low note purity and projection (tr.5). Her vocal lightness and coloratura flexibility are heard to better advantage in the Mad Scene from Donizetti’s Lucia (tr.7), although her descending coloratura is a little laboured to my ear, in Violetta’s act one finale from La Traviata (tr.8) and particularly in the less well known bolero from I vespri Siciliani (tr.1)
As well as Canning’s biographical details, the booklet includes a contextual introduction to each extract as well the words, both being given in English, French and German; well done EMI. The recorded acoustic is rather reverberant.
Robert J Farr


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