Il Bel Sogno - Opera Arias
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Chi il bel sogno di Doretta - La rondine [3:18]
Si, Mi chiamano Mimi… - La bohème [4:51]
Donde lieta - La bohème [3:17]
O mio babbino caro - Gianni Schicchi [2:37]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Trahir Vincent - Mireille [5:44]
Voici la vaste plaine - Mireille [8:10]
Le Roi de Thule, (Air des bijoux) - Faust [11:15]
Il ne revient pas - Faust [5:40]
Jules MASSENET (1842–1912)
Allons! Il le faut... Adieu, notre petite table - Manon [4:39]
Dis-moi que je suis belle…(Air de mirror) - Thaïs
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Addio del passato - La traviata [7:46]
È strano… Ah, fors'è lui… Follie! follie!… Sempre libera - La
Inva Mula (soprano); Agim Hushi (tenor – tr. 12)
Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra/Ivo Lipanoviç
rec. 4-7 March, 16-18 April 2009, Lesinski Hall, Zagreb, Croatia.
VIRGIN CLASSICS 6 94538 0 [76:56]
Lyric-coloratura soprano Inva Mula has released an alluring
recital of French and Italian arias for the Virgin Classics
label. ‘Courtesan’ might be a more appropriate title
for the disc as by my reckoning four of the heroine roles operate
in that profession.
Mula demonstrates her splendid credentials as one of the finest
‘French’ sopranos of today performing two arias from Gounod’s
Mireille alongside well-known extracts from his Faust,
and Massenet’s Thaïs and Manon. The Italian repertoire
is represented by standard arias of the repertoire from Verdi’s
La traviata to Puccini’s La bohème, La rondine
and Gianni Schicchi.
The Albanian-born Mula has been given the accolade of opening
the 2009-10 season at the Paris Opera in the title role of Gounod’s
rarely heard five act Mireille. I suspect that there
are many readers who have not heard of this soprano so some
biographical details are in order. In 1987 she won the Cantante
d'Albania competition in Tirana and the next year was successful
in the internationally renowned George Enescu Competition in
Bucharest. Mula was victorious in the 1992 Barcelona Butterfly
competition and in 1993 a prize-winner at the first Plácido
Domingo Operalia competition in Paris. It seems that prior to
the mid-1990s the soprano was using the name Inva Mulla Tchako.
In France, Mula has appeared in Bizet's Carmen and also
in his rarely staged La Jolie fille de Perth and Ivan
IV. Other roles include Bellini's I puritani, Puccini's
Turandot, Berlioz's Béatrice et Bénédict, Lalo's
Le Roi d'Ys, Gounod's Faust and Cherubini's
Médée. In Italy Mula regularly worked in collaboration
with maestro Riccardo Muti, most notably at La Scala, Milan.
Her Italian roles have included Verdi’s La traviata, Falstaff
and Rigoletto, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor,
Don Pasquale and L'elisir d'amore, Puccini’s La
bohème and Gianni Schicchi. For the Vienna State
Opera, Mula has starred in Verdi’s La traviata and Offenbach’s
Les contes d'Hoffmann with appearances in Germany, USA,
England, Japan, Spain and Canada.
Puccini’s wistful aria Chi il bel sogno di Doretta from
La rondine opens the release. Mula is imperious, confidently
characterising Magda, the sophisticated yet tragic Parisian
heroine. A favourite opera of mine La rondine deserves
to be a staple of the repertoire. Declaring her love of springtime
the soprano gives a convincing portrait of the heroine Mimi
the frail Parisian seamstress in the set-piece aria Si, Mi
chiamano Mimi from Puccini’s La bohème.
From the same opera as a shivering Mimi in the aria Donde
lieta uscì Mula displays that she can build a climax equal
to the finest star sopranos. Puccini’s one act Gianni Shicchi
is celebrated for the show-piece O mio babbino caro.
Mula’s attractive and demure depiction of Lauretta the heroine
in love with Rinuccio is quite delicious.
As the Provençal farm girl Mireille, Mula sings two arias from
Mireille. In the air Trahir Vincent I was
struck by her formidable attack in the closing bars. The
splendid aria Voici la vaste plaine is set in the fiery
and arid Crau desert. Here Mireille sees a mirage of a magnificent
city close to a great lake. It is hard not to be impressed by
Mula’s clear, incisive and expressive tones. As Marguerite in
Gounod’s Faust, Mula is secure and expressive in her
eleven-minute solo scene in Act 3 that commences with Je
voudrais bien savoir…then Il était un Roi de Thulé…and
Un bouquet!…O Dieu! que de bijoux! Mula’s appealing performance
in the conclusion of the scene, the show-stopping mirror aria
known as the ‘Jewel Song’ Ah! je ris de me voir is a
true highlight of the disc. In Marguerite’s aria Il ne revient
pas I love the way Mula soars to the high notes with such
In Massenet’s Manon I was impressed by the soprano’s
cherishable characterisation of the young heroine Manon Lescaut
in the aria Allons! Il le faut... Adieu, notre petite table.
Thaïs, a courtesan in Ancient Egypt is the title role of Massenet’s
opera of the same name. Ah! Je suis seule... Dis-moi que
je suis belle is another mirror aria that the confident
Mula conveys with considerable depth of feeling.
Arias from the Italian master Giuseppe Verdi close the disc.
From the Verdi masterwork La traviata the heroine is
Parisian courtesan Violetta Valéry who is suffering from tuberculosis.
From Act 3 in Addio del passato where Violetta is bidding
farewell to life, Mula with splendid expression provides all
the necessary pathos the role demands. Violetta’s celebrated
Act 1 arias È strano… Ah, fors'è lui… Follie! follie!… Sempre
libera are suitably affecting with Mula demonstrating appropriate
flexibility and a natural feel for pacing.
One cannot fail to be impressed by the spirited and persuasive
playing from the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra under Ivo Lipanoviç.
Recorded in Zagreb at the Lesinski Hall I found the sound quality
to be pleasing, reasonably warm with a good balance. The well-written
notes in the booklet would have benefited from more detail.
On the advertising blurb for the release I have seen references
to a digital bonus track of Verdi’s aria Caro nome from
Rigoletto. I couldn’t make any real sense of it and never
found the track. This is probably another tiresome ploy to get
the listener to visit the label’s website.
These are magnificent performances both spirited and radiant
from Inva Mula a soprano who can compare with some of the finest
names in the recording world. She has a rather distinctive voice
and is undoubtedly comfortable with high tessitura roles where
she can soar upwards and float effortlessly like a seabird in
thermal. Few can rival the creamy timbre and tone colours of
the divas Fleming, Gheorghiu and Netrebko but Mula is blessed
with superb poise and wonderful assurance together with a remarkable
gift to emotionally affect the listener. Pleasurable from start
to finish this Virgin Classics disc is one for opera lovers