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CD: Crotchet
Download: Classicsonline

Patrizia Ciofi - Live
Tommaso TRAETTA (1727-1779)
Ippolito e Aricia (1758/59): Prendi amor [13.40]
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)
Robert le Diable (1831): Que je hais la grandeur [2.45] En vain j'espere [8.25] Robert, toi que j'aime [7.18]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Otello (1816): Che smania? Ahimè! Che affanno [6.07] L'error d'un infelice [3.33] Assisa a piè d'un salice [8.27] Deh! calma, o ciel, nel sonno [2.40]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
Pia De'Tolomei (1837): A questo nappo [7.17] Sposo, ah tronca [3.58] Ah, di Pia che muore [4.48]
La Fille du Regiment (1840): Il faut partir [7.03] Par le rang et par l'opulence  [6.28]
Salut à la France  [3.52]
Il crociato in Egitto (1824): O solinghi recessi [2.23] Tutto qui parla ognor [3.53] Ma ciel s'ei mai perì [2.16] D'una madre disperata [2.20] Deh! mira l'angelo [4.36] Con qual giola le catene [1.59]
Niccolo PICCINI (1728-1800)
L'Americano (1772): Sempre in quei cari occhietto [4.30] Ah bellina mi piacete [7.08]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Cherubin (1903): Qui parle dans la nuit [7.49]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813 1901)
La Traviata (1853): E' strano [1.26] Ah, fors'è lui [8.46] Sempre libera degg'io [2.10]
Patrizia Ciofi (soprano)
see end of review for other performance details
rec. 1996-2007
DYNAMIC CDS 603/1-2 [69.08 + 68.41]
Experience Classicsonline

Patrizia Ciofi first came to my attention singing in period performances in the UK. But the extent of her versatility became evident with the coverage of her singing of the title role in La Traviata at the re-opening of La Fenice in Venice in 2004. She has also, in recent years, been associated with Opera Rara and recorded roles for them. Reading her biography and listening to this pair of CDs, it become apparent that Ciofi has nurtured a wide range of roles from early on.

This selection of extracts from live recordings substantially documents her long association with the Festival of Valle dItria di Martina Franca. The festival is well known for unearthing operatic rarities and on these discs we are treated to quite a variety. To these Martina Franca recordings are added other roles which Ciofi has undertaken in Italy, finishing with an extract from the 2004 La Traviata. The result gives us an attractive sampling from operas, most of which are more or less rarities.

Ciofi has an attractive lyric voice with a high extension which enables her to sing the more elaborate coloratura roles. That she has an enviable facility with fancy passagework is demonstrated repeatedly on these discs, and her acuti are often beautifully floated. But how you react to her voice will depend on how you view vibrato, because Ciofi's significant vibrato becomes rather a factor in a number of the recordings.

If you listen to her singing the two arias from Piccini's L'Americano (recorded in 1996) you hear her voice under admirable control with the vibrato perfectly placed. It seems to have developed over the years, but there is also the issue of different recordings capturing it differently. Undoubtedly the Martina Franca excerpts are rather variable in the way they highlight the vibrato, in some it is perfectly acceptable and others it is intrusive.

My emphasis on vibrato might be seen as unfair, but in some of the roles on this disc Ciofi's voice has a slow vibrato whose compass is a semi-tone or more, so that it is closer to a trill. This is surely unsatisfactory in fast passage-work. That her voice is essentially lyric is emphasised by the Massenet excerpts where her voice seems to be entirely suitably built for Massenets lovely lines. In the excerpts from Rossini's Otello her singing of the Willow Song brings out the touching beauty of the piece.

That said, her general control in the more elaborate pieces is impressive and she comes over as a highly communicative singer. Perhaps she is not as vivid as Caballé or Callas, but she is well able to go far beyond simply singing the notes. In the Meyerbeer excerpts, the aria Par le rang et par lopulence shows how she can shape a line and helps to explain exactly why she is so popular.

And some of the demands in these arias are fearsome. The aria from Traetta's Ippolito e Aricia has a fearsome tessitura which seems to give Ciofi very little pause. She is similarly at ease in the more elaborate arias.

The presentation of the discs does not do the singer complete justice. There is an informative article in the CD booklet which describes Ciofi's career and her association with Martina Franca. There are also some handsome pictures of Ciofi in a number of the roles. But there are no texts and no synopses, so that in the rarer items we have no idea what is going on. Pieces such as Rossini's Otello, Donizetti's Pia di Tolomei or La Fille du Régiment are becoming more familiar. But Traetta's Ippolito e Aricia and Piccini's L'Americana are real rarities and some help is required in working out what is being sung. The booklet also fails to identify the other singers who join with Ciofi on some of the tracks.

The standard of orchestral contribution is variable; some of the earlier Martina Franca recordings have moments of questionable orchestral ensemble. None of these recordings would be a candidate for the library, but at best they have a vividness which comes from being live. They also have the drawbacks, notably some rather over-enthusiastic audiences with some pretty precipitate applause.

Robert Hugill
Performance details
Orchestra Internazionale d'Italia/David Golub
rec. Festival della Valle dItria, Martina Franca (1999)
Orchestra Internazionale d'Italia/Renato Palumbo
rec. Festival della Valle dItria, Martina Franca (2000)
Orchestra Internazionale d'Italia/Paolo Arrivabeni
rec. Festival della Valle dItria, Martina Franca (2000)
Orchestra Internazionale d'Italia/Eric Hull
rec. Festival della Valle dItria, Martina Franca (1996)
Donizetti (DeTomomei)
Orchestra of Teatro La Fenice/Paolo Arrivabeni
rec. Teatro La Fenice, Venice (2005)
Donizetti (Egitto)
Orchestra of Teatro La Fenice/Emmanuel Villaume
rec. Teatro La Fenice, Venice (2007)
Donizetti (La Fille)
Orchestra of Teatro Carlo Felice/Riccardo Frizza
rec. Teatro Carlo Felice (2005)
Orchestra of Teatro Lirico, Cagliari/Emmanuel Villaume
rec. Teatro Lirico, Cagliari (2006)
Orchestra of Teatro La Fenice/Lorin Maazel
rec. Teatro La Fenice, Venice (2004)

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