When I reviewed
Danielle de Niese’s previous recital (with Handel arias)
a little more than 1½ year ago I was enchanted by the
freshness and the commitment of the singing. I finished the
a plea for more - why not a Mozart disc, and here it is. And
just as Decca had paired her with one of the greatest baroque
William Christie, for the Handel album, so they have chosen a
real authority in Mozart here, Sir Charles Mackerras. At his
he has the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and their crisp
playing and the stylish conducting by Sir Charles are true
from beginning to end. Tempos are well chosen, and by that I
mean that they feel natural - no eccentricities here. The programme
consists not only of the usual standard arias, even though the
beginning and end are often heard music from Mozart’s
sacred repertoire, and Despina’s aria from Così,
two excerpts from Don Giovanni
and possibly also the
beautiful aria from Il re pastore
are well known.
But there are several comparative rarities as well.
Readers who remember my review of the Handel disc may recall that I had some
reservations. This concerned arias from Ariodante
which both are dramatic and require a voice with more heft than Ms de Niese could
muster. Her tone then became strained and the vibrato widened to a degree that
felt alarming with so young a singer. I also felt some lapses in intonation,
but that might just as well be my own fault. In the present recital both these
problems are more prominent - but not everywhere and there is a lot to admire. Exultate,
displays her safe technique - it is very much a show piece, in spite
of its sacred context - and in the middle movement she sings beautifully enough.
I miss, however, the angelic purity of Emma Kirkby or, even more, Mattiwilda
Dobbs on a 50+-year-old Concert Hall LP, which was my introduction to this work.
It is a good reading but even here Danielle de Niese’s vibrato sounds a
bit too wide for Mozart; it rather belongs in 19th
The concert aria Resta, o cara
, is as taxing as anything Mozart ever wrote for the female voice, and it certainly stretches de Niese to the limits of her resources. Composed in Prague, while Mozart was there for the premiere of Don Giovanni
, for the celebrated Josefa Dusek, it would have been better suited to a dramatic soprano. One day, I am sure, she will cope more effortlessly with the tessitura and the dramatic requirements - the intensity and the expressivity are already at hand. She is much more at home in Susanna’s aria Al desio di chi t’adora
. Using the same recitative as for the original Deh, vieni, non tardar
, this was composed for a revival of Le nozze di Figaro
in 1789, and it is very different from the lovely and warm original. It’s more florid and dark-toned and though it has its merits I prefer the Deh, vieni
As Despina she is definitely in her element. A year ago I reviewed
a DVD box with the three Da Ponte operas in live performances
from Amsterdam. I had mixed feelings about some of the productions
but Danielle de Niese was superb as Susanna and Despina, vocally
and visually, and something of this visuality is conveyed here
even without the pictures. The vibrato is also practically gone.
aria is dramatic and powerful, but here she is more successful than in Resta, oh cara
. There is rather too little tonal variety but her deep involvement is never in doubt. I wouldn’t have thought a Zerlina voice like Danielle de Niese’s could be suitable for Donna Elvira, but her singing of the short Ah! fuggi
with tremendous ardour indicates that she might be an Elvira in the making.
The early aria Per quell paterno
is rather elegantly sung but the beautiful L’amerò
from Il re pastore
is uneven in tone quality and the intonation falters a couple of times. Bryn Terfel’s presence as a superbly nuanced Don Giovanni seems to inspire de Niese to some of her most accomplished singing on this disc in the duet La ci darem la mano,
and the concluding Laudate Dominum
with chorus is beautiful but slightly unsteady.
Maybe my expectations were too high after the previous disc and the DVD operas, but I felt slightly disappointed. Make no mistake, though: Danielle de Niese is one of the most thrilling new singers and her readings are always full of life end zest, and her Despina and Donna Elvira, as well as her Zerlina with Bryn Terfel are truly admirable.
I have been working with promotional material and thus haven’t seen the finished issue, but I hope sung texts and translations will be included. Interestingly, though, when I watched the promotional DVD with some footage from the recording sessions, I was less aware of the vibrato. Either I had adjusted to it or my computer headphones, which are less than state-of-the-art, may not reproduce the voice as mercilessly as my ordinary equipment.