Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 - 1791)

The Mozart Album – Daniele de Niesse

1. Sacred Arias

Exultate, jubilate, K165
Exultate [4.37]
Fulgit amica dies [6.26]
Alleluja [2.44]

Vesperae Solennes de Confessore, K339
Laudate Dominum [4.31]
2. Concert Arias
Bella mia fiamma, addio ... Resta, oh cara, K528 [9.48]
O temerario Arbace ... Per quel paterno amplesso, K79/73d [6.51]
3. Opera Arias
The Marriage of Figaro, Alternative Aria in Act 4. K577
Giunse alfin il momento - Al desio di chi t'adora K492/577 [7.41]

Così fan tutte, K588
Una donna a quindici anni [3.43]

Idomeneo, K366
Quando avran fine omai ... Padre, germani, addio! [8.21]
Don Giovanni K527
Ah Fuggi il traditor [1.15]

Il re pastore, K208
L'amerò, sarò costante [6.34]

4. Duet

Don Giovanni

La ci darem la mano (with Bryn Terfel) [3.21]
Daniele de Niesse (soprano)
Apollo Voices; Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Sir Charles Mackerras
rec. Abbey Road Studios, London, 24-30 November 2008 and April 1 2009
DECCA 478 1511 DH [65.50]

Daniele de Niesse was born in 1980 to English-peaking Sri Lankan parents who had earlier emigrated to Australia. Aged ten, and already showing vocal prowess, Danielle was taken by her parents to America where she was cast in children’s roles by the Los Angeles Opera. She entered Mannes Music College and as a freshman was cast as Susanna no less in a prestigious college production. It was bigger opportunity than she realised as it led directly to her being cast as Barbarina in the Metropolitan’s Marriage of Figaro directed by Jonathan Miller with Levine on the rostrum. She was nineteen years old and joined a cast that included Bartoli as Susanna and Terfel in the eponymous role. Not distracted, Danielle returned to her studies that included time in Europe learning German and French to add to her competent Italian. Her German lessons in Vienna were cut short after being cast in the film Hannibal.
At college she auditioned for the casting director of Netherlands Opera. She was put in the alternate cast of the 2001 production of Giulio Cesare. This set her on an ever upward path in the operatic world, albeit as much for her stunning acting and looks as her rapidly developing vocal prowess. She debuted at the Paris Opera as Handel’s Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare, a role that she stepped into at Glyndebourne after a late withdrawal, with massive success. As well as featuring on the front cover of Opera Magazine’s Festivals 2006 she returned for that year’s revival at Glyndebourne, in a substantially revised cast, and whilst something of a sex kitten hit for some, others found her voice a little small and more suited to the soubrette fach. She returned the following year for an acclaimed Poppea (Decca DVD 074 3339). She has now become a regular visitor at the annual Festival and may become even more attached at that venue according to the rumour mill.
By all reports de Niesse’s voice has grown since the early Cleopatra and certainly her CD of Handel Arias, conducted by William Christie, indicated a considerable artist (Decca 475 8746 DH). In this collection she makes a further career marker with a very varied selection of pieces by Mozart - that most demanding of composers for the female voice in particular and where the music was often originally composed with the qualities and skills of particular singers in mind. For such a recording de Niesse could not have a better partner on the rostrum than Sir Charles Mackerras. Here he conducts a period band, with its lower pitching helping him and the singer cope with the ornaments of which his knowledge is unequalled.
The opening sacred aria Exultate, jubilate (trs.1-3) has very varied demands in its three sections and whilst showing the strengths of the singer’s expressive skills, good articulation and accurate intonation, cannot disguise something of a work in progress in the coloratura and declamatory passages. The important matter in this collection is the promise and realisation elsewhere. Notably, this is heard in Mozart’s early L'amerò, sarò costante (tr.8) from Il re pastore with its gentle melody underpinning the vocal line. There are plenty of ornaments with the soprano also glorying in a concluding trill. A little more vocal expressiveness would have been perfection. From the composer’s later Così fan tutte the soprano chooses a role she has sung on stage and gives a wholly delightful and characterful rendition of Despina’s Una donna a quindici anni (tr.6). Also from Mozart’s Da Ponte trilogy, and perhaps influenced by Cecilia Bartoli in those Met performances when she was a student, de Niesse chooses the alternative act four aria Giunse alfin il momento, - Al desio di chi t'adora from Figaro I (tr.5). This was written for a revival of the opera in Vienna in 1789 with Mozart’s first Fiordiligi singing the role of Susanna. After the recitative, which it shares with the original Deh vieni non tardar, the vocal demands are significantly different and more wide-ranging than those in the original. At this stage in her career, and in this collection I would prefer to have heard the original. With its delicate and expressive vocal line, and particularly with the ornaments that Mackerras normally encourages and which Nuccia Focile sings so delightfully on his complete recording on the Telarc label (see review of highlights), de Niesse would have done it more than justice and made it a highlight of this collection.
There are in this collection plenty of markers for de Niesse’s future as well as vocal challenges. I am relieved she only sings Elvira’s brief Ah Fuggi il traditor from Don Giovanni and which puts sufficient weight on her voice. Likewise I was worried about the challenges of the concert aria Bella mia fiamma, addio (tr.4) that Mozart composed for the wife of his host whilst he was in Prague for the staging of Don Giovanni. As the informative, but difficult to read, sleeve note by Brian Dickie states, it is one of the most difficult arias, “filled with bold harmonies, sequenced augmented fourths” (the so-called Devil’s interval). It seems de Niesse is fond of the piece having included it in her Met Young Artists graduation. Fair enough, she makes a good shot at it. I merely hope that she is not one of those promising singers who demands too much of her instrument too early. She is a delightful singer and a natural stage presence. Her current fach, as it sounds on this recording, is in the lighter repertoire as Despina and Zerlina with Ilia in Idomeneo to come (tr.7). De Niese’s lighter voice is also evident to excellent effect in her singing in Zerlina’s duet with the licentious Don Giovanni whose seductive tones are those of Bryn Terfel, the Don of the past decade (tr.11). At this stage of her career, which will all too soon pass, I would have liked her to have included Zerlina’s Vedrai, carina and batti, batti o bel Masetto where I am sure she would have invested the phrases with real meaning and pathos. As it is the disc concludes with a well-sung Laudate Dominum (tr.12).
This CD will join my Mozart collection alongside the very different voices of Margaret Price (see review), Lucia Popp and Cecilia Bartoli. It will give me great pleasure in the future as de Niesse’s career unfolds. The only major frustration is in the matter of the sleeve-notes and included libretto. It’s displays contemporary vogue of style over function and is barely readable at times with offset printing of pale black on patterned grey and likewise white on red. A pity as Brian Dickie’s notes in particular, in three languages, and the singer’s personal thanks, are well worth reading. Preferable without eye-strain! Also why only give the K (Köchel) numbers for the Sacred and Concert arias? In the old days Decca would have done the job properly as can be seen on Bartoli’s Mozart disc 430-513-2.
Robert J Farr
An interesting and enjoyable collection from a young singer on the crest of a wave. ... see Full Review