Fiamma del Belcanto
Diana Damrau (soprano)
Nicole Brandolino (mezzo) (Maria Stuarda), Piotr Beczala (tenor) (La traviata), Nicolas Testé (bass) (Luisa Miller)
Orchestra Teatro Regio Torino/Gianandrea Noseda
rec. Main Hall, Teatro Regio Torino, 2014
Sung texts with English, French and German translations enclosed
ERATO 2564 616674 [78:50]
It was in February 2008 that I reviewed Diana Damrau’s first solo CD, ‘Arie di bravura’ which was my Recording of the Month. A year later she issued a Mozart disc, ‘Donna’ which also was given a very positive reception, but I noted some, what I called, ‘wear and tear’ on her beautiful voice (review). Two years ago I was again overwhelmed by her ‘Forever’ programme, with operetta, Broadway musical and some film songs and then her voice seemed in perfect order (review).

On the present album, recorded less than a year ago, there has crept in a slightly annoying vibrato that I hadn’t noticed before. It may be a result of her gradually taking on somewhat heavier roles; it may have been a temporary inhibition during that second September week in Torino. Otherwise her hallmarks are there as before: the beautiful tone, her brilliance up high, her often magical pianissimo singing and her fluent coloratura. What is also apparent is her unwillingness or inability to distinguish the various characters from each other – it is basically the same individual who is singing. Admittedly the recital format is difficult; it is much easier to create a specific character in the context of a performance of the complete work, whether under live conditions or in a studio recording. In the Bellini excerpts this doesn’t matter much: Elvira and Amina are more or less the same kind of person, even though La sonnambula has a happy end — and Ah! Non giunge is certainly joyous. Both scenes are also expertly sung and there is great warmth in Qui la voce. The Donizetti heroines are also more or less interchangeable, and it is well-known that the aria from Rosmonda d’Inghilterra in the 19th century was substituted for Regnava nel silenzio in Lucia di Lammermoor. I have to say, though, that Maria Stuarda is a lot more than a two-dimensional cardboard character – one of the most individual portraits in any bel canto opera. Even though Damrau doesn’t colour her voice differently she invests the role with tangible intensity and power in this key-scene, when the two queens are about to meet. Nicole Brandolino is a good dark-tinted Anna.

Amalia in I masnadieri, a role written for Jenny Lind, is also a nondescript character – the opera as such is not ranked among Verdi’s best, not even among the operas from his galley-years. However the aria is a good one even so and Damrau delivers wonderful assured singing. Noseda is also careful with the orchestral sonorities, not least the woodwind writing at the opening of the recitative. Overall he draws excellent playing from his Torino forces.

Damrau is at her very best in the big scene that concludes the first act of La traviata. Here she covers all Violetta's changes of emotions, but those emotions are not allowed to take over so much as to distort the musical line. Piotr Beczala’s Alfredo is ardent but his tone is uncharacteristically strident. Anyway this is an inviting taster for the complete La traviata with Diana Damrau, scheduled for release in autumn 2015.

In the dramatic scene from Luisa Miller she is partnered by her husband, bass-baritone Nicolas Testé as a nasty Wurm. The involvement in Luisa’s fate is just as strong as her Violetta.

We come finally to her forays into verismo repertoire. Here I would have expected her to sing Musetta, but instead we get a warm and inward D’onde lieta usci – Mimi’s aria from the third act of La bohème. The voice is still Musetta’s but the character is Mimi. There may have been more glittering readings of Stridono lassù from Pagliacci and also some more heft but by and large it is a worthy contribution.

Though not quite in the class of her singing on her debut album and “Forever” this is still an issue with many merits and Diana Damrau’s many admirers shouldn’t hesitate.

Göran Forsling

Previous review: Michael Cookson

Track listing
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797 – 1848)
Rosmonda d’Inghilterra (1834):
1. Ancor non giunse [2:39]
2. Perché non ho del vento [2:50]
3. Torna, torna, o caro oggetto [3:19]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801 – 1835)
I puritani (1835):
4. O rendetemi la speme [1:37]
5. Qui la voce sua soave [2:58]
6. Vien, diletto [4:59]
Maria Stuarda (1835):
7. Allenta il piè, Regina [3:28]
8. O nube! Che lieve per l’aria [4:07]
9. Nella pace del mesto riposo [3:07]
Vincenzo BELLINI
La sonnambula (1831):
10. Oh! Se una volta sola [5:13]
11. Ah! Non credea mirarti [4:06]
12. Ah! Non giunge uman pensiero [3:20]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813 – 1901)
I masnadieri (1847):
13. Venerabile, o padre [2:04]
14. Lo sguardo avea degli angeli [3:43]
La traviata (1853):
15. È strano! ... È strano [1:12]
16. Ah, fors’è lui [5:21]
17. Follie! Follie! [1:03]
18. Sempre libera [3:49]
Luisa Miller (1849):
19. Il padre tuo [3:23]
20. Tu puniscimi, o Signore [2:42]
21. Qui nulla s’attenta [1:55]
22. A brani, a brani, o perfido [3:32]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 – 1924]
La bohème (1896):
23. D’onde lieta uncì [3:16]
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1857 – 1919)
Pagliacci (1892):
24. Qual fiamma avea nel guardo! [5:01]
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