Fiamma del Belcanto
Diana Damrau (soprano)
Nicole Brandolino (mezzo), Piotr Beczala (tenor), Nicolas Testé (bass)
Orchestra Teatro Regio Torino/Gianandrea Noseda
rec. 2014, Main Hall, Teatro Regio di Torino, Italy
Full sung texts and English translations
ERATO 2564 616674 [78.50]
Erato is certainly serving the world of opera marvellously well. Only a few months ago American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato had an album titled Stella di Napoli (Star of Naples), a collection of rare Neapolitan Bel Canto Opera Arias. Now Erato has released this new collection Fiamma del Belcanto (Flame of Belcanto) from the Bavarian opera singer Diana Damrau. It’s Damrau’s first album to be entirely devoted to Italian repertoire. It takes the golden age of Bel Canto from Donizetti and Bellini as a starting point and continues through to the progressive Verismo movement of Puccini and Leoncavallo.

Damrau’s release consists of scenes and arias from roles some of which she hasn’t sung on stage. In three of the works there is a part for a second singer; variously Nicole Brandolino (mezzo), Piotr Beczala (tenor) and Damrau’s husband Nicolas Testé (bass). Nine operas are featured from the pens of five composers Donizetti (Rosmonda d’Inghilterra and Maria Stuarda), Bellini (I puritani and La sonnambula), Verdi (I masnadieri, La traviata and Luisa Miller), Puccini (La Bohème) and Leoncavallo (Pagliacci). Six of the operas are standard repertoire while others are on the fringes: Rosmonda d’Inghilterra, I masnadieri and Luisa Miller.

Acknowledged as a leading dramatic coloratura of her generation it is not surprising that Damrau has included here three of her signature roles namely Elvira in I puritani, Amina in La sonnambula and Violetta in La Traviata.

Damrau is one of the finest sopranos around today displaying a range of excellence from a truly caressing pianissimo to her most dramatic outpouring of emotion. In the coloratura arias Damrau is secure with an attractive, well focused tone. I especially enjoyed the extract from Donizetti’s Rosmonda d’Inghilterra to a text by Felice Romani; it was premièred in 1834. Damrau as Rosmonda Clifford fights Eleanor of Aquitaine for the love of Enrico II, King of England, her lover, who she knows as Edgardo. In the memorably melodic Torna, torna, o caro oggetto the lovesick Rosmonda feels the pain of parting. Making a poignant Rosmonda there is a freshness, a sense of vulnerability and an aching sadness in Damrau’s voice. Also exceptional is an aria from Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda a tragic opera to a libretto by Giuseppe Bardari. This was written in 1835. In the aria O nube! che lieve per l’aria Maria, reminiscing about her youth spent at the French Court, hears the approaching Royal party. Maria hopes soon to meet her love Roberto, the Earl of Leicester. This is a beautifully judged performance displaying a gloriously smooth legato in an aria that closes with the exciting martial strains of a trumpet fanfare. Verdi’s much loved La traviata from 1853 was written to a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. It’s a tragic opera about Violetta Valéry, a dying Parisian courtesan who sacrifices all for love. A particular highlight is Damrau’s engaging singing of Violetta’s celebrated aria Sempre libera where she exposes the struggles in her life with a terrifying dramatic coloratura.

From Gianandrea Noseda’s time as chief conductor at the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester I have come expect passion in his performances and a striving for excellence. Now as musical director of the Orchestra of the Teatro Regio Torino, an orchestra that knows these Italian opera scores so well, Noseda has established a strong collaboration with his players and it works perfectly.

I am pleased to report that full sung texts and English translations are provides in the booklet. Erato have surpassed themselves with excellent sonics which produce a clear and well balanced sound picture.

Michael Cookson

Full track-listing
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
Rosmonda d’Inghilterra (1837)
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 (1834)
4. O rendetemi la speme [1.37]
5. Qui la voce sua suave [2.58]
6. Vien, diletto [4.59]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
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 riposoA [3.07]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
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, è il tuo sembiante [2.04 ]
14. Lo sguardo avea degli angeli [4.43]
La traviata (1853)
15. È strano! È strano! [1.12]
16. Ah, fors’è lui [5.23]
17. Follie! follie! [1.03]
18. Sempre liberaB [3.49]
Luisa Miller (1849)
19. Il padre tuoC [3.23]
20. Tu puniscimi, o Signore [2.42]
21. Qui nulla s’attentaC [1.55]
22. A brani, a brani, o perfidoC [3.32]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
La Bohème (1895)
23. Donde lieta uscì [3.16]
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1857-1919)
Pagliacci (1892)
24. Qual fiamma avea nel guardo! [5.01]
Diana Damrau (soprano)
Orchestra Teatro Regio Torino/Gianandrea Noseda
Nicole BrandolinoA (mezzo), Piotr BeczalaB (tenor), Nicolas TestéC (bass)
ERATO 0825646166749 [78.50]

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