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A Journey
Pretty Yende (soprano)
Kate Aldrich (mezzo-soprano) (2, 6), Gianluca Buratto (bass) (7), Nicola Alaimo (baritone) (7)
Coro del Teatro Municipale di Piacenza (3, 4)
Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI/Marco Armiliato
rec. August/September 2015, Auditorium RAI “Arturo Toscanini”, Turin
Sung texts with translations in Italian, French, English and German
SONY 88985 321692 [69:11]

“A Journey” is the title of this debut disc, and the liner notes describe the amazing journey Pretty Yende made, from the moment when she, at age sixteen, heard a snippet of the “Flower Duet” from Lakmé on a television advert to a sensational debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. A South African girl who didn’t even know what opera was travels all the way to the Parnassus of opera within a few years. It’s no wonder she wanted to include that particular duet on this disc as a confirmation that this was where it all began and that her sudden dream to become an opera singer was not just a whim out of the blue. With the experienced Kate Aldrich as Mallika they give us an atmospheric reading, their voices blend well and they sing the final phrases off-stage as envisaged by the composer.

Before that she has introduced herself to the record-buying public in an amazing version of Rosina’s big aria from Il barbiere di Siviglia. The voice is beautiful, well-schooled and flexible and her coloratura technique is impeccable, but I wrote ‘version’ since she runs rather wild in her application of embellishments. That was my first reaction. On second thoughts I changed my mind and saw this as a manifestation of her personality. Rossini wouldn’t have minded some innovative deviation from what he had written. Maybe though there is a little too much rubato for my taste, but better that than a too rigid approach.

When we reach the third number of this recital, the long aria with chorus from Beatrice di Tenda, it is obvious that this debut album is not the predictable collection of standard arias but a fresh attitude with fairly unusual choices. Neither Beatrice nor Le Comte Ory are that commonly encountered on recitals and the choice from Roméo et Juliette is not the carefree waltz but the dramatic and gloomy aria sung before she drinks the potion that makes her apparently dead. It is also nice to get complete scenes rather than just the arias proper. Both the Lucia and Puritani excerpts gain from being performed complete with excellent contributions from other soloists as well. What is a common feature is Pretty Yende’s brilliant and effortless top notes and the warmth of her voice. Kate Aldrich is very good as Alisa in the Lucia scene and in the mad scene from I puritani Gianluca Buratto and Nicola Alaimo assist well. That scene begins offstage as it should, which conveys a feeling of sitting in the opera house. It is also valuable to have a chorus-the splendid Coro del Teatro Municipale di Piacenza-in the Beatrice and Comte Ory excerpts. Marco Armiliato, a true singers’ conductor, leads the proceedings admirably.

Pretty Yende is well into the various role characters, having sung most of them in staged performances. This disc is a superb calling card for an artist who seems predestined to become one of the greats of her trade.

Göran Forsling

Disc contents

Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Il barbiere di Siviglia: Una voce poco fa [6:08]
Léo DELIBES (1836-1891)
Lakmé: Viens, Mallika ... Sous de dôme épais (Flower Duet) [6:13]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
Beatrice di Tenda: 3. Respiro io qui ... Ma la sola, ohimè! Son io ... Ah, la pena in lor piombò [12:36]
Gioacchino ROSSINI
Le Comte Ory: En proie à la tristesse ... Vous que l’on dit sensible ... Céleste providence [9:46]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Roméo et Juliette: Dieu, quell frisson court dans mes veines! … Amour, ranime mon courage [5:58]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
Lucia di Lammermoor: Ancor non giunse! ... Regnava nel silenzio ... Quando rapito in estasi [12:59]
Vincenzo BELLINI
I puritani: O rendetemi la speme ... Qui la voce sua soave... Vien, diletto, è in ciel la luna! (Mad Scene) [15:23]

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