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Oh, Boy!
Marianne Crebassa (mezzo-soprano)
Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg/Marc Minkowski
rec. 4-8 January 2016, Große Saal, Stiftung Mozarteum Salzburg, Austria
ERATO 9029592762 [72:36]

This is Marianne Crebassa’s first recording since signing for Erato in 2016, and they have done her proud. Perhaps the attractive multi-fold case features rather more photographs of her in various poses in white shirt and black bowtie than we really need, but the splendid recorded sound and Michel Parouty’s comprehensive booklet notes more than make up for this. I just still cannot get my head around seeing an Erato release in red. Whatever next? DG in deep purple?

Crebassa is paired for this wide-ranging recital of operatic trouser-roles with Marc Minkowski and the Mozarteum Orchestra, as she was when she made her Salzburg Festival debut in 2012. There is a tangible feeling of comradeship, and the orchestral support, delicate, subtle and ever-sensitive is a particularly impressive aspect of this recording. She herself impressed at Salzburg with her Handel, but has since become more associated with Mozart, and in this programme devoted to mezzo-soprano trouser-roles, Mozart dominates. Six Mozart arias are interspersed with a surprisingly mixed bag of moments from French Grande Opéra.
Possibly the most famous of all operatic trouser-roles is Cherubino, and it is inconceivable that a disc like this should not bring us Voi che sapete. Crebassa does not disappoint in her lively, almost mischievous performance, full of spirit and with an alluring twinkle in the eye, This is a splendidly fresh and vital account of a somewhat over-exposed classic, and she brings the same level of wit, charm and effortless fluency to the other Mozart arias. I certainly have no issues with her voice – a wonderfully pure and versatile instrument - and her vocal characterisations are unfailingly compelling. It’s just that occasionally her Italian diction seems a shade unidiomatic.

Not so the French songs, where she throws herself at the roles with a wholly natural flair and a comfortableness with her native tongue which perhaps serves to emphasise the less than easy relationship with Italian. Generally, the French arias demand more from the voice; as opposed to the Mozart which exhibits more her musicality. For a mezzo-soprano, she does possess a remarkably assured top register, ascending effortlessly up to a high C in the Meyerbeer aria, while her fullness of tone across the range is vividly conveyed in a marvellous downward phrase in the Berlioz version of Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice where she also exhibits some gloriously florid runs, perfectly mirrored by the agile strings of the Salzburg orchestra..

All is not cheeky wit and sprightly humour, and in the more reflective arias Crebassa reveals yet another side to her musical personality. Poise and superb breath control are the hallmarks of her beautifully moulded performance of the aria from Ambroise Thomas’s Psyché, while she exudes pathos and real emotional intensity in the Massenet’s “Coeur sans amour”.

Marc Rochester

Previous review: Michael Cookson

Track details:
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714-1787)/Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
1. Orphée et Eurydice: Orphée: Amour, viens rendre à mon âme [5:47]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
2. Lucio Silla: Cecilio: Pupille amate [4:15]
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)
3. Les Huguenots: Urbain: Nobles Seigneurs, salut! [4:04]
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)
4. Les Contes D’Hoffmann: Nicklausse: Vois sous l’archet frémissant [3:56]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
5. Lucio Silla: Cecilio: Il tenero momento [10:19]
6. Le Nozze di Figaro: Cherubino: Voi che sapete [2:42]
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)
7. Psyché: Eros: Non, ne la suivons pas... Sommeil ami des adieux (Romance du sommeil) [4:22]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
8. Roméo et Juliette: Stephano: Depuis hier… je te cherche en vain [4:04]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
9. Cendrillon: Le Prince Charmant: Allez, laissez moi...Coeur sans amour [4:30]
10. Fantasio: Fantasio: Voyez dans la nuit brune (Ballade à la lune) [4:16]
Charles GOUNOD
11. Faust: Siébel: Versez vos chagrins dans mon âme [3:17]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
12. La finta Giardiniera: Ramiro: Va pure ad altri in braccio [3:22]
Emmanuel CHABRIER (1841-1894)
13. L'Etoile: Lazuli : O petite étoile! (Romance de l'Etoile) [4:01]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
14. Le Nozze di Figaro: Cherubino: Non so più [2:51]
Reynaldo HAHN (1874-1947)
15. Mozart: Alors, adieu donc, mon amour, le destin nous sépare [4:22]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
16. La Clemenza di Tito: Sesto: Parto, parto [6:25]



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