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Edita Gruberová (soprano)
Regensburger Domspatzen
Münchner Rundfunkorchester/Leopold Hager, Mark Elder, Lamberto Gardelli, Pinchas Steinberg, Marcello Viotti
rec. live, 1983-2000 Munich & Lindau, Bavaria
No texts
From the Great Singers Live series
BR KLASSIK 900325 [74.48]

Slovak soprano Edita Gruberová (b. 1946) made her stage debut in 1968 as Rosina in Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia at the National Theatre, Bratislava, when aged only twenty-one. This album, part of the successful ‘Great Singers Live’ series on BR Klassik, has been released to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the evening of Gruberová’s debut, which was made at Slovak National Theater in Bratislava, her home city. Gruberová has been celebrated worldwide for half a century for her secure and expressive vocal technique, especially in bel canto repertoire. It’s for good reason that she has been given laudatory descriptions such as ‘the Queen of coloratura’, ‘the Slovak Nightingale’ and ‘Prima Donna Assoluta’ of dramatic coloratura singing. Now seventy-one, Gruberová is still singing major roles on the international stage and I noticed that a few months ago she was singing the title role in Christof Loy’s staging of Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia at Bayerische Staatsoper and is also to sing the title role in Máté Szabó’s Lucia di Lammermoor at Budapest next year.

Here we have previously unreleased recordings of Gruberová performing six opera arias and three sacred works from live Bayerischer Rundfunk (Bavarian Broadcasting) concerts held between October 1983 and June 2000 at Munich and Lindau, Bavaria. Affiliated with Bayerischer Rundfunk, the Münchner Rundfunkorchester traditionally concentrates on light music including film music, operetta, and opera collections, but not exclusively so, and became known for performing a series of Sunday Concerts from which some of these Gruberová arias are taken. This Gruberová collection contains examples of her classical and romantic bel canto roles together with an aria each from Handel and Johann Strauss II. Gruberová played her hundredth Vienna Zerbinetta in Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos in 2009, a signature role she has sung over two hundred times internationally. It’s disappointing that there are no Richard Strauss arias contained here, Zerbinetta in particular.

One signature role that is represented here is Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, a title role she has sung at Staastsoper, Vienna on around ninety occasions. Gruberová’s rendition of the famous Mad Scene (track 5) is my highlight. Convincingly, the soprano gives a thrilling portrayal of Lucia’s emotions that swing widely from delight through to emotional pain, containing that special quality that completely draws the listener in. Gruberová is in her element with Rosina’s cavatina Una voce poco fa (track 8) from Il barbiere di Siviglia, where she lets the audience know her secrets. Her renowned coloratura sounds effortless and mightily impressive too are her quick leaps and slides to her high notes. Gruberová’s performances of Mozart’s Exsultate, jubilate (track 1) and the Laudate Dominum (track 3) from the Vesperae solennes de confessore, are also impressive, as is Michael Haydn’s Christmas cantata Lauft, ihr Hirten, allzugleich (track 2). Gruberová excels in these three sacred works, displaying much attractive tone and demonstrating sublime breath control. For my taste, her coloratura display doesn’t feel entirely appropriate and takes away from the sacred reverence of the works which I feel benefit from purity of line.

It’s hard to fault the Münchner Rundfunkorchester, which play splendidly for each of the five conductors used for the series of concerts: Leopold Hager, Mark Elder, Lamberto Gardelli, Pinchas Steinberg and Marcello Viotti. There is a splendid consistency to the sound quality, recorded by Bayerischer Rundfunk across four separate concert halls in Bavaria, producing clarity, presence and satisfying balance. These live performances do contain some stage and audience noise but nothing too much to worry about, and there is also enthusiastic applause and some cheering at the conclusions. With a collection of arias such as this one is always hoping for English translations but most disappointingly there are no sung texts provided.

A valuable collection marking the fiftieth anniversary of Edita Gruberová’s debut.

Michael Cookson

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
1. Exsultate jubilate, motet, K. 165 [14:24]
Leopold Hager (conductor)
rec. live 17 December 1995 Philharmonie, Munich
Michael HAYDN (1737-1806)
2. Lauft ihr Hirten, allzugleich, offertory for soprano, chorus and orchestra – Deutsches Offertorium pro Festo Nativitatis Domini [8:51]
Regensburger Domspatzen
Leopold Hager (conductor)
rec. live 17 December 1995 Philharmonie, Munich
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
3. Laudate Dominum – Vesperae solennes de confessore, K339 [5:30]
Regensburger Domspatzen
Leopold Hager (conductor)
rec. live 17 December 1995 Philharmonie, Munich
George Friederich HANDEL (1685-1759)
4. Ah! Mio cor, schernito sei! – opera Alcina, HWV 34 [6.27]
Mark Elder (conductor)
rec. live 31 December 1997 Prinzregententheater, Munich
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
5. Il dolce suono mi colpě di sua voce! – opera Lucia di Lammermoor [15.34]
Lamberto Gardelli (conductor)
rec. 16 November 1983 Kongresssaal des Deutschen Museums, Munich
6. Ah, tardai troppo - O luce di quest'anima – Linda di Chamounix [5.39]
Pinchas Steinberg (conductor)
rec. live 15 December 1996 Prinzregententheater, Munich
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
7. Ah! Se un'urna č a me – opera Beatrice di Tenda [7:17]
Pinchas Steinberg (conductor)
rec. live 15 December 1996 Prinzregententheater, Munich
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
8. Una voce poco fa – opera Il barbiere di Siviglia [6:16]
Mark Elder (conductor)
rec. live 31 December 1997 Prinzregententheater, Munich
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
9. Spiel ich die Unschuld vom Lande – operetta Die Fledermaus [4:45]
Marcello Viotti (conductor)
rec. 25 June 2000 Stadttheater Lindau, Bavaria


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