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Ah! Mia vita! - Beautiful Opera Arias and Duets
Renata Johnson-Wojtowicz (soprano)
Magdalena Dobrowolska (soprano), Aleksandra Kalicka (mezzo-soprano)
Lviv National Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra/Serhij Chorowec
No recording dates or venue given
Sung texts not included
DUX 1630 [42:53]

Renata Johnson-Wojtowicz has been active for some time in her native Poland but also performed abroad in Central Europe and Scandinavia. This is however her debut CD and it is clearly aimed at – shall we call it – a popular market: A much-loved song, a musical number, some well-known operatic arias, a couple of operetta arias and two favourite duets. Nothing wrong with that of course, but the competition is certainly keen and a disc with this repertoire, sung by a fairly unknown singer, must have something special to make it stick out and sell on the international market. I guess though that the majority of the prospective buyers are to be found in Poland, but since DUX is an established label in the rest of Europe it is fair to throw the net wider.

My first impression was of a beautiful voice with rounded tone that was well suited to Dvořák’s evergreen. I first heard the song in my relative youth when I bought a recital with Victoria de los Angeles titled “A World of Song”. The first encounter with a song that one plays repeatedly makes it stick in one’s memory, and I can honestly say that inside my head de los Angeles’s rang all the time – warts and all. Ms Johnson-Wojtowicz’s reading had no warts, it was pretty and warm, but I lacked the personality, the special turn of a phrase, that made de los Angeles so immediately memorable. But of course she was one of the truly great ones of that generation. Mascagni’s Ave Maria, that followed next, had no such memories attached to it, and it sounded good. The piece is an adaptation of the intermezzo from Cavalleria rusticana, and it is sometimes titled Sancta Maria. I was surprised to see that Schönberg’s Les Misérables was premiered all of 40 years ago. I’ve seen it a couple of times, both in West End and elsewhere. The London production from 1985 has run continuously until 13 July 2019, although it has moved a couple of times. And it has reopened in a revised staging just before Christmas 2019. The story is among the best if we look at recent musicals and the music is attractive. Fantine’s I Dreamed a Dream from the first act is one the most touching numbers and Renata Johnson-Wojtowicz catches well the lamentable situation of the scene. Rusalka’s Song to the Moon is related to Fantine’s lament, insofar as it is also a dream of something better. As it turns out in the opera the outcome of Rusalka’s dream is anything but happy. It is prettily sung. The aria from Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur is carefully sung, maybe too much so, and Sylva’s exuberant Csárdás from The Gypsy Princess is rather bloodless – there is too little gypsy in it.

The two Puccini arias are much better, beautifully vocalised, and reading the liner notes afterwards I learned that Puccini is her favourite composer. The glowing Meine Lippen sie küssen so heiß from Giuditta could have been invested with some more glow but the two duets that round off the disc are fully acceptable.

Renata Johnson-Wojtowicz has a beautiful and well-schooled voice but considering the plethora of alternative recordings of the same repertoire this disc is hardly competitive and the playing-time, under 43 minutes, is certainly parsimonious.

Göran Forsling

Antonin DVOŘÁK (1841 – 1904)
1. Songs My Mother Taught Me from Gypsy Melodies [2:18]
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863 – 1945)
2. Ave Maria (Intermezzo from Cavalleria rusticana) [3:29]
Claude.Michel SCHÖNBERG (b. 1944)
3. I Dreamed a Dream (Fantina’s song from Les Misérables) [4:30]
Antonin DVOŘÁK
4. Song to the Moon from Rusalka [6:28]
Francesco CILEA (1866 – 1950)
5. Io son l’umile ancella from Adriana Lecouvreur [3:07]
Imre KÁLMÁN (1882 – 1953)
6. Sylva’s Csárdás from The Gypsy Princess [3:11]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 – 1924)
7. Chi il bel sogno di Doretta from La Rondine [2:48]
8. O mio babbino caro from Gianni Schicchi [2:27]
Franz LEHÁR (1870 – 1948)
9. Meine Lippen sie küssen so heiß from Giuditta [5:13]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 – 1791)
10. Sull’ aria from Le nozze di Figaro [2:53]
Léo DELIBES (1836 – 1891)
11. Flower Duet from Lakmé [5:21]

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