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Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
I Vespri Verdiani – Verdi Arias
Olga Mykytenko (soprano)
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits
rec. 2019 at 02 Guildhall, Southampton, UK
CHANDOS CHAN20144 [74:04]

Ukrainian soprano Olga Mykytenko (born in 1974 in Zhytomyr) was the winner of the 1997 Maria Callas International Competition in Greece, and has captured first or high prizes in numerous other major contests in Europe. She was a soloist with the National Opera of Ukraine in Kiev from 1995 until 2003. She has appeared at many of the most important opera houses across the globe: the Met, Mariinsky Theatre, Theater an der Wien, Staatsoper Hamburg, Staatsoper Berlin, Welsh National Opera, and other prestigious locales. Her broad repertory includes operas of Verdi, Puccini, Donizetti, Leoncavallo, Mozart, Korngold, Gounod, Bizet and Tchaikovsky, and varied symphonic and recital works. Although she has appeared on at least one previous recording (Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta on the Relief label), this is her major debut CD and apparently first solo appearance on record.

Ms. Mykytenko has a very attractive coloratura voice, quite strong throughout most of her considerable range, and with a well-controlled vibrato. She has a rather pure, angelic sound, though her voice seems to have sufficient resonance to carry it over orchestral tuttis. Her technique and agility are impressive as well. On this recording, she sings with enough passion and conviction to meet the dramatic demands of the various roles involved here. From my research into her background, I have concluded that she has performed Verdi somewhat more than any other single composer. I also get the impression that she has studied his music quite thoroughly. In an album note she writes: “I selected Verdi’s best arias, which I have been singing for over twenty years.” This rather grandly unequivocal statement shows her strong devotion to Verdi’s music and to the decisions she made in choosing the repertory for making this first solo recording.

In the opening track, Mykytenko is singing the role of Amalia in I masnadieri (Part II, Scene I). She is first in mourning over the apparent deaths of her lover Carlo and his father, Massimiliano (Dall'infame banchetto... Tu del mio Carlo al seno), and then later ecstatic to learn they are not dead after all (Carlo vive?). She certainly milks the music for all its lyrical beauty, especially in Tu del mio Carlo… She also effectively conveys a harrowing state of mind in her sense of loss over his apparent death. In the final number, she suddenly radiates with joy that he and his father are alive. Her voice seems to turn acrobatic as she brilliantly negotiates the fast-paced leaps and jagged melodic turns.

At the heart of the third track, portraying Leonora in Il Trovatore (Part I, Scene 2), Mykytenko sings Tacea la notte placida, wherein she recalls how Manrico’s singing renewed their love. Here her voice soars mesmerizingly, exuding passion; her phrasing is subtle and with just a perfectly fitting tempo for her warm, lush approach. In many ways, she reminds me here of Rene Fleming, a singer whose voice is similar but with a somewhat warmer, creamier sound.

Track five features what is arguably the most popular aria from I vespri siciliani, Merc dillete amiche, quite a challenging number to be sure. Portraying Elena (Act V), Mykytenko effectively enacts the character’s sense of gratitude to the crowd, and sings joyfully of her coming nuptials. Her bubbly exuberance and ebullient manner exude plenty of charm; her coloratura is brilliant and elegant.

There is much else I could draw your attention to on this disc, but let me mention just one or two more highlights, both involving the portrayal of Lady Macbeth on tracks ten and eleven. The latter cue contains the dark Una macchia qui tuttora (Act IV, Scene 2), and Mykytenko’s account is totally convincing in the treatment of the now twisted character, who sleepwalks, tormented over the evil she and her husband have wrought. Yet, she also deftly manages to give her portrayal a measure of humanity, as the guilt grips Lady Macbeth. A truly fine mad scene!

Kirill Karabits and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra offer splendid accompaniment in every number, and Chandos provides vivid and well balanced sound reproduction. I do not believe I had ever heard of Olga Mykytenko before, much less encountered her fine work. I must say that her discovery for me has been quite a delight. I look forward to her further activity. I would not say it comes on with quite the impact of Sonya Yoncheva in around 2013-2014, or Diana Damrau a few years earlier. Nevertheless, I believe Mykytenko is a major talent who was unjustly overlooked by many in the opera and concert worlds for some years. Hopefully, this recording, with its very generous seventy-four minute timing, will give her a much needed boost and wider international recognition. This is a fine effort all around and well worth the attention of Verdi and opera mavens.

Robert Cummings

1. I masnadieri, Part II, Scene 1 (1847): Dall' infame banchetto; Tu del mio Carlo al seno; Carlo vive? [7:09]
2. Un ballo in maschera, Act III, Scene 1 (1859): Morr, ma prima in grazia [4:13]
3. Il trovatore, Part I 'Il duello', Scene 2 (1853): Ne tornei! V'apparve'; Tacea la notte placida; Versi di prece, ed umile; Di tale amor [6:28]
4. I vespri siciliani, Act IV (1855): Arrigo! ah! parli a un core [3:33]
5. I vespri siciliani, Act V Merc, dilette amiche [4:07]
6. Il corsaro Act I, Scene 2 (1848): Egli non riede ancora!; Non so le tetre immagini [5:05]
7. Attila, Prologue, Scene 1 (1846): Santo di patria; Allor che i forti corrono; Da te questo or m' concesso [4:52]
8. Attila, Act I, Scene 1: Liberamente or piangi...; Oh! Nel fuggente nuvolo [5:11]
9. Ernani, Act I, Scene 2 (1844): Surta la notte, e Silva non ritorna!
Ernani!... Ernani, involami; (Tutto sprezzo, che d'Ernani...) [7:10]
10. Macbeth, Act I, Scene 2 (1847): Nel d della vittoria io le incontrai...; Vieni! T'affretta! Accendere; Or tutti sorgete ~ ministri infernali [7:33]
11. Macbeth, Act IV, Scene 2: Una macchia qui tuttora... [7:22]
12. Luisa Miller, Act II, Scene 1 (1849): Tu puniscimi, o signore [2:56]
13. La traviata, Act I (1853) strano!... strano! core; Ah, forse lui; A quell'amor ch' palpito; Follie!... follie!... delirio vano questo!... Sempre libera [7:24]

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