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Lisette Oropesa (soprano)
French Bel Canto Arias
Sächsischer Staatsopernchor Dresden
Dresdner Philharmonie/Corrado Rovaris
rec. 2021, Kulturpalast Dresden, Germany
Sung texts with English translations enclosed
Reviewed as downloaded from press preview

Can it really be that long ago? Obviously it can. In November 2010 I reviewed a DVD of Puccini’s La rondine, recorded live at the New York Metropolitan opera on 10 January 2009. The main characters were sung by the then married couple Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna, and good they were in an opera they had championed for many years. But for me it was the secondary couple, Lisette and Prunier, that stole the performance, and in particular the former, Lisette Oropesa, a name thitherto unknown to me. She sang and acted Magda’s pert chamber maid with such vividness and charm, paired with a crystal clear and expressive soubrette soprano of great beauty. A winner in every respect. Where had she been all my life? It soon turned out that she was in the beginning of her career. She had graduated from the Met's Lindemann Young Artists Development Program in 2008, before that sung a minor role in Idomeneo in 2006 and then in October 2007 stood in as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, which was a success. Then, hibernated in the Polar region of Northern Europe, I lost sight of her future development for a full decade, and was taken by surprise in the spring of 2022, when I had the pleasure to review Pentatone’s new studio recording of La Traviata. She was stupendous in the title role, and had her colleagues in the leading roles been in the same division, it might have swept the board. As it is the recording is worth buying for Oropesa’s Violetta alone, but also for the dramatic involvement of Germont père and for the lyric singing of Alfredo in the outer acts.

Lisette Oropesa’s accomplished florid singing in the first act emphatically demonstrates that she has retained the ease and lightness of her early years as a soubrette but gained in power and intensity and now is a fully-fledged Lirico spinto. This is also obvious in the excerpts from Le siege de Corinth (1826). The opera, which recycles material from Maometto II (1820), was Rossini’s first French opera, and consequently it is late Rossini. OK, Rossini was only 34 when he wrote it, but three years later he finished his operatic career and spent his remaining 39 years in semi-retirement. The coloratura in the opening Que vais-je devenir? is terrific and practically spotless and at the same time it is fully clear that it is a true dramatic voice. And it is also fully clear that the part is not just a vehicle for vocal exhibitionism. In the aria proper there is scope for beautiful legato singing with subtle nuances; in the up-tempo dramatic second half with chorus lightness and elegance are still key-words. The aria from act III, Juste ciel, with harp accompaniment is just beautiful with no decorations.

Guillaume Tell was Rossini’s swansong in the operatic field. Premiered in August 1829 it has claims to be his greatest, if not necessarily his best, opera. It can be regarded as a fore-runner to the French grand opera trend of the 1830s and 1840s, actually trumped by Auber’s La muette de Portici (1828). Mathilde’s second act aria Sombre forêt in many ways became a model for Rossini’s successors during the following decades. It is sung here with deep emotions and can be compared to Montserrat Caballe’s reading on the pioneering Gardelli recording from 1972.

Also the comic Le comte Ory (1828) was partly a recycling of an earlier opera, Il viaggio a Reims, composed three years earlier for the coronation of Charles X. Viaggio was not intended to have a life after the coronation festivities, but it was resurrected at the Rossini Festival at Pesaro by Claudio Abbado and has after that seen productions around the world. Céleste providence was in Viaggio the Countess’s show piece and is an unabashed excursion in virtuoso coloratura. A jaw-dropper! I still haven’t recovered …

Moving over to Donizetti’s French escapades, we first encounter him in Les martyrs (1840) – seemingly a completely unknown work? No, it is a French adaptation of his Italian opera Poliuto (1838), which had not been played in Italy yet, and wasn’t played until after the composer’s death in 1848). Eugène Scribe, who was hired to re-design Poliuto to a four-act grand opera, in the process changed important details which forced Donizetti to compose new music in several places, including Pauline’s aria in the first act. Thus what Lisette Oropesa sings here (tr. 10) is not in the Italian original. A touching aria it is, anyway.

Lucia di Lammermoor had been a notable success at the Théàtre Italien in 1837, and this triggered the Théâtre de la Renaissance commission a French version of the opera. Donizetti obeyed and made some changes to the plot and the music, the most important was that he cut the first act aria Regnava nel silenzio, for the heroine and replaced it with Perché non ho del Vento from Rosmonda d’Inghilterra. In its new guise it is a fair enough substitute, the music is lovely, Lisette Oropesa’s singing is lovely, and she shares the limelight with an unnamed flautist whose playing also is lovely. In the recitative we also get a glimpse of Gilbert, a character new for the French version, but distantly reminiscent of Normanno but obviously acting as a double agent for Lucie and her brother. Juan Carlos Navarro sings his few phrases with aplomb.

The final opera here is La fille du regiment, composed for the Opéra Comique. This delectable comedy, which is famous for the tenor’s nine high Cs, is just as much a tour de force for Marie, the soprano, who is everybody’s little darling. Lisette Oropesa is in her element here and shines with beauty of tone, lightness and elegance. Just occasionally her vibrato becomes a mite too wide, but this is trifling, considering the formidable singing she delivers elsewhere throughout this enchanting recital. A winner in every respect and a strong candidate for my Recording of the Year!

Göran Forsling

Gioachino Rossini (1792 – 1868)
Le siège de Corinthe (1826)
(libretto by Giuseppe Luigi Balocchi and Louis-Antoine-Alexandre Soumet)
Act II, No 5
1 Que vais-je devenir ? [4:14]
2 Du séjour de la lumière [8:02]
Act III, No 12
3 L’heure fatale approche [2:46]
4 Juste ciel [3:34]
Guillaume Tell (1829) · Act II, No 9
(libretto by Victor Joseph Étienne de Jouy and Hippolyte Louis Florent Bis,
adapted from the drama by Friedrich Schiller)
5 Ils s’éloignent enfin [3:06]
6 Sombre forêt [5:05]
Le comte Ory (1828) · Act II, No 4
(libretto by Eugène Scribe and Charles Gaspare Delestre-Poirson)
7 En proie à la tristesse… [5:16]
8 Céleste providence [4:27]
Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848)
Les martyrs (1840) · Act I, Scene 5
(libretto by Eugène Scribe)
9 Ô ma mère [1:00]
10 Qu’ici ta main glacée bénisse ton enfant [3:04]
Lucie de Lammermoor (1839)· Act I, Scenes 6 & 7
(libretto by Alphonse Royer et Gustave Vaëz, based on the Italian version by Salvadore
Cammarano, and on the novel The Bride of Lammermoor by Walter Scott)
11 Gilbert... Ô fontaine [2:20]
12 Que n’avons-nous des ailes ? [6:45]
La fille du régiment (1840)
(libretto by Jean-François-Alfred Bayard and Jules-Henry Vernoy de Saint-Georges)
Act I, No 6
13 Il faut partir [5:45]
Act II, No 8
14 C’en est donc fait [6:03]
15 Salut à la France [3:38]

Other performers
Kristina Fuchs, Mezzo-Soprano (Track 8), Frank Blümel, Tenor (Track 8), Juan Carlos Navarro, Tenor (Track 11), Zhi Yi, Tenor (Track 13), Meinhardt Möbius, Bass (Track 13), Alexander Födisch, Bass (Track 13); Solo Cello: Ulf Prelle (Track 14)

Published: November 30, 2022

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