A pleasing collection
BDSinC | Calgary, Alberta, Canada | 09/29/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I would call this the NAXOS group of current sopranos. Almost none of them are known or familiar to most of us. Well, that is not a standard of anything, sometimes we find treasures that we never knew we had. ALL of the singers in this collection do a super fine job singing the music they sing. In the "Sempre Libera" aria the "gasp for breath" to show drama sounds sort of weird, more like the singer ran out of breath completely, and the high notes are sung too brilliantly, but dead on just the same.
The only missing thing in all of these selections was heart. The notes were perfect. The singers really sang well with nearly perfect techniques. Nothing was amiss there. What seemed to be missing was heart, the soul of what the music and the words were saying. It was like NONE of these artists (excepting Podles, who for the life of me is a wonderful contralto, not a soprano, so why she is on this disk, I have no clue, excepting perhaps someone viewed Rosina's aria to be a "soprano aria") really understood Italian Opera Style. They sang the notes but didn't know what little touches make it fit the style of the music. The legato lines were lovely, in the French or even German manner, but not based in the Italian manner of the portamento. What little touches of glissandi when descending from high notes was not without labor. Yet, none of that ruined the music or made it sound bad in the slighest degree. It just reminded us of the things that we are used to that are missing. There was no delicate touches one is used to with Callas or Tebaldi, no coloratura energy one is excited with in Sutherland, none of the delicate pianissimi or portamenti one associates with Caballe. All these mentioned singers knew Italian style, and knew it well. Those little touches are what gives Italian style its heart, its soul, and that melting emotional attachment. These singers all sang to perfection, note perfect, but lacked the proper understanding of the music they sang.
Having said this, by no means is this a bad CD, quite the contrary, it is excellent and well worth the money and very enjoyable. ALL of these singers have great talent, are well trained, have incredible skills with the music they sing. We are not being forced to listen to inferior performances at all. ALL these singers sing out, with force, not necessarily loudly, but with a full bodied sound, even in pianissimi. It is only those small points of understanding of Italian style that they are lacking. Yet, that is forgivable considering that in their countries of origin this music is NEW. They were never allowed to sing it, and it has no tradition behind it that they can turn to. So, they learned to sing it with the tradition of vocal perfection they were used to. The results is vocal mastery, all that is needed is more heart.
However, it is not this fact that made it so I gave it a 4 star rating rather than a 5. Were these above mentioned things the only troubles, I would have awarded this recording a 5 star without hesitation. It was the quality of sound. Again, it is sort of "distant" like we are listening in to a recording session and not part of the experience. That is sad, for these singers have so much to offer. We should feel we are "there" experiencing it with them. I wish NAXOS technicians would work on this aspect. Their recordings are so well thought out in other ways that it is so sad that this technical flaw removes the complete enjoyment possible."