Mezzo Jennifer Larmore has been recording like crazy for the last few years. There have been a fistful of complete opera recordings--mostly rarities--and now comes this set of 12 newly recorded selections in English from 11 different operas. With her spot-on coloratura and technique she is best known in bel canto operas, but here she travels into Verdi, Ponchielli, and even Wagner. It's not a perfect recital, but Larmore is never less than interesting, and she has plenty of surprises up her sleeve.
One surprise that doesn't work as intended is the final track, Juliet's Waltz Song. I recall many years ago hearing Shirley Verrett, in her absolute prime, sing "Una voce poco fa" in recital and I had the same feeling: HowRead more had Lady Macbeth gotten into this score? Larmore sings accurately, but it's a bit like a truck driver doing donuts with his rig--more terrifying than enjoyable. And Adriano's aria from Rienzi is pushed so hard that Larmore loses the pitch, and her vibrato loosens dangerously close to wobble-dom.
But the two excerpts from La favorita--one a duet with the terrific Colin Lee--are utterly successful, making you want to hear her in the entire role. Azucena's opening aria sounds properly crazy and dark; "O don fatale" is remarkable and Larmore doesn't run out of breath at its close like most singers do; "Iris hence away" is fluid and well-decorated; and "Mi tradi" presents a good portrait of Donna Elvira. The Gioconda duet with Susan Patterson is a veritable exercise in competitive singing, while their "Mira o Norma" is accurate and exciting, taken down the usual half-step.
David Parry leads the Philharmonia Orchestra with zip and occasionally too much volume, but this is never less than intriguing. Larmore's English diction varies from superb and specific to (oddly) incomprehensible. This is good fun--even the Juliet excerpt is entertaining, in a shocking sort of way. Recommended.