Notes and Editorial Reviews
"I was listening contentedly to Naïve's new recording of Vivaldi's
Ottone in villa when Julia Lezhneva's rendition of "Leggi almeno, tiranna infedele" sent me scurrying to the Internet to find out more about the singer...Lezhneva plainly has extraordinary potential as a Baroque and bel-canto singer." -- Alex Ross
Julia Lezhneva (sop); Mark Minkowski, cond;
Sinfonia Varsovia; Warsaw CCh
NAÏVE V5221 (58:00
Text and Translation)
La Donna del Lago:
Ils s’eloignent enfin.
Bel raggio lusinghier.
Assisa a’pie d’un salice.
L’Assedio di Corinto:
L’ora fatal s’apressa.
This is the solo recital debut of the young coloratura soprano Julia Lezhneva, a protégé of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. She has won the Competition for Young Opera Singers in St. Petersburg, and she appeared with Juan Diego Flórez at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro. She may also be heard in a complete recording of Vivaldi’s opera
Ottone in Villa
. In October 2010 she won the First International Opera Competition at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris.
On this recording she reveals a bright, youthful, high soprano with an excellent technique suitable for Rossini’s music. In his time Rossini wrote for singers such as the mezzo-soprano Isabella Colbran. In the booklet accompanying this recording, Richard Osborne writes, “The alto voice with an extension into the high soprano register was Rossini’s ideal. Early reviews of Colbran’s singing identify a vocal range which stretched from G? below the stave to E
.” In the latter years of the 19th century the concept of opera as music drama was championed by Wagner, and the form of
dominated Italian opera. During that period singers were put into straitjackets and conductors ruled the operatic world. As Verdi wrote to his publisher, Gulio Ricordi, in response to Ricordi’s review of a performance of
conducted by Toscanini, “When I began to shock the musical world with my sins, there was the calamity of the prima donna. Rondòs, now there is the tyranny of the conductors! Bad, bad! Still less bad the former!” Rossini was principally known only as a one-opera composer—
Il Barbiere di Siviglia—
and that opera was of course subjected to cuts. In the period following World War II,
operas were revived principally by Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland.
Although Julia Lezhneva is simply a high coloratura soprano, she sings the music of Rossini beautifully. She has both a wonderful technique and the ability to color the words, and the result is quite thrilling. Her version of the
aria is the highlight of the recording, and the other arias are all well sung. Conductor Marc Minkowski supports her excellently; the chorus is also fine.
The booklet contains notes by Osborne, a biographical essay on Lezhneva, essays about the Sinfonia Varsovia, and an article about Minkowski. It also contains texts of the arias as well as an English translation of them.
The sound is excellent. Highly recommended!
FANFARE: Bob Rose
Julia Lezhneva, a protégé of Kiri Te Kanawa, is a 21(!)-year-old Russian soprano with a pretty, round face, who made her professional debut at 16. Nowadays this is unheard of--Cecilia Bartoli's debut was at 21, and that seemed shocking--but if you travel back to the early and mid 19th century, this sort of precocity was prevalent: Isabella Colbran was 16 when she made her concert debut and 20 when she made her stage debut; Maria Malibran was 17 and Giuditta Pasta was 19. Of course, there's more: Colbran's voice apparently was unreliable from the time she was 25, Malibran died at 28 (so we'll never know), and Pasta was praised more for her acting than her singing by the time she was 35. All three were known for the interesting colorings of their voices, their impressive upper extensions (to E above the staff), and for their expressive singing. (Late in Pasta's career, her voice was described thusly: "It is a ruin, but then so is Leonardo's Last Supper".)
Lezhneva is lovely; let's hope she paces herself properly. The voice may truly be a light mezzo (à la Frederica von Stade) rather than soprano; time will tell. The notes above A-natural are there, but they can go sour. At the moment--and on this recital--she tackles both mezzo and soprano roles (although there was little distinction in Rossini's day, and all three singers mentioned above seem to have straddled the fence as well) and there are moments of transcendent beauty. Although her fast singing is terrific--you wouldn't want more from Cenerentola or Elena (in Donna del lago)--the slow arias, from Tell, Corinto, and particularly Otello, are the real gems on this recording. In the fast music Lezhneva sounds happy and comfortable, but in the slow arias there's more of a sense of drama and purpose--her rubato, legato, and sense of line and dynamics are gripping. She sings Pamina's recit before "L'ora fatal s'apressa" like a mature artist rather than as a well-trained young songbird.
Marc Minkowski leads the Warsaw forces with energy and affection, and he entirely avoids any of the rum-tum-tumness that lesser conductors fall into. The band plays the Cenerentola overture with great spirit. The classy production includes chorus where there should be, and the accompanying booklet has notes and texts and translations. Let us hear more of her: when she's good she's gorgeous.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Julia Lezhneva has a lovely voice: warm, steady, not huge, but very well-schooled. Rossini’s most florid writing holds no terrors for her, and her upper range is well connected to the middle, with no harshness or excessive thinning. She’s very affecting in the slow, bel canto lyricism of “Ils s’éloignent enfin” from William Tell, and both “L’ora fatal s’apressa” from L’assedio di Corinto and the “Willow Song” from Otello are touchingly lovely. In the final number from La Cenerentola it may be that she hasn’t quite learned to sing through the coloratura to the triumphant emotions beneath; the same observation holds true for Semiramide’s “Bel raggio”, but by any standard this is a very impressive recital. Minkowski accompanies discretely, and the Sinfonia Varsovia plays well, with some colorful wind soloists, but I could have done without the Cenerentola Sinfonia in favor of more from Lezhneva. She’s the main attraction, and she deserves a disc to herself.
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Guillaume Tell: Ils s'éloignent enfin by Gioachino Rossini
Julia Lezhneva (Soprano)
Written: 1829; Italy
Semiramide: Bel raggio lusinghier by Gioachino Rossini
Julia Lezhneva (Soprano)
Warsaw Chamber Choir
Written: 1823; Italy
Otello: Assisa a piè d'un salice by Gioachino Rossini
Julia Lezhneva (Soprano)
Written: 1816; Italy
La Cenerentola: Overture by Gioachino Rossini
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