This bel canto fiesta is filled with mostly unknown pieces. The only familiar works are Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, Bellini’s I Capuleti (and one of the melodies from it he had used previously in the unknown Adelson e Salvini), and to a lesser degree, Rossini’s Zelmira. These are hardly household names, but the others are far more esoteric. An aria from Pacini’s unknown title opera is almost a take-off on bel canto opera; it’s a revenge aria, but it is filled with wild flights of silly staccato. We can admire the singer’s skill, but it’s funny, show-offy, gimmicky storytelling.
At the other end of the spectrum is the final scene from the same composer’sRead more Saffo, in which the heroine is about to jump off a cliff; she goes mad. The 14-minute scene goes through many tempo, stylistic (recit, arioso, aria, cabaletta), and orchestral changes before its dramatic finale. Joyce DiDonato gives it great nobility; indeed, she shines in both Pacini selections–as mock-tragedienne (her swooning delivery hints that she knows how absurd it is) and as true tragedienne.
An aria from Bellini’s early opera Adelson e Salvini will be recognized by fans of bel canto as the precursor to Giulietta’s “Ah, quante volte” from I Capuleti; it is sung here with exquisite legato and sinuous tonal beauty. Maria Stuarda’s long scene is pointedly delivered, but wiriness enters the voice on high, forte notes, and a somewhat stressful vibrato creeps in at the middle. Perhaps the role is a bit too heavy for her. She can run all the needed roulades from Zelmira, her trill is still the real thing, and she is incapable of a thoughtless, canary-like reading. A gentle scene from Carafa’s Le nozze di Lammermoor that mirrors Lucia’s first scene from the Donizetti opera (and precedes it by six years) is winsome, tuneful, and features lovely harp and clarinet lines.
DiDonato’s quiet singing throughout the CD is just beautiful, and no matter how silly the text, she infuses it with drama. Romeo’s last-act “Tu sola, o mia Giulietta” from Bellini’s Capuleti is heart-wrenching. A prayer from Mercadante’s La Vestale is sung with gentle intensity, DiDonato’s charisma and superb way with the text making Giunia a real figure.
An aria from Donizetti’s Elisabetta al Castello di Kenilworth has been recorded before (by Renée Fleming and Beverly Sills, to name two) and was occasionally used as a substitute for Lucia’s opening aria. The glass harmonica part here is played by a glockenspiel, but it’s still quite a fine combination of sounds. Again, the text and music may seem at odds–sad vs merry–but our mezzo is so intelligent that we buy it. And of course, it’s gloriously sung.
Riccardo Minasi leads the Lyon forces with elegance and great consideration for his vocalist; a bit more of an aggressive–not sugar-spun–approach may have been preferable. The chorus is spectacular. Strange repertoire, not all masterpieces, but all ear-openers. And what other present-day singer achieves such high marks for both voice and artistry?
Stella di Napoli: Part 1. Scene 6. Ove t'aggiri, o barbaroby Giovanni Pacini Performer:
Heloise [Mezzo-Soprano Vocal] Mas (),
Joyce DiDonato (),
Joyce DiDonato (Mezzo Soprano)
Lyon Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic Venue: Opéra de Lyon Length: 4 Minutes 29 Secs.
Stella di Napoli, Part I: "Ove t'aggiri, o barbaro" (Stella, Marta): Pacini: Stella di Napoli, Part I: "Ove t'aggiri, o barbaro" (Stella, Marta)
Adelson e Salvini, Act 1: "Dopo l'oscuro nembo" (Nelly): Bellini: Adelson e Salvini, Act 1: "Dopo l'oscuro nembo" (Nelly)
Le nozze di Lammermoor, Act 2: "L'amica ancor non torna... Oh, di sorte crudel" (Lucia): Carafa: Le nozze di Lammermoor, Act 2: "L'amica ancor non torna... Oh, di sorte crudel" (Lucia)
Zelmira, Act 2: "Riedi al soglio" (Zelmira, Polidoro, Ilo): Rossini: Zelmira, Act 2: "Riedi al soglio" (Zelmira, Polidoro, Ilo)
La vestale, Act 2: "Se fino al cielo ascendere" (Giunia): Mercadante: La vestale, Act 2: "Se fino al cielo ascendere" (Giunia)
Elisabetta al castello di Kenilworth, Act 3: "Par che mi dica ancora" (Amelia): Donizetti: Elisabetta al castello di Kenilworth, Act 3: "Par che mi dica ancora" (Amelia)
I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Act 2: "Tu sola, o mia Giulietta... Deh! tu, bell'anima" (Romeo): Bellini: I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Act 2: "Tu sola, o mia Giulietta... Deh! tu, bell'anima" (Romeo)
Il sonnambulo, Act 1: "Lasciami... Se il mar sommesso mormora" (Adele, Sofia): Valentini: Il sonnambulo, Act 1: "Lasciami... Se il mar sommesso mormora" (Adele, Sofia)
Maria Stuarda, Act 3: "Io vi rivedo alfin... Deh! Tu di un'umile preghiera" (Maria): Donizetti: Maria Stuarda, Act 3: "Io vi rivedo alfin... Deh! Tu di un'umile preghiera" (Maria)
Saffo, Act 3: "Flutto che muggi... Teco dall'are pronube... L'ama ognor qual io l'amai" (Saffo, Faone, Climene, Alcandro): Pacini: Saffo, Act 3: "Flutto che muggi... Teco dall'are pronube... L'ama ognor qual io l'amai" (Saffo, Faone, Climene, Alcandro)
Average Customer Review: ( 3 Customer Reviews )
Stella is stellar!February 17, 2015By Jeannette B. (Scranton, PA)See All My Reviews"Joyce DiDonato allows us to experience the clarity and musicality of her magnificent voice. She transports us immediately away from the busyness of life, and brings us to a place of sharing inspiring awe."Report Abuse
My thoghtson Stelladi NapoliDecember 23, 2014By Robert Putnam (Truro, NS)See All My Reviews"I am by no means a seasoned music critic but have been listening to classical music for over 50 years. I bought this CD and play it in the car on my way to work each day. I absolutely love it. I feel Joyce has a real passion for music and you can feel that very strongly as you listen to her sing.... Just amazing !!"Report Abuse
Another TriumphOctober 17, 2014By Joseph Erdeljac (West Chester, PA)See All My Reviews"Joyce DiDonato gives us here another example of her great artistry. Each and every selection is put forth with all that the music requires along with her personal touches of imagination in her delivery. Her technique is solid and produces a sound unique to her which is lacking in some other singers of today. This is class and style you do not find often !"Report Abuse