WORKS: French Coloratura Arias
PERFORMER: Sumi Jo (soprano)ECO/Richard Bonynge
CATALOGUE NO: 440 679-2 DDD
This intriguing collection of arias from varyingly obscure, mostly 19th-century Parisian operas and operettas is surely intended as a vehicle for the formidable vocal talents of Sumi Jo.
As such, it is a thrilling recital. Her voice is bright and pellucid, and the pyrotechnic skill with which she negotiates melismata of astonishing floridity is breathtaking. But it is not all fireworks, and she is as comfortable with the more lyrical passages, her voice revealing marvellous depths of tone.
Though the overall mood is one of frivolous confection, the disc contains some glorious music. Offenbach, Massenet, Messager and Delibes are all featured, but with arias from Un mari à la porte, Don César de Bazan, Madame Chrysanthème (the story of a Japanese girl who falls in love with a French naval officer, premiered more than a decade before Madam Butterfly) and Le roi l’a dit, rather than the operas one might expect.
Even the Bell Song from Lakmé, arguably the apotheosis of the genre, is missing. But it is among the less well-known names that the real highlights lie: on the grounds of the excerpts here, Félicien David’s La perle du Brésil, the Irish composer Michael William Balfe’s Le puits d’amour and Ferdinand Hérold’s Le pré aux clercs all deserve reassessment. Claire Wrathall