COMPOSERS: Bellini,C Valentini,Carafa,Donizetti,Donizetti and Pacini,Mercadante,Pacini,Rossini
ALBUM TITLE: Stella Di Napoli: Bel Canto Opera Arias
WORKS: Arias by Pacini, Bellini, Carafa, Rossini, Mercadante, Donizetti, Bellini, C Valentini, Donizetti and Pacini
PERFORMER: Joyce DiDonato (mezzo-soprano); Orchestre et Choeur de l’Opéra National de Lyon/Riccardo Minasi
Christmas comes early with Joyce DiDonato’s new recording, and everyone who cares about singing should promote it immediately to the top of their letters to Santa. Creamy, sumptuous, almost flawless – every adjective may be a cliché, but how else to describe singing of this quality? DiDonato zips through the Finale to Rossini’s Zelmira, dropping through octaves without dropping a beat; she stretches the long limbed legato of Nelly’s aria ‘Dopo l’oscuro nembo’ in Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini until it’s as deliquescent as spun sugar; and every word of the recitative to Romeo’s aria in I Capuletti e i Montecchi is weighed out and understood.
These are the bel canto composers, together with Donizetti, that we know, and who made Naples the beating heart of Italian opera at the beginning of the 19th century. But there were others who have been relegated to footnotes, Mercadante, Pacini, Carafa, all gifted musicians but often composing in the stylistic shadow of the mighty three – at least to judge by the repertoire that DiDonato and her music director Riccardo Minasi have chosen. From their performance you can readily understand why the final aria from Mercadante’s La vestale was much admired in its day; and if Michele Carafa’s version of The Bride of Lammermoor marks time where Donizetti’s Lucia sings, Carafa also knows how to tug at the heartstrings with harp and flute. Christopher Cook