Arias by Mascagni, Leoncavallo, Massenet, Puccini, Verdi, et al
Ermonela Jaho (soprano); Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana/Andrea Battistoni
Opera Rara 9293802532 68:04 mins
This eagerly-awaited recording will delight all fans of the charismatic Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho. She sang this repertoire in her Wigmore debut a few months ago, and in this recording as a debutant recitalist she reinforces her argument that the music championed by the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio is worth more searching exploration. Jaho chose her title because ‘anima’ means ‘soul’, and ‘rara’ indicates the fact that although the repertoire includes key arias by Puccini, Verdi, Massenet and Mascagni, many of the other arias are virtually unknown. And the way she sings them, they all radiate soul.
Moreover, Storchio too had been all but forgotten. Yet it was Storchio who created the role of Cio-Cio San at Puccini’s request. And when Jaho herself sang Cio-Cio San at Covent Garden, she too made the role her own as she had done with the title role of Puccini’s Suor Angelica: onstage she’s dynamite. So this recording represents a triple coming-out: of Storchio, of Jaho as a solo recording artist and of some bewitching but largely forgotten music.
I now want to hear in full Mascagni’s Lodoletta, Giordano’s Siberia, Catalani’s La Wally and Massenet’s Sapho, whose mysterious Prelude – played with refined nuance by the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana under Andrea Battistoni – gracefully sets off Jaho’s plangent ‘Demain je partirai’. She gives us a mercurial Mimì in ‘Un bel di’, and a grave Musette in Leoncavallo’s version of La bohème, while her rendition of the final scene in Madama Butterfly makes a fizzing finale. Jaho turns every aria into a commanding performance, with a fine-spun tone which ranges from being light and translucent to packing luxurious power.