COMPOSERS: Bellini; Puccini; Tosti; Donizetti; Savioni
LABELS: Champs Hill
ALBUM TITLE: Italian Love Songs: Bellini • Puccini • Tosti • Donizetti • Savioni
WORKS: Songs by Bellini, Puccini, Tosti, Donizetti & Savioni
PERFORMER: Anna Leese (soprano), Stephen De Pledge (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHRCD050
This short but attractive programme by the New Zealand soprano Anna Leese focuses on songs by 19th- and early 20th-century Italian composers best known for their operas: Bellini, Donizetti and Puccini. The exception here is Tosti, 12 years older than Puccini, who achieved fame and fortune (including, eventually, a knighthood) in London as singing teacher to Queen Victoria’s family, and who concentrated entirely on song. Naturally, everything is sung in Italian, which unfortunately leads to the single weakness in Leese’s often delightful singing, and one all singers have to work hard to combat.
Correctly pronounced though her Italian always is, it lacks any true Italianate flavour. The consonants need strengthening and the vowels need opening up. As it is, there are numerous Italian singers with less beautiful voices and less charm than Leese who give these enjoyable miniatures far more character.
On the upside, she possesses impeccable intonation and her pure, true soprano moves around the notes with skill and style. Stephen De Pledge’s playing is all present and correct, though the acoustic sometimes brings a slight edge to Leese’s tone. There’s a bonus in a duet with tenor Thorsten Büttner by the forgotten Baroque composer Mario Savioni.