Rossini: Opera Arias

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Rossini
LABELS: Warner
ALBUM TITLE: Marilyn Horne
WORKS: Opera Arias
PERFORMER: Marilyn Horne, RAI SO, Turin/Alberto Zedda
CATALOGUE NO: 8573 82247
Two reasons to cheer this release. A new disc from Marilyn Horne is always a treat particularly if it’s from the 1980s when the voice was still in handsome shape. And when she’s singing an unfamiliar Rossini repertoire she is doubly welcome. So why did Warner economise on the booklet notes? Do we really need a poorly translated essay explaining why Horne’s mezzo-soprano is the ideal voice for Rossini and nothing at all about why the composer wrote these alterative arias, including two for Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia and a couple of absolute showstoppers from Tancredi?

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In the Barbiere arias the voice is a nimble as ever, with exemplary fioritura in the cabaletta to ‘Ma forse, ahimè Lindoro’. Elsewhere Horne’s diction is crisp and accurate but the tone is not as elegant as it was once. Indeed there are some downright ugly sounds in an aria for Maometto II. But they are easily forgiven when the voice and the music meet as partners in ‘Deh! Lasciate ch’io pur di gioia esulti’ written for La gazza Ladra. There’s a thrilling drop into the chest register in the recitative and then Horne throws off the taxing cabaletta as if it were a mere bagatelle. Alberto Zedda conducting is a worthy collaborator throughout. Christopher Cook