Bel Canto: from Monteverdi to Verdi

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COMPOSERS: Bellini; Monteverdi; Rossini; Mozart; Verdi; Donizetti
LABELS: Sony Classical
ALBUM TITLE: Bel Canto: from Monteverdi to Verdi
WORKS: Works by Monteverdi, Rossini, Mozart, Verdi & Donizetti
PERFORMER: Simone Kermes (soprano); Concerto Koln/Christoph-Mathias Mueller
CATALOGUE NO: 88765455042

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The soprano whom a German newspaper recently crowned the ‘Crazy Queen of Baroque’ adds here a fascinating aria collection to an already remarkable discography. There’s nothing crazy here but much that is unexpected, given that it was her past concentration on 17th- and 18th-century composers that gained Simone Kermes fame. A highly personal survey of leading Italian Romantics, from Rossini to Verdi, it broadens midway to include Mozart’s Queen of the Night and a lustrously sung Monteverdi solo madrigal.

The programme is expressly devised so that Kermes can shed new light on 19th-century vocal writing, applying the stylistic approaches she has developed in music of earlier eras: her trademark blend of dazzling technical accomplishment, vital imagination, care over detail and a willingness to take risks. To ears used to the fuller-bodied sounds of a Joan Sutherland or Montserrat Caballé in similar repertory, her tone may seem to lack substance; from numbers such as her ‘Casta diva’ one derives the impression of ‘microphone singing’ rather than a born Norma in action. With its sparkling support from the Cologne players and fine presentation, it’s an unconventional yet special addition to any Italian opera collection.

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Max Loppert