Bellini, Donizetti, Puccini and Verdi

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COMPOSERS: Bellini,Donizetti,Puccini and Verdi
ALBUM TITLE: Sempre Libera
WORKS: Arias by Bellini, Donizetti, Puccini and Verdi
PERFORMER: Anna Netrebko (soprano); Sara Mingardo, Saimir Pirgu, Nicola Ulivierti, Andrea Concetti; Giuseppe Verdi SO Choir; Mahler CO/Claudio Abbado
CATALOGUE NO: 474 8812
This glorious young Russian soprano’s rapid rise to the top of the operatic pile is reflected in the company she keeps on this, her second DG disc. Where her first album had been conducted by another young star, Gianandrea Noseda, here she is accompanied by the distinguished Claudio Abbado. Whether or not you think the recording’s heavy promotion has been worthwhile will perhaps depend on if you live in either Los Angeles or Philadelphia, where she has cancelled appearances this autumn on the grounds of exhaustion. But the disc itself is very rewarding, revealing a deeper artistry than before: she brings sustained expression to her opening number, ‘Ah, fors’è lui’ from La traviata, before sailing through the coloratura of ‘Sempre libera’ with dazzling focus. Few sopranos today, and almost no other Russians, sing bel canto with the natural beauty she supplies in Bellini’s Amina and Elvira. There’s a dark glint to her singing of Lucia’s Mad Scene, where the character’s haunted state is underlined by the use of the glass harmonica rather than traditional flute – Abbado and his Mahler Chamber Orchestra are excellently recorded throughout. Unlike Lucia, Desdemona is a role Netrebko has never sung on stage, but she still internalises the feeling. Only ‘O mio babbino caro’ is a little indulgent, yet it would take a hard-hearted listener not to capitulate to its warm glow. John Allison