Collection: Les Bijoux: French Arias

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: Mignon Polonaise; Comme autrefois; Depuis le jour
PERFORMER: Sumi Jo; ECO/Giuliano Carella
CATALOGUE NO: 3984-23140-2

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All but two of the items here are coloratura showpieces, in which the small pretty tones of the light soprano can be expected to shine, especially when a first-rate technical armoury can be brought to bear on them. Indeed the manifold decorations encountered in the Mignon Polonaise and the Hamlet Mad Scene are all finely managed, with the curious exception of the trill, which regularly sounds more like a vibration on one note than an oscillation between two.

Yet raising one’s eyes above technique this is an uneven collection, compromised by occasionally vanishing consonants and a failure in some cases to register character. Exceptions include Marguerite de Valois’s solo in Les Huguenots, in which the languid sensuality of the first section and the brilliant determination of the second both come over well, while Massenet’s Manon registers as a sentient being in her Gavotte.

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For her excursions into the lyric repertoire (‘Comme autrefois’ from Bizet’s Pearl Fishers and ‘Depuis le jour’ from Charpentier’s Louise), Sumi Jo offers consistently graceful vocalisation even if her tone ultimately lacks the body or colouristic range to bring either character or emotions fully to life. George Hall