Arias by Cilea, Verdi, Puccini, Bizet, Leoncavallo, Dvořák, Moniuszko & Tchaikovsky
Aleksandra Kurzak (soprano); Morphing Chamber Orchestra/Frédéric Chaslin
Sony Classical 19075883262 64:33 mins
The Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak has issued several successful albums – Rossini, Gioia (Donizetti, Bellini, and others), Puccini in Love, etc – and is well established in the opera house. That said, this latest disc represents something of a change of direction for her: it explores a heavier and more searching repertoire, and it is also (she admits) meant to act as a kind of job interview – she has yet to be asked to perform the roles sampled here from Verdi’s Ernani, Il trovatore or Les vêpres siciliennes.
It is hard to miss Kurzak’s impressive vocal strength and projection. Her nuanced use of dynamics is well beyond the norm with some beautifully placed pianissimo top A flats and B flats at the end of ‘Signore, ascolta!’ (Tosca), and her quicksilver vocal arpeggios magically illuminate the melodic outlines of ‘Surta è la notte’ (Ernani). Just occasionally (as in ‘Timor di me?’ from Il Trovatore) her strident high notes can become breathy and sharp, not quite as technically under control as her normal range. This minor blemish is outweighed by her truly impressive characterisations which are both complex (every fluctuation of feeling is present in Cio-Cio San’s ‘One fine day’ from Madam Butterfly) and deep (as in the tragic aria from the Polish opera Halka by Moniuszko). The rapport between singer and orchestra is consistently good. Those who have seen Kurzak on stage will vouch for her dramatic presence, and will hope that her ‘job interview’ is successful in relation to the role of Elvira in Ernani.