Italian Opera Arias
Arias by Bellini, Donizetti, Puccini and Verdi
Linda Richardson (soprano); Sinfonia of London/John Wilson
Chandos CHAN 20155 70:13 mins
It’s a brave soprano who starts a recital with a pair of the most demanding of Verdi’s numbers: ‘Pace, Pace …’ from La forza del destino and then Violetta’s Act I aria ‘Ah, fors’è lui’ and ‘Sempre libera’. Linda Richardson screws her courage to the sticking point and tackles both with a proper sense of style: the superhuman breath control of the ‘Pace’ and the effortless move from lyric to coloratura in La traviata, though it’s a shame she had no Alfredo outside the window here, just a sugary solo violin. Thankfully there are no extraneous vocal fireworks as Violetta asserts her independence.
Richardson’s Puccini is unshowy, too, with a touching farewell to Rodolfo from Mimì and a defiant Tosca at the end of ‘Visse d’arte’. She evidently hears these women in their music. Yet sometimes she becomes ‘detached’ from her Italian and when the voice opens up there is a temptation to push too hard. The end of ‘Un bel dì, vedremo’ is uncomfortable, and not helped by John Wilson revving up the Sinfonia of London and throwing aural caution to the winds.
If Richardson doesn’t quite have the measure of Bellini’s ‘Casta Diva’ – how many sopranos do? – her ‘Piangete voi?…Al dolce guidami’ from Anna Bolena is as good as this dependable artist gets, discreetly decorated at the start of the aria as she wraps her voice around one of Donizetti’s most seductive melodies. The soft singing at the end has real class, and for once Wilson keeps the brakes on.