WORKS: Colbran, the Muse: arias from Armida, La donna del lago, Maometto II, Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra, Semiramide & Otello
PERFORMER: Joyce DiDonato (mezzo-soprano); Orchestra and Chorus of the National Academy of St Cecilia, Rome; Banda Musicale della Guardia di Finanza/Edoardo Müller
CATALOGUE NO: 694 5790
Every generation yearns for its own Rossini heroine and Joyce DiDonato seems an answer to our prayers. In arias that Rossini wrote for Isabella Colbran, first his mistress, then his wife and finally abandoned, DiDonato displays exactly that vocal style that particularly excited the composer and which we presume to have been Colbran’s range – a voice that is grounded in the middle register but takes wing with a top extension.
So in ‘Serena i vaghi rai… Bel raggio lusinghier’ from Semiramide DiDonato produces burnished bronzed middle tone at the start and ends with effortlessly soaring top notes that seem to defy gravity. As for the crescendo through the last phrase in the finale to Armida, that should be required listening for every aspirant Rossini singer.
This is an artist who moves between registers with grace and skill, whose legato is seamless and whose tone is pearly. Indeed so creamy in ‘D’amor al dolce impero’, also from Armida, that you feel you could eat it on a spoon.
Then there’s that hushed quality to DiDonato’s singing; a thrilling sensation that she’s holding back, say at the beginning of ‘Tanti affeti’ from La donna del lago. Conductor Edoardo Müller is the perfect partner showing DiDonato off to her best advantage. Christopher Cook