Mozart: Desperate Heroines

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: NAIVE
ALBUM TITLE: Desperate Heroines
WORKS: Arias from The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, Mitridate, re di Ponto, Idomeneo, Lucio Silla, Il re pastore, La finta giardiniera
PERFORMER: Sandrine Piau (soprano); Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg/Ivor Bolton
CATALOGUE NO: V 5366

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This is Sandrine Piau’s first Mozart recording for 13 years – a period in which she has been taking on stage roles from Poppea to Mélisande. Piau admits a predilection for tormented heroines and, in this short (48-minute) anthology, she offers a ‘kaleidoscope of women’ with whom she is eager to empathise.

They range from Figaro’s poor Barbarina – an anguished miniature, gently inflected with Piau’s particular brand of plangent vocal purity – to the tragic scenae of Mitridate’s Aspasia, and Giunia from Lucio Silla. In the arias and recitatives from these examples of Mozart’s early forays into opera seria, Piau recreates numb torment, fear and anger within the comparatively small expressive range of her soprano. A sense of breathless expectation quivers through an exquisitely lilting ‘Deh vieni’, from Figaro. And, while some listeners may fine Piau’s timbre too ‘white’ for the particular anguish of Donna Anna, her ‘Non mi dir’ reveals a latent hysteria within its shades of pale.

Piau’s pearly coloratura is also the perfect vehicle for the terror of poor battered Sandrina (La finta giardiniera). And Ivor Bolton’s urging of the orchestral slings and arrows is everywhere minutely attuned to the elusive and delicate, nervous volatility Piau expresses so well.

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Hilary Finch