WORKS: Arias from La clemenza di Tito,
PERFORMER: Susan Graham (mezzo-soprano); Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Harry Bicket
CATALOGUE NO: 8573-85768-2
Susan Graham’s gleaming, beautifully focused mezzo and nobility of line make her an ideal exponent of these heroes and heroines of antiquity. The three arias from Iphigénie en Tauride confirm the rave notices she received for her Iphigenia at last year’s Salzburg Festival. This is magnificent Classical singing, the tone firm and even throughout its range, the legato flawless, the phrasing ample and majestic. With no hint of false histrionics, Graham captures to the life Iphigenia’s mingled compassion, anguish and vulnerability. She is no less compelling in the two arias from Orphée, flinging out the extravagant roulades in ‘Amour, viens rendre à mon âme’ (performed in the 1859 Berlioz/Viardot recension) with imperious confidence and precision. In Sextus’s two numbers from Mozart’s Clemenza di Tito Graham makes the vacillating anti-hero more sympathetic than usual, his pain and insecurity palpable beneath the outward resolve: the mezza voce inwardness at the reprise of ‘Deh, per questo istante’ is a moment to savour. Elsewhere she brings both agility and sensuous warmth to the showcase aria from Lucio Silla (her way with coloratura more elegant, less frenetically driven than Bartoli’s), and catches truly and touchingly Cherubino’s adolescent ardour and longing. The accompaniments are crisp and tidy rather than specially imaginative; and Erato cynically stints on translations, inexcusable with a full-price disc. But this is a searching, superlatively sung recital from a lyric mezzo who in this repertoire has few, if any, peers in the world today.