Puccini, Catalani, Ponchielli, Cilea, Boito, Mascagni

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Boito,Catalani,Cilea,Mascagni,Ponchielli,Puccini
LABELS: Sony
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Italian Opera Arias
WORKS: Arias
PERFORMER: Jane Eaglen (soprano); Royal Opera Chorus, Philharmonia Orchestra/Carlo Rizzi
CATALOGUE NO: SK 89443
Not surprisingly, none of these Italian opera arias is from the bel canto era, or even from Verdi. They are all verismo arias by Puccini and his contemporaries (and the somewhat earlier Ponchielli), to which Jane Eaglen’s huge soprano voice is eminently suited. Rich and opulent throughout all registers, and only occasionally losing quality at the very top of its range, it is for the most part heard at its best on this disc.

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As Madame Butterfly, hardly a character she would be asked to portray on stage, Eaglen gives a stunning account of ‘Un bel dì’, and is equally effective in ‘Che tua madre’, an aria that extracts less effectively from its surroundings. Her words – especially important in verismo opera – are not always clearly articulated, and this is especially the case with ‘Vissi d’arte’. The least-known Puccini item on the disc is the aria from Edgar in which Fidelia sings a moving farewell to her lover. Here, Eaglen is at her best, soaring at the end to a high B flat, with the splendid sopranos and tenors of the Royal Opera Chorus adding their voices to her lament.

The Catalani, Ponchielli, Mascagni, Cilea and Boito items are all well done, and Carlo Rizzi conducts idiomatically. All in all, a most enjoyable disc.

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Charles Osborne