Mezzo-soprano arias by Brahms, Rossini, Saint-Saëns, etc
Varduhi Abrahamyan, Cecilia Bartoli (mezzo-soprano); Il canto di Orfeo; Les Musiciens du Prince-Monaco/Gianluca Capuano
Decca 485 0862 71:30 mins
Less rhapsody than masterclass, Cecilia Bartoli’s new project with Decca aims to promote young singers in repertoire that clearly interests their mentor. Here it’s a selection of roles that the great 19th-century French singer Pauline Viardot made her own, sung by the young Franco-Armenian mezzo-soprano Varduhi Abrahamyan.
Abrahamyan is not her mistress’s voice, although there are traces of those infamous rolled ‘r’s in her recitatives from Rossini’s Semiramide and La donna del lago. Her diction, particularly in the Italian repertoire, needs teacher’s attention and there’s an excessive use of vibrato that Bartoli should have banished. But it’s the repertoire that puzzles, with Brahms’s great Alto Rhapsody sitting awkwardly between Gluck and Rossini: would Viardot have programmed Goethe settings sandwiched between Orphée and La donna del lago?
Les Musiciens du Prince-Monaco on ‘authentic’ instruments, conducted by Gianluca Capuano, err on the wrong side of stately. The Bacchanale from Samson et Dalila is decorous, while in ‘Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix’ Varduhi Abrahamyan sounds more society hostess than sex siren. But her soft singing here and a well-judged legato hint at what she is capable of when class is out.