Rossini: Arias & Duets

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Rossini
LABELS: RCA Red Seal
WORKS: Arias & Duets
PERFORMER: Vesselina Kasarova, Juan Diego Flórez; Bavarian Radio Choir, Munich Radio Orchestra/Arthur Fagen
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 57131 2
Back in March, in these pages, I suggested there was no better singer of Rossini than Cecilia Bartoli. Well, this outstanding recital of Rossini at his most extravagantly florid, suggests Vesselina Kasarova is the pretender to her crown. This young Bulgarian mezzo has an extraordinary voice, burnished and beautiful, that Jonathan Miller has described as ranging ‘all the way from Chaliapin to Yma Sumac’. It is also thrillingly agile, vividly expressive and can seem, by turn, both delicate and powerfully robust.

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With two exceptions – ‘Cruda sorte!’ from L’italiana in Algeri and ‘Tanti affetti’ from La donna del lago – she avoids the arias Bartoli made her name with, but there’s no shortage of exacting coloratura, breathtaking runs, heartstopping leaps and exquisitely placed fiorature, all of which Kasarova handles with deftness and aplomb.

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Three of the eight tracks are duets with the tenor Juan Diego Flórez. He, too, excels in this repertoire, the top of his voice flexible and unstrained in the flamboyantly embellished passages that distinguish Rossini’s trickiest vocal writing. The recording balance places the voices well forward of the orchestra, all the better to hear and savour every tiny ornament and flourish. Claire Wrathall