LABELS: Opera Rara
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Bella Immagin
WORKS: Operatic excerpts
PERFORMER: Diana Montague (mezzo-soprano), etc; Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, RPO, Philharmonia Orchestra, Academy of St Martin in the Fields/David Parry
CATALOGUE NO: ORR 210
Rarities there certainly are here, with extracts taken from a couple of Opera Rara’s complete recordings and from its ongoing survey of A Hundred Years of Italian Opera, all featuring Diana Montague prominently. But the gem is a newly released item, the title track, an insertion aria written for a London production of Rossini’s early comedy L’inganno felice by the German-born, English-resident Julius Benedict. With its early-Romantic sensibility it makes a wonderful vehicle for Montague’s ability to chart a long lyric line, as does a prayer from Winter’s Zaira. Her sheer technical accomplishment is well displayed in the florid finale to Donizetti’s Zoraida di Granata, and (in tandem with Bruce Ford’s ringing tenor) in a large-scale duet from Meyerbeer’s Il crociato in Egitto, while her vocal partnership with Yvonne Kenny is treasurable in a duet that may or may not be by Rossini (the jury is out) and (together with Keith Lewis) in a trio from Paer’s Sofonisba. These qualities combine throughout with first-rate musicianship and a keen dramatic sense. David Parry conducts with strong stylistic sense and the sound is lucid and wide-ranging.