WORKS: find works
Arguably the pre-eminent coloratura soprano of her generation, Sumi Jo has been tempted away from her usual repertoire with a disc that focuses on arie antiche. These 17th- and 18th-century Italian songs have a deceptive simplicity, and their seemingly straightforward, often unembellished vocal lines can prove unexpectedly exposing. Of course, this isn’t technically a problem for Sumi Jo, who is capable of negotiating elegantly and accurately just about anything on or above the stave. The disappointment is that, in this recital, this is as far as she goes, and these songs of torment, yearning and thwarted passion require deep feeling and expressiveness if they are to come off properly. She isn’t much helped by her pianist Vincenzo Scalera; again there’s nothing wrong with his playing, but it’s neither inspired nor inspiring.
The bulk of the songs are by Giordani, Sarti, Scarlatti (father and son), Rosa, Cesti, Caldara and Paisiello, but among them are interspersed arias and songs by Handel (ponderous accounts of ‘Lascia ch’io pianga’ from Rinaldo and ‘V’adoro pupille’ from Giulio Cesare), Rossini, Bellini, Verdi and most happily the 19th-century German-born, naturalised-English conductor-composer Julius Benedict, whose frivolous but enchanting ‘La capinera’ reminds us what Sumi Jo is like at her coquettish, sparkling and considerable best. Claire Wrathall