Colbran the Muse: DiDonato the Goddess
Fierce is just about the only word I can come up with so bowled over have I been by listening to this new disc from Madama DiDonato (on Virgin Classics).
It opens like gangbusters with the spectacular rondo "D'amore al dolce impero" from Armida - a very impressive way to open this recital, every minute of which is thrillingly AND gorgeously sung. DiDonato hurls her voice through coloratura that will practically make your head spin - showing off a more dazzling range than one usually encounters in a mezzo. Then again, she seems to be almost channeling Colbran.
The selections from "La Donna del lago" remind me of another mezzo I loved in this music; the young von Stade, with DiDonato possibly earning the laurel wreath here. Of course 35 years ago when Flicka was singing this music Rossini scholarship and performance standards were not quite what they are now, and she was singing it live (in Dallas) with an opera house orchestra in that old barn and recorded by pirates. In 2009 Ms. DiDonato has it considerably better - but none of that would matter if she couldn't sing this stuff and sing it she does - most impressively - and with high notes, grupetti, wild and fierce (there's that word again) variations that pose not a single problem. Her upward scale work in the finale is just nuts!
Putting away the fireworks for a minute, DiDonato summons up ravishing tone and pours her heart into Maometto II's "Giusto ciel in tal periglio" - I've heard many versions of this aria, and DiDonato virtually matches the tragic pathos that Sills brought to this in her La Scala debut, and with a similar quality that's both sunny and sad. The entrance of the chorus - then her decorated line is gorgeous (and I didn't even miss the impossible high note (D#?) Sills tacks in that makes me swoon). I DO miss that Maometto doesn't include the gorgeous cabaletta that follows (which Sills is ridiculously great in).
It's fun to hear the "e cento trappole prima di cedere" music from "Una voca poca fa" pop up in the middle of Elisabetta regina d'Inghilterra's "Quanto è grato all'alma mia" (or was it vice versa?) and Joyce and Co. make it soar.
It's also great to hear a nice chunk of Otello (aided beautifully by Lawrence Brownlee) making me wish this opera were more popular than it ever got to become (thanks a lot, Verdi!). I'm thinking SOMEONE needs to mount a production of this for these two. Talk about a hit!
Eduardo Muller leads the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia forces in glorious, full blooded readings the orchestra playing as if to the manner born and the choristers, clearly inspired sing with the same infectious love for Rossini as their golden tressed collaborator.
I won't go into detail of every number here (you're welcome!) but the entire disc is so well conceived, so lovingly put together, the singer's phrasing, breath control and sense of drama is all so damned exciting it moves right to the top of this year's "favorites" pile!