Rossini - Arias
Julia Lezhneva (sop); (a)Warsaw Chamber Opera Choir; Sinfonia Varsovia / Marc Minkowski
Naïve V5221 Buy now
L’assedio di Corinto – L’ora fatal s’appressa. La Cenerentola – Sinfonia; Della fortuna istabile…Nacqui all’affannoa. La donna del lago – Tanti affetti(a). Guillaume Tell – Ils s’éloignent enfin. Otello – Assisa a’ pie d’un salice. Semiramide – Bel raggio lusinghier(a)
(58’ • DDD • T/t)
A protégée of Kiri Te Kanawa, Julia Lezhneva reportedly stole the show singing Rossini at last year’s Classical BRIT Awards. On the evidence of her first CD recital, the 21-year-old Russian is indeed a precocious talent, if not yet quite the finished article. She has many of the essential attributes for these demanding, wide-ranging arias composed for the most brilliant singers of the day: a pure, pellucid soprano with an intriguing hint of mezzo plangency, fluent movement between registers, and scintillating (if faintly aspirated) coloratura. In Desdemona’s exquisite Willow Song she spins a limpid bel canto line, colouring the tone delicately, and she touchingly catches the grieving vulnerability of Pamira’s prayer from L’assedio di Corinto (aka Le siège de Corinthe).
Elsewhere Lezhneva relishes her joyous coloratura sallies in Ellen’s rondò “Tanti affetti” from La donna del lago, encouraged by Sinfonia Varsovia’s perky woodwind interjections. What I sometimes miss is a vivid, individual response to mood and character: say, in her spirited but rather unvaried account of the celebratory Cenerentola finale, where Lezhneva’s highest notes become slightly shrill. With deeper, richer voices, Teresa Berganza (DG, 9/86) and Cecilia Bartoli (Decca, 11/93), in their complete recordings, colour the text that much more imaginatively. Mathilde’s beautiful, musing soliloquy “Sombre fôret” (Guillaume Tell) is carefully shaped but ideally needs more grandeur of tone, and more expressive French. Lezhneva’s characterisations will doubtless grow in depth and detail, but this is a highly enjoyable debut recital, by turns affecting and exhilarating, from a soprano of impressive accomplishment and still more exciting potential. Orchestral accompaniments are trim and alert, recorded sound and annotation (by Richard Osborne) first-rate, though it’s a pity that Naïve tricks out the none-too-generous playing time with the Cenerentola overture rather than including one or two more arias. Richard Wigmore