Great Operatic Arias, Volume 5
Lovely, lovely record, and that wretched, inevitable little word ‘but’ had better be admitted immediately and sent on its way. The ‘but’ concerns tone-quality when, at a certain volume and a certain height, a bright, metallic tinkle of wear or overtones (I don’t know whether the singing profession recognises what I have in mind and dignifies it with a technical name) obtrudes and momentarily compromises the purity of sound. It has long been a feature of Kenny’s voice and makes only intermittent appearance here (in the Pearl Fishers duet, for example), but it has to be mentioned. That aside, delight is more or less continuous from start to finish.
Taking a look at the programme, I would have thought its order haphazard and likely to be too fragmentary and inconsequential: not so in practice. The disc opens with Lauretta’s plea to her daddy (‘daddy’ surely, not ‘father’) and is quite happily followed by Ilia’s invocation to the breezes, then back to Purcell and on to Handel and Donizetti and so forth. The jumps are not ones to break a leg over though. Perhaps this is because everything here, from Purcell to Cole Porter, is treated in a spirit of thinking the best – and finding it. All concerned seem united in this – the singer, the players and their admirable conductor. When a refined musical spirit is brought to it, the music responds. Handel’s ‘Jubal’s lyre’ responds as we no doubt expected it to, but when Rossini’s ‘Dark day of dread!’ follows, instead of the heavyweight posturing suggested by the title, we find a blissfully scored duet, an idyll of love-birds in thirds with orchestral pizzicatos; and when this is followed by the famous solo from La Wally, that too is heard as an utterance almost refined in its passion, the song of a heartbroken girl rather than an aria for the spotlighted diva.
Delightful throughout is the cleanness of style: intervals, intonation, phrasing, the handling of words. Perhaps the characters need more differentiation, but I don’t think they do (this is not Mimi turning into Tosca, or Violetta into one of the Leonoras). As for the oddities – The Mikado, Kiss me Kate and so on – they all earn their welcome. And the odd notion of ending a lyric-soprano recital with what is properly a tenor solo (the Faery song from The Immortal Hour) proves to make for an inspired and magical coda.'