Maria Chiara - (The) Decca Recitals
The Chiara triptych – the three recital programmes recorded by this admired lyric soprano in the 1970s – is assembled here for the first time. The earliest of its panels centres on the more fragile of Puccini’s heroines but ranges also from Donizetti’s Anna Bolena to Verdi’s Aida. The second is devoted entirely to Verdi, and the third concentrates on the verismo period. Within these few years the singer developed, each recital seeming well suited to her voice and art at that stage. Briefly, we hear a young soprano of rare sweetness and (as it often appeared) exquisite sensibility broadening into a more mature artist with an enhanced dramatic potential, settling then to work within the conditions appropriate to a refined taste and a voice of moderate power. She soon disappeared from the regular record lists, and her career, which lasted well into the 1990s, never blossomed quite as fully as had been expected.
The recordings, carefully made as they were, give hints of why this might have been so, most persistently in slightly flat intonation. There is also in the first two recitals a habit of taking high notes from below. Again, up to the third recital and most marked in the first is a tendency to relax tempo and rhythm, the conductor Nello Santi going along with this all too easily. Sometimes a spurt of energy or a flash of dramatic strength comes into play (as in the Forza del destino aria) but we are then also aware of a naturally slender voice asked to bear overmuch weight. Yet the third recital, with the verismo arias, brings some of the best performances of all: excellent, for instance, are the three arias (La Wally and Loreley) by Catalani. Chiara is a singer who deserves to be remembered, and this collection contains much of the best of her.