Rosa Feola: Musica E Poesia
In their search for the vocal stars of the future, Rosenblatt Recitals have enjoyed an impressive hit-rate. Now that the live recitals (originally at St John’s, Smith Square, more recently at Wigmore Hall) have started to spawn studio-made recordings, they are bringing their finds to a wider audience. Of these three latest discs, one is an absolute winner. The young Italian soprano Rosa Feola is everything that Rosenblatt Recitals hope to discover – a beautiful voice in its youthful prime, an artist on the threshold of an auspicious career.
Unlike Feola’s recital in the Rosenblatt series in 2014, this disc offers a programme solely of songs, all in Italian. The two groups by Respighi are typical of the minor treasures to be found among this neglected song composer’s legacy. His Quattro Rispetti toscani, sophisticated settings of four folk‑like poems, show off the light, bel canto beauty of Feola’s soprano (her Elvira in Welsh National Opera’s I puritani last year garnered special praise). The five Deità silvane (‘Woodland Deities’), set in an Arcadian landscape of rustling forests and abandoned classical gardens, open the door to a world half lit by French Impressionism. Iain Burnside ripples with cool precision through accompaniments that might have been drawn from Debussy’s Préludes and Feola matches him in the gentle, flickering lights in her voice. (Toscanini, Horowitz, Rubinstein and Heifetz were in the front row of the audience for the premiere and will have been lucky to hear such a fine‑grained performance.)
A group of three late songs by Martucci, dating from 1906, offers a different take on how Italian composers were absorbing the latest musical innovations from France. Then a pair of settings of a Dante sonnet, one by Ponchielli, the other by Pinsuti, both said to be first recordings, leads neatly to Liszt’s exalted Tre Sonetti di Petrarca. Feola is not impassioned in these like Pavarotti or Carerras in their recordings, but her poise is impeccable. She takes some of the higher options for the voice, though not all. In one, at the close of ‘Pace non trovo’, she rises to an effortless D flat – a high point, in every sense, of singing that is graced everywhere with an elegant sweetness without ever feeling sentimental or saccharine.