Verismo Arias - Mirella Freni
Freni sets out on a path new to her on records, entering Muzio-territory, or, if preferred, Olivero-land. Callas and Tebaldi have been there before her, and before them the once-eminent, now almost forgotten, Burzio, Mazzoleni and Poli-Randaccio. The point of involving this pantheon of earlier lyric-dramatic sopranos is that none of them, as far as I can recall, made their early reputation as a Susanna, Zerlina and Nannetta. Freni, with one of the most crystalline young voices I have ever heard, sang such parts for some delightful years, as a pure light lyric soprano. Then came the Aidas and Toscas; with them a beat, of varying insistency, but, marvellously, doing small damage to that lucent purity of tone that was her most precious possession. Now, taking this further step into the dark passions of the verismo heroines, she more decisively leaves behind her the roles and the vocal identity of her youth. The voice now develops and makes more use of its deeper resonances, and the chest-voice comes into play in the tradition of the great ones evoked above.
Only with an excess of indulgence could it be said that the new repertoire (which also brings its own dangers) has restored the firmness of earlier years; but by the same token it would be ungenerous to let this spoil the enjoyment and limit the warm response which is her due. Each of these performances impresses as the work of a singer newly moved by the music and the drama. She is never inexpressive, never merely goes through the well-known routine of verismo-singing. If one tries Muzio in