8 October 2014 at 6.10pm | Comment on this article
Joyce DiDonato - Stella di Napoli (Warner Classics)
After the usual slow summer, the recording companies have gone into overdrive and this month’s recommendations are chosen from a wide field, not least the re-issue on Warner Classics of the entire studio recordings of Maria Callas, re-mastered from the original tapes and an astonishing aural experience. Topping the charts now though is Joyce DiDonato’s new album, Stella di Napoli.
DiDonato requires no introduction, and in this recording the mezzo explores some little-known reaches of the bel canto repertoire. Few singers today understand how to build the aural architecture that allows bel canto its natural expression, let alone the technique to deliver it, but DiDonato excels throughout. Each aria is delivered as an individual act of expression, alive to the text and music and this creates a fascinatingly varied recital – no mean achievement in music that in lesser hands can sound too similar. There are rich pickings and many surprises, not least alternative takes on Lammermoor (Carafa's Le nozze di Lammermoor in place of Bellini's better-known Lucia di Lammermoor) and Sonnambula (Valentini's Il sonnambulo instead of Bellini's La sonnambula), and the final prayer from Maria Stuarda in Donizetti’s own reworking. A captivating and must-have disc.
Franco Fagioli - Il maestro: Porpora Arias (Naive Classique)
Argentine countertenor Franco Fagioli recently had the Wigmore Hall on its feet as he earned one of the few standing ovations that the Hall has witnessed of late. The countertenor soon debuts at the Royal Opera House in Idomeneo so this new release from him of arias by baroque composer Nicola Porpora is very timely. Accompanied by the excellent Academia Montis Regalis, you can be guaranteed an hour of absolutely sensational singing. Fagioli is a true virtuoso and it seems none of these arias holds any fear for him: the voice is distinctive and dramatic, and his technique allows him to sing astonishingly complex vocal lines with ease and abandon.
Jonas Kaufmann - You Mean the World to Me (Sony)
Jonas Kaufmann is seemingly never far from the recording studio and has just released his latest album, You Mean the World to Me. A tribute to the great Richard Tauber and his Berlin contemporaries, Kaufmann offers a generous selection of song and operetta by Lehár, Stolz, Kálman and their like, and even includes a tantalizing glimpse of Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt - based on this performance, what a Paul he would be! With Julia Kleiter offering stylish soprano support and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin under the lively baton of Jochen Rieder, it’s clear Kaufmann loves this repertory and he sings it with real affection and style. It’s a charmer of a disc and one you’ll return to often.
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