Cher Public

Love in bloom

Everything about Aleksandra Kurzak’s new disc is a variation on the term “fioritura.”  From the fuchsia-colored album design, with the decoratively curvaceous soprano brandishing a bouquet of flowers wearing a patterned ensemble of similar hue, to a collection of arias and scenes that bloom through her spectacular coloratura facility, Bel Raggio is a thing of beauty.

While her first album was a “calling card” recital, designed to showcase her talent across a continuum of popular repertoire, Bel Raggio is devoted exclusively to the work of Gioacchino Rossini.  The soprano has made the works of the “master from Pesaro” something of a specialty and his operas have figured prominently in her European career.  She adds yet another Rossini heroine to her repertoire when she essays Countess Adele in Le Comte Ory for La Scala in July 2014.  

The opening number is “Bel raggio” from Semiramide, the title track for the album.  Kurzak credits Joan Sutherland for the ornamentation observed here, including two brilliantly delivered high E’s.   She renders the dramatic situation with immediacy and detail rather than the usual vapid facelessness, supplying anxious anticipation in the first section and excitable rapture in “Dolce pensiero.”  Scales and passagework are clean, precise and fearlessly executed, the high notes breathtaking in their ease and radiance, evoking the required frisson.

Flashy showpieces like this are interspersed with more lyrical numbers, demonstrating Kurzak’s firm sense of line and graceful piano singing.  She offers an unusually (and arrestingly) girlish sound in “Selva opaca” from Guglielmo Tell, in contrast the more grand-voiced ladies typically associated with this aria.  Admittedly, Kurzak lacks some of the color and tonal variety of Tebaldi, Crespin, Caballé and others but her singularly beautiful timbre is notable for its sheen and glow.

She is even more in her element as Amenaide in Tancredi, a role she has performed on stage and in concert under the baton of Rene Jacobs.  Kurzak inhabits the contained sentiment of her preghiera “Giusto Dio che umile adoro” with eloquence, uncorking the dramatic tension superbly in the mounting excitement of the subsequent exchange between Amenaide and the approaching offstage chorus.

In the more famous harp-accompanied prayer from L’assedio di Corinto, she spins a gossamer legato line to ravishing effect.  Unlike many modern day singers, Kurzak is unafraid to use portamento as both an expressive and stylistic device.

The range of Rossini’s talent is well represented here from his most famous work, Il barbiere di Siviglia, to such rarely encountered operas as Sigismondo and Elisabetta, Regina d’Inghilterra.  The former attracted Kurzak as the opera concerns a historical king of Poland.  A passionate advocate for the music and culture of her native country, the soprano states in the liner notes that she wished “to leave a small Polish mark on this CD.”  She is delightful in the heroine Aldimira’s aria “O tranquillo soggiorno,” her voice blending beautifully with the elaborate woodwind scoring and striking the right note of reverie and repose.  The work was a failure and Rossini recycled some of it for his later operas, including an easily recognizable piece of bridge music in “Una voce poco fa.”

Rosina proper is represented here by the duet “Dunque io son,” in which Kurzak’s justly celebrated interpretation can be appreciated for its playful brio and breezy singing.  She is joined here by the Polish baritone Artur Rucinski as Figaro, an attractive-voiced singer but no equal for his leading lady in scintillating coloratura.

Rucinski appears again as the Poet in Fiorilla’s scena “Squallida veste, e bruna  . . . Caro padre, madre amata” from Il Turco in Italia, an opera Kurzak has performed to great acclaim at Covent Garden (and will reprise there in a future season).  A satire of opera seria, the piece benefits enormously from Kurzak’s tongue-in-cheek delivery, with an audible smile and wink in the tone.

But the crown jewel of this disc is the scena “Ami alfine? . . . Tace la tromba altera” from Matilde di Shabran, whose title role served as a breakout opportunity for Kurzak at the Royal Opera House back in 2008.  This is flat-out astonishing singing.  Not since Beverly Sills have I heard a singer who communicates such a palpable and enchanting delight in her own virtuosity, without the slightest hint of self-consciousness or artifice.

She not only dashes off exhausting, bugle-like roulades with precision in the cabaletta but does so with beguiling charm and luminous tone.  Her deliciously teasing manner in the opening passage is downright sexy and perfectly captures the alluring character of Matilde’s paean to love.  This track represents coloratura singing of the absolutely highest accomplishment and I have listened to it non-stop since receiving the disc.

Pier Giorgio Morandi summons capable playing from the Sinfonia Varsovia but does press hard in “stretta” sections.  The Warsaw Chamber Choir contributes enthusiastically throughout but their vibrato-less singing sometimes comes off like a parody of Chanticleer or Celtic Women.  At least Decca went to the trouble of supplying them:  comprimario and choral contributions were noticeably missing from Kurzak’s earlier CD.  The engineering and sound are first-rate.

In summary, an essential purchase for lovers of great vocalism.  At 35, Kurzak is at the height of her powers and this album is a celebration of her incredible virtues.  Rarely have artistry, technique, voice and physical beauty aligned to such captivating effect.  May she retain a bloom on the rose for years to come!

  • LittleMasterMiles

    No quibbles about ornaments (like Sutherland’s high E’s) of a kind that the “Master from Pesaro” would never have approved of? Or is every role Zerbinetta now?

    • well, the Maestro from Pesaro has been dead for how long? It is not like he has any control over what is done to his music these days.

      And also, that suggests that he would be unable to adjust to the times.

  • semira mide

    Just listened to the “Matilde di Shabran” excerpt and was frankly disappointed. Kurzak has a lovely voice and a secure technique, but comes up short in this excerpt. She has neither the refinement and charm of Massis, nor the warmth and wit of Peretyatko( who “almost” stole the show last summer in Pesaro.)Listening to it again I suspect that part of the problem lies with the orchestra and conducting -- rather “symphonic” rather than “chamber” for lack of a better way of putting it.

    Thanks for the review,though. I just have a different opinion. And yes, may Kurzak eventually really bloom!

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      I haven’t heard this recording, but in the theatre I found Kurzak streets ahead of Massis in that aria (although conversely, I have only heard Massis on recording).

      • Vergin Vezzosa

        Saw/heard Kurzak as Amenaide (Tancredi) live in Vienna (an der Wien) a few years ago in an innocuously silly staging and I thought that she was very, very good. Would like to have the opportunity to see her more.

      • semira mide

        I suppose your experience supports the”don’t jude a singer by a recording” advice.
        Hope to hear Kurzak in person some time. Massis is not performing so much anymore I understand.

        • Cocky Kurwenal

          Any reason why Massis is performing less, that you know of?

  • fidelio101

    On another topic, after seeing Johnny Depp in the Lone Ranger last night, do you think the Met will ever do a new production of William Tell? I’m listening to the Pavarotti/Freni cd now and it is just so beautiful!

    • Rumor has it Rossini’s final opera is scheduled for the Met in the not-too-distant future, featuring an artist who recently made a stunning surprise debut with the company.

      • fidelio101

        Is this a riddle? A contest?
        Will it be in French or Italian?
        Will they get Roberto Bolle for the ballet?
        Please tell us more!

      • Cocky Kurwenal

        Pretty Yende?

      • Camille

        Brian Hymel would seemingly indicate it would be done in the original (French) version?

        We have been hearing this rumour for a while now so can the dates be narrowed down a bit more? Say 2016-17, 2017-18???

        Any ideas?

        • Cocky Kurwenal

          Oh yes, I was forgetting Hymel. He’ll be the debut in question, rather than Yende.

          • Camille

            Maybe the pair of them! I am only hypothesizing in any case. They both made surprise debuts, it’s just that Hymel’s intervention was the more spectacular in the sense that he came in midway after a somewhat usual resignation and release of the role by Giordani and he was also filmed. Whereas I believe Miss Yende’s was only a substitution for Miss Machaidze’s “illness” and there was a bit more lead in time.

            Anyway, it will likely be the production from Amsterdam (Audi?), and I am hoping it will be sooner rather than after 2020. Can’t wait, in any event!

          • Camille

            Forgot to add: the critical issue usually always centering on the issue of casting a more than adequate Arnaud is so critical to the success of the work.

            Now I wish I had listened more carefully to John Osborn in the broadcast from ROH, but I was too busy that day. Schade.

            Love Michael Spyres but fear his voice in the role of Arnaud would not be exactly a good fit in an oversized barn like the Met. Or maybe not. Hard to tell.

        • tiger1dk

          Camille, not to be pedantic but the tenor hero is called Arnold in the French version, not Arnaud…. (c;

          • Camille

            You can be pedantic as your heart allows, that is fine with me, but now I am confused for I am reasonably certain I have seen the name referred to in this manner! Now I wonder where it comes from? Perhaps just something I picked up from some French source, I do not know.

            His last name is Melcthal, then, n’est-ce pas?

          • Vergin Vezzosa

            Camille, perhaps Arnaud comes from the well known New Orleans restaurant of the same name once famous for its remoulade sauce? (Not likely to be found chez Genevieve).

          • Camille

            HaHA! Eh bien, this Arnaud (Hymel) would fit right in.

            No, it is used variously as I thought. He is referred to as Arnaud on all the recordings I have perused. It is Arnold on the Wikepedia page. This is one score I do NOT own, as I did not want to ever buy GUGLIELMO TELL, and that one would possibly be Arnoldo. So, the name changes according to where you source it.

            Case closed.

            Is Galatoire’s REALLY as good as it is supposed to be, I wonder?

          • Vergin Vezzosa

            On last visit, about 5 years ago, Galatoire’s was indeed IMHO the only one of the classic creole places that has maintained its superior standards. Will give it another try if I manage to go as planned to see Der Vampyr in NOLA in October. As I said before, better that than Popsy as Helene in London.

          • Camille

            OMG!!!!! Vampires back in N’orleans??????? In October? What FUN!!!! Oh gee, can I go to??

            Hey thanks a bunch about the Galatoire’s update. My Monsieur has an idée fixe about going there, so maybe someday we will make it. He loves that cajun stuff.

            Isn’t Interview with a Vampire placed there? Gee, it is being staged then??

          • Vergin Vezzosa

            Camille, I wager that you and M. Camille would love NOLA and Galatoire’s. Although I will not wade into a debate about which is better (chacun a son …) creole and cajun cuisines are quite different, each with its different attributes.

            Anyway, the Vampyrs is apparently going to be set in present-day NOLA to utilize that city’s current image courtesy of Ms. Rice’s works about the undead, covens of witches and other less than upstanding citizens. Yes, it should be fun.

      • mjmacmtenor

        Surprisingly, we have a tenor (Hymel) and even a couple of alternatives for what is usually the hardest role to cast. Angela Meade would seem an excellent fit for Mathilde. All we need is s baritone. Suggestions?

        • Baltsamic Vinaigrette

          Why, Plácido, of course.

        • soubrettino

          Gerald Finley? He already did William with Pappano. In a perfect world I would suggest Stephane Degout but heh.

        • Nerva Nelli

          George Petean.

          He sings good French (Valentin at the Met, le Duc d’Albe at the Flemish Opera), scored a major NYC success as Gerard opposite the Sicilian Viper for OONY’s CHENIER, and has the burly pater familias physique du role.

          Karine Deshayes as Jemmy. Jamie Barton as Hedwige. Paul Appleby for the Pêcheur.

          Keep Stefan Kocan far away. Maybe Ranting Relyea for Gesler?

          • Camille

            Very good castin, Mme. Nelli, but who would you approve of as Mathilde?

          • Nerva Nelli

            I don’t think Pretty Yende has a substantial enough voice for the big duets and ensembles Mathilde has to handle. I’d be happier with Patrizia Ciofi. Or Julianna di Giacomo,who sang it with Spyres at Caramoor two summers ago?

            Wonder how Kurzak would do? I agree with Niel, she is genuinely an artist, an individual. Have heard her live in RIGOLETTO and was quite impressed by the first aria recital.

            Just as long as it’s not the execrable Pop Tart.

          • Camille

            Perish the thought of The Poppy! She has done enough dirt to fiorature!!!

            Funny, I was thinking of the Topic of this Thread, too, as I would prefer someone with an excellent coloratura technique and a cutting edge,to the sound and without the big plummy sound. I don’t want to hear Meade in this, at all, at all. Let her learn to sing Alice.

            I have been SO hoping that The Poppy’s experiences in Wagner (Third Norn and Gutrune) will steer her unto a very diverse path and far from the wholesale destruction of belcanto type of works.

            Thank you, Nerva, and I do hope your sojourn in weiten Land will be a happy one!

          • operalover9001

            I really want to hear Leah Crocetto as Mathilde.

          • Vergin Vezzosa

            So agree with Nerva. Especially loved Deshayes in Ory last winter. DiGiacomo was excellent as Mathilde at Caramoor. Ciofi was however very underwhelming for me in the ROH Robert le Diable in December and I would not want to see her as Mathilde after that. With regard to La Popsy, it makes me nervous that she is the announced Mathilde to Hymel’s Arnold in the upcoming Tell in (if I remember correctly) Geneve. She would ruin a Met production for me. She is the sole reason I have decided to take a pass next fall on the ROH Vepres, an opera I absolutely adore and would love to see Mr. Hymel in. Happy although to be in the midst of it in 48 hours at Caramoor.

          • Nerva Nelli

            Nerva is back among y’all, Camille.

            “The Poppy’s experiences in Wagner (Third Norn and Gutrune)…” …perhaps suggest the use of Mary Curtis-Verna as a career model. So maybe Popsy will get around to Santuzza and Turnadot yet.

          • Camille

            Egad! Mary Curtis-Verna I’ve not thought of in a coon’s age.

            She wasn’t all that bad after all. These days she would probably be very gratefully received instead of being the eternal bridesmaid, as she was. I do recall a recording of hers with Corelli, from about thirty five years ago. Slightly.

            Bentornata, Madame Nelli!

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            Pappano used Bystrom of course, so I’m expecting her to be the ROH’s default choice when they do the piece. It wouldn’t really be like them to go to the effort of thinking of somebody else.

            I rather like Bystrom actually -- seems like a Fleming-ish instrument in that it is a slender lyric that stands up surprisingly well to assertive singing. Also, like Fleming, it extends up to top c without any special effort -- you don’t get the sense of anything above the A being different, like you do with a conventionally organised lyric soprano voice. And finally, it’s a distinctive, velvety sound.

          • Hippolyte

            Bystrom has also sung Helene in Vepres Siciliennes (in Geneva 2010).

            On the other hand, Poplavskaya is singing Elisabeth in the Berlin Staatsoper’s new Tannhauser next spring.

        • Buster

          Nicola Alaimo was a great Tell in Amsterdam. I believe Marina Rebeka will sing Mathilde in New York, as she did in Amsterdam. Loved her.

          • Vergin Vezzosa

            Oh please no. Loathed her as Donna Anna along with Frittoli and Erdmann in DG at the Met when it was new and in Moise in concert at Carnegie. The completely negative vocal equivalent of a marijuana grow light, totally cold and bright. Pleaaaaaase!

          • Feldmarschallin

            Rebeka is singing Violetta here on Tuesday. I have never heard her and am interested in hearing her live. So she is horrible?

          • Buster

            I thought Rebeka was great. She sounded youthful, acted well, and could be heard fine over the enormous chorus and orchestra. She scaled back lovely for the intimate scenes. I was looking forward to hear her in the trio, the only part of the opera I know well, but unfortunately they left that out. Why?

          • Feldmarschallin

            Well I shall see how she is on Tuesday. One hated her and one loved her. Maybe I will be in the middle of the two :)

          • semira mide

            Buster, Nocola Alaimo and Marina Rebeka are appearing the ROF (Pesaro) Tell this summer. I will be there and my companion will be blogging and tweeting. Opening nights are usually broadcast (Rai3, I think) but I will update here on Parterre for those who are interested. Tell opening is August 11th.

          • Buster

            Interested how she will do in Munich and Pesaro -- will look out for your reports, both.

            The Trovatore yesterday was a mess. One minute into the Kusej Macbeth, and I could not stop watching, but I gave up on this one when that woman started to dance around the train. Childish, boring. Watched Columbo for the rest of the evening.

    • semira mide

      Pavarotti was so moving in WT -- best argument for presenting it in Italian. Those days are gone, alas.

  • Niel Rishoi

    Great review, Signor Bordello. I have heard Kurzak on YouTube, and I am very impressed. The voice is clear, gleaming and very attractive; she has vitality, there is no aspirating, and clearly has an individual “voice-face.” Definitely a superstar coloratura in-the-making. by the way, have you heard her speaking voice in interviews? It’s as deep as Milanov’s!

  • Camille

    Those E naturals Dame Joan interpolated into “Bel raggio lusinghier” cleared my sinuses when I first heard them in 1963(!!!), and still ring in my ears. An absolute thrill!

  • I heard 4 tracks and stopped. The voice is both brittle and breathy, legato OK, fioriture well-rehearsed and they sound like it. Very limited ability of colouring the sound or admitting sincere, heartfelt emotion, and there’s the ultra-modern metallic edge. I don’t hear any individuality, artistry, or particular response to the music.

    Ah, yes, top notes are very, very good. What else is new.

    • BTW, I guess she sounds much, much better ‘live’. Still, not a very attractive singer (to me), let alone an ‘artist’.

    • Evenhanded


      Cerquetti: The points you make about the breathiness and metallic edge were among the first things I noticed during my preliminary listen through this disc. The voice is metallic -- not brittle at all -- there is a difference. These minor flaws take some getting used to, and her voice may not be your cup of tea, but Kurzak is absolutely individual -- both in timbre and musicianship.

      The coloratura is quite striking in its accuracy (pitch is flawless) and mathematical precision -- quite a rare thing these days. While I feel she has some way to go in developing interpretive depth, her phrasing is really quite special. I’m not sure how you could have listened to the aria from Guglielmo Tell and not heard this. Her diction is very clear and the phrasing is just immaculate -- and even better, IMAGINATIVE.

      I’m not the biggest fan of her voice per se, but these arias are all extremely difficult and she really does well by them -- ALL of them, in fact. Quite an achievement in these times of rampant mediocrity.

      • Ah well, I guess it’s onw of those cases where I’m practically isolated from the rest of the world. I hear nothing individual about her. Rather the opposite in fact. Monochrome and efficient, with fine coloratura.

        • For example, varying the tone according to the harmonic language is always essential, but it is of prime importance in Rossini, and I hear nothing of the tug and pull of the harmonic tensions in her singing.

          • armerjacquino

            I’ve not heard the Rossini disc, but as I think I’ve said before what made me sit up with ‘Gioia’ was the way Lucia and Gilda and Violetta and Susanna were clearly defined vocal personalities; different people, in fact, which is way rarer than it should be.

        • luvtennis


          My take on her is similar to yours.

          I only listened to the Bel Raggio -- which I thought started well. The voice had point, she gave the line direction and the sound was forward and well projected.

          And then it started to go off -- she seemed unable to sustain the earlier commitment and drive in the aria proper. It became faceless and bland. You also begin to notice that certain sounds are getting swallowed and the voice is starting to lose it’s thrust. Also, the voice tends to get glassy on top in a manner which effects pitch on high.

          The cabaletta is accurate but mechanical. For me, fiorature must serve as a vehicle for musical (and occasionally!) dramatic expression otherwise the singer sounds like a machine (if accurate) or a joke (if not). It has to be shaped. It has to make sense in context of the music. Kurzak goes into machine mode so every run sounds just like every other run. The very top is exciting without being thrilling. I know this sounds very critical, and I don’t mean to denigrate her accomplishments, but there are so few orchestral recitals coming from the major labels anymore that one laments the space given to anything less than excellence. DDN’s various discs for instance….

          One good thing about Kurzak is that she has the agility to sing the coloratura up to tempo. Not a feat to be sneered at. One of the problems I have with Devia is that she occasionally as to slow down to get around the tougher curves (as it were). That takes me completely out of the music. One thing I loved about early Joan -- was that she took the runs as fast as the music demanded and with the shape that the music demanded. Sills, for instance, could not be relied upon to hit this standard. Even Maria often had to choose a slower overall tempo -- which is admittedly better than going in fits and starts -- than was ideal for the music.

          The sound itself also starts out better than it goes. The middle voice is occasionally “pretty” but the top is subject to that glassy quality that sounds spread and pitchy.

          Now, that said, she is certainly a pretty woman and would be fine in certain leggiera roles.

        • MontyNostry

          CF -- I have to say I find her unsympathetic too. Maybe she makes a bigger impact in the theatre, but, when I heard her last album, there was a sense of toughness and ‘efficiency’ that I found out of keeping with the repertoire,

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      ‘fioriture well-rehearsed and they sound like it’…

      It’s incredibly rare to hear such accurate coloratura from a properly full, well-released and healthily produced operatic voice like Kurzak’s, and I can’t believe somebody has found a reason to carp about it. She shows the likes of Kermes and Lezhneva that it CAN be achieved without all that tension, compromising the timbre, and bad habits.

      • luvtennis


        La Kermes is a law unto herself…. And a fashion statement unto herself…. And a singing PSA about the dangers of mental illness…unheeded by herself.

        I hear no tension in Lezhneva’s vocal production. She sings on the breath and the voice is well supported in all registers. Yes, the top is still developing, but it seems to me that development is entirely healthy and proceeding in a technically sustainable manner.

        • la vociaccia

          LUVTENNIS!! I thought you must be the first to see this so I am hijacking threads with scant regard for decency.

          Here are the Elgar sea pictures from round 1.

          Thoughts? Me first! I cried. A lot. Yeah…

      • It’s really fascinating, the way people hear differently, based upon their expectations and set of priorities.

        Kermes is, I believe, a naturally gifted singer who could have been an excellent Konstanze in a medium-sized hall. But her obviously unbalanced personality, her addiction to strangling the voice and producing a nauseous 80s baroque style vibratoeless sound and the put-upon vulgarity and shock value of her stage demeanour are already notorious and a real turn-off for me.

        Lezhneva, however, is a completely different phenomenon. Personally, I’d never have thought to hear somebody sing like that in the 21st century. To me, she seems to hail back to the belle epoque style of singing, in that her voice is absolutely pure, no trace of metallic accretion, or breathiness. It is a pure, evenly produced and articulated sound, with carrying power and an ability to lazer-beam through an orchestra and project into a large hall, with no damage to the inherent purity. A real Zwischenfach, with a zwischenfach range and colouring. She reminds me of Tetrazzini, only the latter was a true coloratura with the upward extension with zwischenfach overtones, whereas Lezhenva obviously doesn’t have the range now (she’s 23), and most probably will never acquire the extra third on top. I guess her C-D will develop and become more stable, but honestly I don’t think that these notes will be the crowning glory of her singing. They will always be somewhat unpredictable and occasionally sour -- perhaps a-la Malibran?

        Nevertheless, to me she brings back something of that purity and control that mark the essentials of good singing, stretching from late baroque up till the intervention of verismo and the break-apart of global singing tradition which was brought upon, so I believe, by The Great War.

        It’s quite clear how, despite cultural differences and geographic distance, singers all around the world have produced the sound in roughly the same manner.

        • Listen to Medea Mei-Figner, the original Lisa

          then to Emma Eames, recorded roughly during the same period

          True, the sense of the phrase, the accentuation of syllables, is very different. But vocal production is pretty much the same. With less pressure on the middle range (unlike verismo singing), a lazer, concentrated top and a natural chest register, without our modern concern to smooth away the sound and equalize it to the point of distortion.

          There’s something more, which singers then were expected to deliver -- a sense of musicianship, of varying the tone according to the harmonic language. Something that the excesses of verismo singing has smoothed away and is to be found nowadays only in singers of early baroque repertoire and occasionally in 19th century rep singers (Callas, Scotto, Lipovsek, Gobbi). Even somebody like Melba, a singer whom nobody could ever accuse of being overtly ‘musical’, provides this aplenty. Runs may be smudged but the essential sense of line and musical tension are always there

          at 0:35 listen to the subtle variance of tone as this ditty by Tosti goes into the minor. It is almost unperceptible, yet it is there and forms a natural part of the singing

          Scotto, a much more complex artist, almost flings at us the gradual changes in tonal quality according to the harmonic language : She is almost didactic in this. She also uses portamento excessively as an instrument that helps her to point where the phrase is ‘going’

      • Needles to say, in most vocal luminaries of the 2nd half of the 20th century, this is nonexistant. There is almost no need for it. Some people, like Freni, have tried occasionally but frankly their technique and veristic vocal production have hampered the natural ability to colour the sound. Some people, like Caballe or Sutherland, show no great interest in the lost art. Thrills are the watchword.

        In Kurzak I see no exception. This is a fairly well-constructed voice and she is able to technically execute almost everything. But again there is very little individuality, or an ability or willingness to shape the phrases in a meaningful way. Like LT wrote, fioriture are the *for a reason*.

        Lezhneva presents meticulous *interpretations* of almost everything she sings. Having listened to several of her audio clips, on Utube and on record, there’s always something new to hear and to discern. Some small elision or darkening to match whatever goes on in the orchestra. Yet it is all presented naturally and effortlessly, sung ‘off the page’ in an astonighingly spontaneous way.
        Listen to the way she colours the persistent chromatic colourings and occasional minor shades of this ‘sombre foret’, while maintaining an absolutely firm legato and spinning of sound. She has breath problems in the first stanza, but I think that the ever-unresponsive Fedoseyev is to blame. She establishes order and obedience in very elegant means -- watch 4:40

        The very first phrase starts indeed on the tonic, but the arpeggio on the strings hints at harmonic instability, and there should be some tension on the initial A flat. It all happens here. There are small, beautiful variances of line and pointing in the second stanza. Yet everything is done with economium of means : it is almost imperceptible.
        And the rondo from La donna del lago is simply a beautiful, highly cultivated and joyful piece of singing. I can analyse whatever she does phrase by phrase, but I think I’ll just hear again the way she makes the embellishments sound completely spontaneous. And her joy by the roulades finishing the rondo is infectious. I know of no better version (I have heard them all).

        • Niel Rishoi

          Lovely, beautiful, poised singing. Thank you for posting.

        • armerjacquino

          Funny how tastes can differ. I’d take Kurzak a million times over Lezhneva, who I find uses exactly the same vocal colour on every note and has a tendency to flatness. You’re right about her infectious, engaging stage presence though.

          • The basic vocal colour yes, but underneath…

            For me Kurzak is too obvious in her determination to ‘sing meaningfully’ and colour the sound. It is done inconsistently and IMO in a not particularly musical fashion. And her basic technique forces her to alter the sound in such a way that it interfers with the line. IMO Lezhneva’s shadings are eons more subtle, you really need to listen a few times to ‘get’ what she’s doing : on the surface it appears to be a unified sound, but it is not : alot is happening there.

            As to flatness, OMG I don’t think so :) She possesses on of the purest intonations I have heard in a long time. This goes with years of singing Bach. You can check it with the winds pinpointing the orchestration in both arias : spot on.

            As for consistent flatness, how about the meretricious June Anderson, you’d have thought she’s singing in a’=432. To these ears she sounds effortful, charmless and on the whole quite unlovely.

        • luvtennis


          THanks for this very detailed explanation of your vocal esthetic. I thought I had you “figured,” but it is nice to receive confirmation of my suspicions from you! :-)

          It was also interesting to read your post in light of my own chicken scratches about the “popification” of opera that started in mid-20th century.

          If I were your typical confrontational internet poster, I might chide you affectionately for your idealism -- capitalism, marketing, technology (and attendant short attention spans) and opera’s status as a museum art are all pushing classical vocal music in a different direction. To truly appreciate singing the way that you do one must make serious commitment to listen and concentrate on the performance. Very close listening. And to be concerned primarily with the music -- the vocal artistry being noteworthy only for the degree of commitment to the music displayed by the singer.

          But of course, I am not so confrontational. . . . And indeed, I share much of your aesthetic SOMETIMES, but the truth is I am more likely to be seduced by the singer who behaves as if he or she were the real artifact and the music simply a vehicle for his or (more likely) her glorification. (Hello, unholy triumvirate of the 60s!)

          The problem that I have with too many of today’s famous singers is that they simply lack the vocal goods to deserve the status of sacred monster. :-)

        • Cocky Kurwenal

          It’s all very interesting CF, and I don’t dispute that Lezhneva is the sensitive musician you describe. I was talking purely about vocal production though -- nothing to do with interpretative choices or responses to the music, simply the way she makes a noise in the first place, and for me, in that respect, she is little better than Kermes. I disagree with Luvtennis, with respect, that she ‘sings on the breath’ and has ‘no tension’ -- I hear a clear physical lock going on that means she is up against the breath rather than able to sing with free breath and be completely off cord. The advantage for her is the ability to sing very quick coloratura (although surely here she shows lapses of taste in taking everything SO quickly, sounding half the time as if she’s being tickled). The disadvantage is the lack of vibrancy and refulgence in the basic tone, and the fact that she hits a brick wall on her high notes, which you contend is down to age but which I believe is down to a fundamental lack of freedom in the vocal production.

          • Nerva Nelli

            Thank you, Cocky!

            I absolutely concur. The pushing of the promising Lezhneva’s career by the we-like-’em-ever-younger French musical press is shameful. She has a lot of learn.

            At that, even as she sings now she has more to offer than the to me utterly mystifyingly promoted (oh, yeah, she’s “from a distinguished musical family”-- Anna Prohaska-- about as technically finished a classical vocalist as Angelina Réaux….

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    So the question is: will Angela sing Rondine tonight and will anyone notice that there have been transpositions lowering Magda’s music?

    • tiger1dk

      Do you know for a fact that the music has been lowered for Ms Gheorghiu? Do give us the details, QPF!

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        Harteros is singing rings around all of them at the moment live.

        • Feldmarschallin

          Yet Kaufmann was better last night than in the first two. Maybe he just needs to sing a Lohengrin two days before Manrico everytime. Funny how the audience reaction last night also was more favorable towards Kaufmann. I bet he was still nervous for the premiere since it was a first night and then singing the role for the first time. Dasch’s Elsa was threadbare especially in the first act from the reports I heard last night. She also forgot to give him the sword when Telramund came in.

  • marshiemarkII

    Gurls gurls gurls, can we settle this for once and for all:
    The technical Italian word for embellishment is fiorItura and the plural is fiorIture .
    The words fiorAtura and fiorAture do not exist in musical terms.
    Sorry to be pedantic, but I see parterre as a fountain of information, and we should all aim to be correct as much as possible :-)

    • luvtennis

      You know I USED to know that until I got an autocorrect somewhere and have been spelling it wrong ever since.

      My very bad.

    • manou

      “I see parterre as a fountain of information, and we should all aim to be correct as much as possible”: I so agree, dear marshie, and so I feel we should all aim to be correct and say a fount information.

      Mille scuse.

      • marshiemarkII


      • manou

        Duh! -- A fount of information!!!!

        Duemille scuse.

      • marshiemarkII

        Oh I just love it manoucita, same happened to me yesterday, I was correcting my own ambiguous grammar, by leaving out a word that made it even more ambiguous :-)
        The pedant’s lot

  • Milady DeWinter

    Well, I have to give it a listen, but I thought, according to an interview, maybe last year or so, in Opera News, that Kurzak said she was “all through” with all that fioriture and high note business and was more intent on becoming a dramatic “artiste” a la Dessay. Damrau, etc. Sigh…. Nobody wants to be “just” a songbird any more.
    Maybe she got her pilot light rattled by Pretty Yende, nipping prettily at her heels. Serves her right.
    Some people swear by Kurzak’s Constanze, though. As pointed out above, sure, I hear a basically good voice, a capable to to very good coloratura ability, and the usual “overdrive” sound common to so many these days who know that in order to make the grade you must be HD ready at all times.

    • CruzSF

      Has anyone ever said that she was happy being just a songbird?

      • la vociaccia

        Roberta Peters said she was happy singing what suited her (i.e the songbird soubrettes). She had moved slightly bigger and sang Violetta everywhere except the Met, where she more or less said it just “wouldn’t be right”, even though she had a fairly sturdy middle at that point in her career.

        Kathy Battle was fine being a songbird till the bitter end, what with Zerbinetta and Marie up into her late forties. She talked about Manon at one point -- maybe if the stage career hadn’t stopped so abruptly it would have happened. She also wanted to do roles like Ilia, Melisande..etc. So I guess maybe they don’t ALL want to be songbirds, but some of them stick with it for a while.

    • MontyNostry

      Having seen Pretty Yende the other week in recital in London … She has a lovely presence and the voice has an extraordinary brightness and ring in the ‘normal’ top register (ie immediately above the stave), but she is not yet a consistently interesting artist and the sopracuti were produced in a very alarming way -- her throat started bulging with a kind of temporary goitre … It was in stark contrast to the apparent ease of the rest of her singing.

      • Cocky Kurwenal

        Thanks for this Monty, which I’ve only just seen. I was at one point going to Yende’s recital, but what with one thing and another it didn’t happen.

        I have felt from everything I’ve heard of her (which does not include the live experience) that she is more of a full lyric in progress, rather than the coloratura she’s being touted as, and whose repertoire she seems to sing. I’d much rather see her billed as a Countess and Fiordiligi, because that top just doesn’t sound like her natural territory, to me. STUNNING timbre, though.

        • MontyNostry

          Pretty was best in some nice little Italian songs that she had presumably been very well coached in by Signora Devia, who is teaching her these days. She was not so good at all in the numbers she sang in English -- surprisingly charmless, though going through the right motions. The sound is incredibly pingy around and above the top of the stave -- she is clearly pushing all the right buttons there. That being said, it was a bit too bright for my taste, especially at the resonant Wiggie.

  • CruzSF

    By “she,” I mean any female singer anywhere.

  • CruzSF

    I’ve heard Kurzak live twice. As Gilda (at SFO), she was very good (although the second Gilda in the run was more satisfying to me). As Fiordiligi (at LAO), she was outstanding, even revelatory. Why she isn’t as interesting on recordings as she has been live, I don’t know, but I’ve heard this same complaint about her from others who have seen her in other cities.

  • zinka

    Nice voice..but toooo small.Makes no impact!!!!!

  • Milady DeWinter

    Great shades of the Galli-Curci Goiter Curse, Mostry -- that IS alarming.
    Sounds like an alien is getting ready to pop out of her throat. I hope she gets that fixed.

    Off topic: Parterre recently “unremembered” my login /password, so once I got it re-set again, well, the reply box in we type now has a typeface/font size which is literally miniscule. I’ve never seen anything like it. Well, I can hardly see it to begin with…any suggestions? Other websites not affected., and it displays “normally” on parterre. Milles mercis!