eludes the common vocal classification, does not tolerate being boxed in the confines of a register. Because of this, many are puzzled by her repertoire choices, wishing she would make up her mind once for all as to what kind of address to give to her repertoire. Soprano? Mezzo-soprano?

The artist who defies these limitations is an impeccable musician, trained at the famous Bologna Conservatory. After brief experience in the Bologna Comunale Theatre Chorus and a few engagements as a comprimaria (one can see her as Kate Pinkerton in La Scala's video of Madama Butterfly or as the Dama in the D'Anna movie of Macbeth), she emerged in the late '80s winning three of the most prestigious international contests, the Verdi in Busseto, the Pavarotti Competition in Philadelphia, and the now defunct Maria Callas Competition. The latter revealed particularly useful for her career as it was televised all over Italy. She sang Imogene's final scene from Il Pirata and Elena's rondò from La donna del lago, and she triumphed.

The eighties were a period, especially in Italy, of huge belcanto renaissance, with a special interest in the revival of Rossini's serious works. The problem of finding a singer to perform the Colbran roles was particularly thorny. At the time she started to create roles for Rossini, Isabella Colbran had lost some of her upper range and was what today we could define as a high mezzosoprano. Most sopranos tackling the Colbran roles nowadays are wanting in vocal depth, especially in their lower-middle ranges. Within a couple of years Antonacci virtually monopolized the Rossini repertoire in Italy, making a succession of impressive debuts as Dorliska (Torvaldo and Dorliska, Savona 1988), Anaide (Mosè, Bologna 1991), Semiramide (Catania, 1991), Elisabetta, regina d'Inghilterra (Naples, 1991), Elena (La donna del lago, Amsterdam 1992), Zelmira (Rome, 1989), Elcia (Mosè in Egitto, Rome 1988 and London 1994)

.This artist has never been afraid to learn rarely - if ever - performed operas: Paisiello's Elfrida (title role), Mayr's La Rosa Bianca e La Rosa Rossa, Polissena in Manfroce's Ecuba, all recorded on CD. She has been one of the most complete Fiordiligis in recent times; a CD recording of Così fan tutte with Gustav Kuhn proves it. Her other Mozart role is Donna Elvira, which she is currently singing under Claudio Abbado in Ferrara. Vienna and Berlin saw her debuts as Gluck's Alceste; last December she impersonated his

Armide at La Scala. She was an astonishing Adalgisa in Catania, 1990, which will also be her debut at San Francisco next year, and an unusually youthful Bellinian Romeo (Naples, 1995, recorded on CD). Her only Donizetti was a few performances of Maria Stuarda (Bari, 1989), where as Elisabetta she overshadowed a declining Katia Ricciarelli in the title role. Another role she has performed all around the world is Poppea in Monteverdi's masterpiece (Bologna, Milan, Buenos Aires). Carmen is probably the most famous role in her repertoire.

Antonacci's greatest role to date is the title part in Rossini's Ermione (Rome, 1991), an opera which turned out to be particularly congenial to her voice and her dramatic talent. This opera (arguably Rossini's masterpiece) was revived for Montserrat Caballé at Pesaro in 1988, but suffered from La Caballé's lack of preparation and poor vocal condition. It was only a few years later when La Antonacci took on this role in Rome that the world realized the supreme greatness of this amazing work. Ermione has introduced Anna Caterina to several other operatic "piazze", such as Buenos Aires, San Francisco (concert performance), London and Glyndebourne (for two seasons). Apart from Ninetta in La Gazza ladra (Philadelphia, 1989) and the San Francisco concert performance of Ermione, Antonacci's only North American appearance was in 1996, in Toronto as Angelina in La Cenerentola. She has not limited herself to opera by all means. In her numerous concerts she tackles an extremely wide repertoire ranging from the Italian baroque to the Italian art songs, Wagner and Shostakovic, with a particular affinity for the French song repertoire. She has performed Rossini's Stabat Mater, Messa di Gloria (recorded with Accardo), and Petite Messe Solennelle, Stravinsky's Pulcinella (recorded with Chailly), Pergolesi's Stabat Mater (recorded with Muti).

Anna Caterina Antonacci is one of those artists who must be experienced live. She must be seen on stage. A woman of strong charisma and stunning beauty, she is an amazingly talented actress. Her Glyndebourne Ermione videotape will give you an example. Sometimes a couple of high notes may sound slightly what, when you have in front of you a real artist, someone who gives all of herself, who totally indentifies herself with the character she is interpreting. Ecco un'artista!

Nick Fishbone

Photographs of La Antonacci:
In recital
Ermione (2)
Marchesa del Poggio
Semiramide (2)
Poppea (2)
Poppea (3)

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