“Stella di Napoli” – Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-sop./ Orch. and Chorus of the National Opera of Lyon/ Riccardo Minasi – Erato (Distr. by Warner) 08256 463656, 72:15 *****:
Star of Naples is Joyce DiDonato’s latest foray into the world of bel canto origins occurring in that legendary vocal town where composers for the voice seemed to pop up like mushrooms in a field after a hard rain. Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini of course make appearances but the focus is not really on them. Instead the charismatic and highly energetic mezzo wants us to concentrate on some of the lesser-known dudes hanging around the town, composers who may not have effected a lasting influence in the eyes of the public but were certainly responsible to a great extent for the formation of a type of singing that is still considered today by many as the greatest form of vocal art.
Michele Carafa’s Le nozze di Lammermoor and Mercadante’s La vestale steal the stage from the usual Donizetti and Spontini settings, and while you might be forgiven if you have never heard of Carlo Valentini’s Il sonnambulo you also will never forget this marvelous aria once it seeps into your ear canals. One always welcomes Rossini’s brilliant Zelmira, and Di Donato does not disappoint here, even while the two Pacini pieces absolutely captivate.
The technical wizardry found on this release is little short of astounding; one of the reasons for the accession of bel canto was its penchant for ravishing melody alternating with technical feats that stretched the voice almost to the breaking point, and the innovative inclusion of solo instruments acting almost as characters within the arias—in many cases, anyway. And the dramatic comportment needed to sell the emotional aspects of this music requires superhuman control in the midst of chaotic vocal explosions, requiring the artist to be at the very top of her game—and DiDonato is without question riding high in that respect.
This is a great sounding disc, and I have sometimes been disappointed with Warner Classics in that regard, but everything is just right in this release, beautifully balanced and providing a luxuriant background for the singer. Don’t hesitate with this one!
TrackList:BELLINI: Dopo l’oscuro nembo (from Adelson e Salvini) second version, 1828/29 Tu sola, o mia Giulietta… Deh! tu, bell’anima (from I Capuleti e I Montecchi) CARAFA: L’amica ancor non torna…Oh, di sorte crudel (from Le nozze di Lammermoor), Jean-Michel Bertelli (clarinet) DONIZETTI: Par che mi dica ancora… Fuggi l’immagine (from Elisabetta al castello di Kenilworth), Morgane Fauchois (glockenspiel); Io vi rivedo alfin…Deh! Tu di un’umile preghiera (from Maria Stuarda) MERCADANTE: Se fino al cielo ascendere (from La vestale) PACINI: Ove t’aggiri, o barbaro (from Stella di Napoli), Héloise Mas (Marta); Saffo Flutto che muggi…Teco dall’are pronube…L’ama ognor qual io l’amai (from Saffo), Rémi Mathieu (Faone), Héloise Mas (Climene) & Nabil Suliman (Alcandro) ROSSINI: Riedi al soglio (from Zelmira), Nabil Suliman (Polidoro), Rémi Mathieu (Ilo) VALENTINI, C: Lasciami… Se il mar sommesso mormora (from Il sonnambulo), Héloise Mas (Sofia)