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Review

MusicWeb International: Amor fatale

To mark the forthcoming Rossini Year in 2018, soprano Marina Rebeka has released an album of Rossini arias entitled Amor fatale. Rebeka’s selection of dramatic opera arias features strong female roles chosen from seven operas.

To mark the forthcoming Rossini Year in 2018, soprano Marina Rebeka has released an album of Rossini arias entitled Amor fatale. Rebeka’s selection of dramatic opera arias features strong female roles chosen from seven operas, including famous works such as Guillaume Tell and Semiramide and also lesser known operas like Maometto II and Moïse et Pharaon. In addition, these powerful women are forced to decide between their heart and obligation to: family, like Elena in La donna del lago, or homeland, as with Anaï in Moïse et Pharaon, or country, such as Mathilde in Guillaume Tell. Some of these tragic heroine roles were written especially for Isabella Colbran, the Spanish prima donna who Rossini married, including the title role in Armida and Elena in La donna del lago.

It was at the Rossini Opera Festival in 2008 at Pesaro with the role of Anna from Maometto II that Rebeka began her career. Notably the soprano has also performed the role of Mathilde in Guillaume Tell at Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich in 2015 and New York Met in 2016. Looking at Rebeka’s schedule of productions over the last few years, with one or two exceptions, she has predominantly been singing the staple Romantic opera repertory with several productions of La traviata and La bohème.

Preparing meticulously for this album Rebeka has studied Rossini’s original handwritten scores and has fashioned her own coloratura. Throughout this studio recording of works by the bel canto master Rossini, Rebeka gives a consistently high level of performance with plenty of drama and high emotion, rich in musical insights. There are three works that I have selected for their appeal and particular impact. In the title role of Semiramide, the act one cavatina with chorus ‘Bel raggio lusinghier’ the Babylonian queen waits for Arsace who she has fallen in love with, though he is actually her own son. Rebeka’s bright and attractive tone is impressive, being especially silky in her mid register. Her ability to glide quickly to her high notes is impressive too, although, they do notably narrow. The aria ‘D’amor al dolce impero’ from act two of Armida brings the princess of Damascus, a sorceress, singing of the strength of her love for the knight Rinaldo. Here Rebeka’s range of coloratura is accomplished, despatched to perfection with especially fine breath control. From act three of Guillaume Tell Mathilde’s air ‘Pour notre amour – Sur la rive étrangère’ Princess Mathilde recognises the impossibility of her love for Arnold and they say their fond farewells. The expressive range of emotional drama in this challenging aria is communicated splendidly by Rebeka and especially engaging, too, is her coloratura display. ,

The contributions from the three guests Julia Heiler (mezzo-soprano), Levy Sekgapane (tenor) and Gianluca Margheri (baritone) may be brief but they are valuable and well sung. The Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks revels in this Rossini repertoire, demonstrating its excellence. Rebeka benefits from the work of the Münchner Rundfunkorchester who under Marco Armiliato give a first rate response, providing refined playing that has real impact, with sensitivity when required.

Recorded in Munich, the engineering team at the studios of Bayerischer Rundfunk has provided first-rate sound quality, which is clear with a satisfying balance between soloist, chorus and orchestra. Most regrettably the release does not contain any sung texts, however, as some consolation the helpful booklet essay ‘Amor fatale – Powerful Women in Opera’ written by Guido Johannes Joerg places the arias in the context of the actual opera.

Michael Cookson – MusicWeb International