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Review

Opera News: CD Review – SPIRITO

With her voluptuous but scalable voice and instinctive sense of musical drama, Rebeka gives a lot of herself in these characterizations, inhabiting each heroine so fully that the music seems like her natural communicative idiom.

Marina Rebeka: Spirito

 

CRITIC’S CHOICE

 

Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Massimo di Palermo, Bignamini. Texts and translations online. Prima Classic Prima 001

 

April 2019
Joanne Sydney Lessner

 

In researching this collection of character-defining bel canto moments, soprano Marina Rebeka excavated the autograph manuscripts of Bellini’s Norma and Pirata, Donnizetti’s Maria Stuarda and Anna Bolena, and Spontini’s Vestale. These editions provided the foundations for the extended scenas she offers here, although, per tradition, she adds her own embellishments. The detective work is impressive, but that’s not what makes this recording worth having. With her voluptuous but scalable voice and instinctive sense of musical drama, Rebeka gives a lot of herself in these characterizations, inhabiting each heroine so fully that the music seems like her natural communicative idiom. Offering the level of drama one expects from a live performance rather than a studio recording, she varies her timbre in response to the emotional content, etching her characters with a specificity that can get lost in the barrage of florid technical demands.  

“Casta Diva” is commanding, with a steely Edge that presents Norma as a single-minded force to be reckoned with, hinting at the reason behind Pollione’s betrayal with Adalgisa. In Imogene’s mad scene from Il Pirata, Rebeka takes the opening recitative from delicate exploration to torment and maintains dramatic impetus even as she caresses the triplets over the sleepy arpeggios in “Col sorriso d’innocenza.” She rises to a wistfully floated pianissimo singing “A chi tanto oprò per te,” then turns around with ferocity, dipping into her satisfyingly meaty low register.  

The two Donizetti queens couldn’t be more different. Her Maria Stuarda is focused and spiritual, spending the moments before her death trying to get everyone to listen to her prayers. One can hear her imagining the ascent to heaven in her angelic sustained G rising to a B-flat over the chorus in “Deh! Tu di un’umile preghiera.” The end of “Ah! se un giorno da queste ritorte” is thrilling, up to and including her high D. By contrast, her Anna Bolena offers more ingenuous shimmer, brighter coloration and romantic madness. It may be Rebeka’s most beautiful singing. Her limpid phrasing on “Al dolce guidami” is laced with longing, and the final flourish retains dramatic authority.  

Julia’s arias from La Vestale are better known in their Italian translations, and hearing them in French calls to mind Berlioz more than Bellini. The galloping strings in “Sur cet autel sacré” paint the roiling passions of a vestal virgin in love, and Rebeka’s emotional and technical bravura are even more integrated here, ending the exciting “Impitoyables dieux” with a hair raising high C. Conductor Jader Bignamini shares Rebeka’s conviction and sense of urgency, which aso spreads to the four soloists (mezzo-soprano Irene Savignano, tenor Marco Ciaponi and baritones Francesco Paolo Vultaggio and Gianluca Margheri) whose cameos allow Rebeka to include the interstitial material that is often cut when these extended scenes are excerpted.