Elena Mosuc: "Donizetti Heroines"
Symphony Orchestra of Croatian Radio-Television, Croatian Radio-Television Choir, Lipanović. Notes, no texts or translations. Sony Classical 88883788222
It might seem unappreciative to suggest that listeners sample Elena Mosuc's fine Donizetti CD in installments rather than in one sitting. There is actually much here that evokes Beverly Sills, particularly in Mosuc's determination to explore territory that is rather heavy for her natural vocal endowment, and to do so with a combination of fearless abandon in some places and a heavy reliance on calculated effects elsewhere. It is, in fact, the repetition of those effects from number to number that contributes to a sameness of delivery.
Lucrezia Borgia's "Com'è bello" offers Mosuc plenty of opportunities for lovely pianissimo floating, although legato can become a bit bumpy as the soprano strives for too many successive vocal "moments." In the opera's final cabaletta, Mosuc is appropriately fiery and impressively skillful; trills are in place, fioritura dispatched neatly and expressively, and the first of many high E-flats crowns the performance. Maria Stuarda follows, with the queen's marvelous confession aria to Talbot (Marko Mimica). As with Sills, Donizetti's most lyrical queen is the one most suited to Mosuc's voice. This becomes evident when Anna Bolena's "Come, innocente giovane" produces some tonal discomfort, although, it must be mentioned, no reduction in accuracy or aplomb. Anna's ravishing "Al dolce guidami" hits all the marks in terms of attention to markings and musical detail. The down side is a lack of spontaneity and naturalness of delivery: nothing is simply sung. "Coppia iniqua" really wants a size-larger instrument to make its effect, and the interpolated E-flat reinforces that point.
Mosuc finds an attractive round color for Elisabetta's conflicted recitative in the final scene of Roberto Devereux, although by the time we arrive at the aria we've heard the same vocal devices used so often that they no longer produce the desired goose bumps. In the cabaletta — Donizetti's most fascinating, and the only one in which different text is employed for the repeat, thereby enhancing characterization through words rather than ornamentation — the soprano is let down by Ivo Lipanovic´'s pedestrian pacing and fails to mine all the dramatic possibilities.
It is in Lucia's mad scene that Mosuc hits her stride. Suddenly, her singing is more natural, less mannered and quite impressive, as is her vocal acting. Although on paper, if one omits optional high notes and the lengthy traditional interpolated cadenza (here performed by Sascha Reckert on the marvelously eerie glass harmonica that Donizetti originally intended), Lucia is lowerin tessitura than, say, Elisabetta in Devereux,she is a more fragile heroine, suitable for a lighter voice. In this context the soprano is generously equipped for the challenge at hand. It is a highlight of the disc.
While Mosuc is a technically assured, emotionally connected belcantista with a keen understanding of Donizetti, the disc comes off as very good rather than revelatory, not only because the soprano's arsenal of vocal effects feels redundant but because there's no guiding hand to help her give these selections something more varied and theatrically potent. Maestros such as Gianandrea Gavazzeni may have mistakenly cut bel canto operas, but they understood the style and supported the theatricality. Lipanović offers an efficient reading of music that may ultimately depend on the gifts of the singer to come to life but still needs a dramatically alert, stylish conductor to support the effort. Otherwise there's a missing element that Donizetti simply counted on.
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