Recordings > Recital

Marina Rebeka: "Mozart Arias"

spacer Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Scappucci. Warner Classics 6154972

RebekaCD

Latvian soprano Marina Rebeka uses her dark, steely sound instrumentally and accurately, but that doesn't automatically make her a Mozartean. In spite of a successful Met debut as Donna Anna, Rebeka is still in development as a musician, in need of help blending imagination, technique and characterization, and the pairing with conductor Speranza Scappucci here is a disaster.

There's an attractive bite to Rebeka's singing, and roles such as Elettra (in Idomeneo) and the Queen of the Night highlight this edgy thrust. But when she's not chewing somebody out, her diction can be mushy, with swallowed tone and little warmth or spaciousness in the sound. Runs are cleanly etched and metronomic but aren't used artfully to shape a line dramatically, or to intensify an emotion. They're merely accurate, and so what? There's more to "Martern aller arten" than nailing the notes.

Yet on this technical level, Rebeka's singing is impressive, in spite of some occasionally strident high notes. Both of Die Zauberflöte's Queen of the Night arias, along with Elettra's "D'Oreste, d'Aiace" and "Tutte nel cor vi sento," from Idomeneo, are pungently delivered, with spiky diction and pinpoint coloratura. There are some limpid moments in Pamina's "Ach, ich fühl's" and the Countess's "Porgi amor," and these slow arias reveal a cool vocal poise that Rebeka puts to good use.

While the soprano often shapes recitatives attractively, with changes in color and dynamics, these moments tend to sound coached and parroted, rather than generated by the specific dramatic situation. It's not enough to sing softly now and then or slow down the tempo; we need to follow the Countess's thought process in the recitative before "Dove sono," with detailed attention, not generic expressivity, from the singer.

A big problem is Scappucci's heavily Romantic conception of the music, a sonorous orchestral wash in which every note is so thickly resonant that the lines can't move or breathe. Even a majestic piece such as the Queen of the Night's "O zittre nicht" has a natural hierarchy of strong and weak beats, but Scappucci's lead-footed rendition is dead in the water. Three big scenas in a row (Don Giovanni's "Non mi dir" and "Mi tradì," plus "Dove sono," from Le Nozze di Figaro) are particularly disappointing. Moving from dramatic recitative through lyrical aria into a culminating allegro, Scappucci loses momentum every time, with weighty, ponderous basslines in stodgy tempos, leaving Rebeka to power through the final pages ineffectively. spacer

JUDITH MALAFRONTE

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Current Issue: September 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 3