Elīna Garanča: "Revive"
Arias by Leoncavallo, Cilèa, Berlioz, Verdi, Saint-Saëns, Mussorgsky and others. Orquestra de la Communitat Valenciana, R. Abbado. Texts and translations. Deutsche Grammophon 00289 479 5937
WITH THIS IMPRESSIVE new CD, Latvian mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča signals a shift in her opera career. In her very personal essay in the accompanying booklet, Garanča writes, “I have noticed how, in the past few years, my voice has clearly developed in a dramatic direction.” She recently sang her first Santuzza in Paris and will follow it with Eboli, Dalila and Didon in Les Troyens.
This disc, subtitled “Strong Women in Moments of Weakness,” includes selections from all four of these new roles as well as works from the more lyric French repertoire, plus two rarely heard arias, “E destin, debbo andarmene…. Marcello mio,” from Leoncavallo’s Bohème, and “Reine! Je serai reine!,” Anne’s aria from Saint-Saëns’s Henry VIII. The more I hear of Leoncavallo’s Bohème, the more I like it; Garanča’s gutsy way with Musette’s phrase “Mi tormenta la fame” (I’m tortured by hunger) is one of the finest moments on the disc. Also splendid is the gloating, prideful aria of Anne Boleyn, triumphant that she will at last become queen. Perhaps even more interesting is the inclusion of one soprano aria, “Io son l’umile ancella,” Adriana Lecouvreur’s gorgeous entrance aria, which Garanča dispatches with beauty and ease.
Garanča has been noted throughout her career for her sensitive, lyrical voice and style of phrasing; her external displays of emotion have seemed restrained. Such is the case here. Her new dramatic arias are well crafted and technically solid, but they lack the fire and passion of verismo. Her Santuzza, for instance—represented here with “Voi lo sapete, o mamma”—is surprisingly well sung but lacks vocal heft. She needs to be less careful and more passionate. Garanča is more successful with the Principessa di Bouillon’s aria “Acerba voluttà,” from Adriana Lecouvreur, displaying powerful low notes, but again she seems emotionally reticent. Dalila’s “Samson, recherchant ma présence” gives Garanča the chance to unleash her smoky, sultry side, and she sings it with style and beauty. Princess Eboli’s “Nel giardin del bello,” from Don Carlo, is charming and sensuous, though the trills are missing.
It’s telling that, in her essay, Garanča writes, “In my view there are two sorts of artist: some immerse themselves in the audience while others lure the listener to approach them. I think I am the second type.” It seems to me that she may want to be more of the first type to succeed in the dramatic or verismo roles.
The French selections on this disc are all ravishingly sung and sensitively phrased. Garanča catches fire with “Venge-moi d’une suprême offense,” in which Massenet’s Hérodiade starts with genuine fury at the Baptist’s insults, then shifts to a sensual pleading with Hérode to help her. This is terrific singing, emotionally full, subtle and nuanced. Also impressive is her moving take on Didon’s final aria from Les Troyens, full of subtle shifts in tone and emotion, and her lush and gorgeous singing of “Connais-tu le pays,” from Thomas’s Mignon. In her one aria in Russian, Garanča offers a charming and amusing take on Marina’s aria from Boris Godunov, capping it with a derisive laugh at the “foolish Muscovites.”
Garanča is powerfully accompanied by the vibrant, expressive playing of the Orquestra de la Communitat Valenciana under the masterful hand of conductor Roberto Abbado, at all times sensitive to the singer and leading with verve and panache. —Henson Keys