Marina Rebeka - Elle. © 2020 Prima Classic

CD Spotlight

An Absolute Soprano

GIUSEPPE PENNISI listens to
a recording by Marina Rebeka

'... perfect emission ... consummate technical skills ...'

 

At the beginning of this year the International Classical Music Awards (IMCA) declared Marina Rebeka Artist of the Year with the following motivation:

The Latvian singer Marina Rebeka embodies, perhaps more than any other, the idea of the ‘absolute soprano': her repertoire spanning from Baroque to Verismo, from Belcanto to Russian music. She always stands out for the astounding perfection of her singing, her immaculate diction in many languages and a moving commitment to the theatrical demands of the different characters.

I was impressed by her first important international role, at the Salzburg Summer Festival in 2009: under Riccardo Muti's baton, she was one of the protagonists of Rossini's Moïse et Pharaon, while she was almost unknown, and she enthralled the audience. I enjoyed hearing her at other times in live performances in opera houses, eg at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro in Rossini's Guillaume Tell. I should add, inter alia, her performances at the Rome Teatro dell'Opera in Rossini's Maometto Secondo, in Donizetti's Maria Stuarda and again in Salzburg in Verdi's Simon Boccanegra.

She is an absolute soprano for her perfect emission, her consummate technical skills, her voice's extension, her abilities to fit different roles from those requiring lyric coloratura to heavily dramatic roles and those originally written for a mezzo. For instance, she might be the only living soprano who can sing Norma as Bellini conceived it. There are rumours that she was contacted by the management of La Scala, where Norma has not been performed for the last forty five years. I can only hope that if there are ongoing negotiations, they will be successful.

This CD is the fourth solo recording by Marina Rebeka. It shows the range of her abilities in women's roles in French repertoire of the nineteenth century. It starts with the aria from Charpentier's Louise - Depuis le jour où je me suis donnée and ends with Gounod's Dieu! Quel frisson from Roméo et Juliette - two very dramatic pieces.

Listen — Gustave Charpentier: Depuis le jour où je me suis donnée (Louise)
(track 1, 0:31-1:31) © 2020 Prima Classic :

Listen — Gounod: Dieu! Quel frisson (Roméo et Juliette)
(track 13, 0:14-1:05) © 2020 Prima Classic :

Between them are two very sensual pieces by enchantresses such as Salomé and Thaïs, as well as the Carmen seduction aria.

Listen — Massenet: Celui Dont la parole (Hérodiade)
(track 2, 0:43-1:30) © 2020 Prima Classic :

There are necessarily pure love arias such as Me voilà seule dans la nuit from Bizet's Les pêcheurs de perles, and Adieu, notre petite table from Massenet's Manon, and the rarely performed L'année, en vain chasse l'année from Debussy's L'enfant prodigue.

Listen — Debussy: L'année, en vain chasse l'année (L'enfant prodigue)
(track 12, 0:01-0:58) © 2020 Prima Classic :

Of course, the CD includes some well-known pieces with coloratura such as Gounod's Les grands seigneurs from Faust and his Ah! Je veux vivre from - this last with its impervious acute.

Listen — Gounod: Ah! Je veux vivre (Roméo et Juliette)
(track 8, 3:04-3:42) © 2020 Prima Classic :

There's also the tragic Pleurez, pleurez mes yeux from Massenet's Le Cid.

The selection is quite varied and it gives an overview of both Rebeka's vocal abilities and of opera arias, many of which are seldom heard outside of the French musical world.

The CD has only one flaw: the Sinfonieorchester St Gallen conducted by Michael Balke is a good ensemble for a middle size town in Eastern Switzerland but not up to Marina Rebeka's level.

Copyright © 12 April 2020 Giuseppe Pennisi,
Rome, Italy

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CD INFORMATION: MARINA REBEKA - ELLE

FURTHER INFORMATION: PRIMA CLASSIC

FURTHER INFORMATION: GUSTAVE CHARPENTIER

FURTHER INFORMATION: JULES MASSENET

FURTHER INFORMATION: CHARLES GOUNOD

FURTHER INFORMATION: CLAUDE DEBUSSY

FURTHER INFORMATION: GEORGES BIZET

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