Review – Mozart Arias (Marina Rebekah, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Speranza Scapucci)
To listen to this Mozart recital disc immediately after that of Ms Gauvin is to enter a different world of sound and interpretation.
Marina Rebeka is a new name for me but judging from social media her star seems to be in the ascendant. It seems that she is not destined for the UK until February 2015 so before then I must try and see her in Europe. I see she is singing Mathilde in Guillaume Tell in Munich and based on this disc, I am inclined to make the trip to see her live on stage.
If Ms Gauvin’s recital was elegantly authentic, there is something ‘solid’ about this debut disc. But solidity in the reassuring and positive sense – this is definitely a ‘calling card’ of a recital disc, as Ms Rebeka literally works her way through Mozart’s heroines and anti-heroines.
It’s clear that from the outset that while this soprano still has a way to go in terms of individual characterization, vocally she has an impressive instrument – full-throated, bold but with a good degree of dynamic control and, when controlled, a thrilling top. And this voice married to strong technique and intelligent interpretation.
From Idomeneo she gives us Electra’s arias and immediately sets out the ambition of this recital disc. I would have preferred a little more ‘fury’ in O smania! O furie! but she sings D’Oreste, d’Aiace ho in seno I tormenti with a real expansiveness. And in Estinto è Idomeneo? Tutte nel cor vi sento the closing chorus – albeit a luxury – would have assisted in giving this track greater impact.
Staying with the anti-heroines her performances of Der Hölle Rache and O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn … Zum Leiden bin ich auserkoren clearly demonstrate that she has the notes if not the dramatic intent and it then feels rather dislocated somewhat to hear her sing Pamina’s Ah, Ich fühl’s. Compared to Ms Gauvin’s ‘chaster’ Pamina, I think that Ms Rebeka’s more robust daughter might have a “lived a little” and it is one of the most compelling performances in this recital.
She also gives us the key arias from Mozart’s earlier Singspiel. In Marten Aller Arten Mozart dispensed with any semblance of emotional depth and parked his coloratura tanks on the lawn of Eighteen Century Vienna. And here Ms Rebeka attacks the music with relish accompanied with similar glee by her concertante counterparts. The vocal line is controlled with the coloratura pinpoint accurate. A thrilling ride of a performance.
And it’s good to hear Kostanze’s Traurigkeit ward mir zum Lose with the accompanying recitative, especially when played with such eloquence as it is here. And the ensuing aria, taken at a faster than usual lilt, conveys a sense that this is a role that Ms Rebekah is very comfortable with.
The rest of the recital is made up – rather generously – of the heroines from Mozart’s Da Ponte operas. But as a result, characterization is thin on the ground but there is some more thrilling singing.
Of the arias performed, Crudele? Ah no, mio bene! … Non mi dir, bell’idol mio again provides a vehicle to showcase the singer’s full-bodied – but well-clad technically speaking – soprano. And as a result – vocally speaking – this is the highlight of the disc while she shows enviable breath control in Elvira’s Mi tradì quell’alma ingrate.
As the Countess she delivers Porgi, amor more than elegantly – listen to the sotto voce of her opening phrase for example – and that elegance returns for Dove sono even if again, the tempo is slightly faster than I expected in the opening section.
From Così comes the war horse for any recital disc, Temerari … Come scoglio and this singer delivers it with some gusto. She flings the coloratura passages out with confidence and in this aria at least her trills are spot on.
But the real surprise for me in this recording was the playing of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Signora Scapucci. And surprising in a good way as considering the ‘glorious noise’ they make in Shostakovich under Petrenko – and definitely worth investigating if you haven’t already – here they play with a sensitivity, grace and sense of style that puts some other British orchestras to shame when it comes to Mozart.
As with Ms Gauvin, I heartily recommend this debut disc. Ms Rebeka might have been over-ambitious in terms of the number of characters she portrays but her commitment and thrilling singing is never in doubt.