BBC Music Magazine - - THE FULL SCORE -

Massenet’s Thaïs is one of my favourite op­eras and I par­tic­u­larly en­joy the record­ing con­ducted by Yves Abel, with Renée Flem­ing as Thaïs and Thomas Hamp­son as Athanael. Thaïs suits Flem­ing’s voice per­fectly and this record­ing re­ally gets you into the at­mos­phere with­out you see­ing any­thing – through her voice, through the sounds of the wind and the desert, you can kind of imag­ine it all. Abel def­i­nitely gets the right ap­proach, and the per­for­mance is so touch­ing and sen­sual.

The mezzo-so­prano Christa Lud­wig is an amaz­ing artist, and I like the way that she in­ter­prets Schubert Lieder on her disc with pi­anist Ir­win Gage. Lud­wig ex­presses her per­son­al­ity through the songs. This is not opera, this is not a story – she ac­tu­ally brings her­self into those songs. The pi­anist and the singer also have to be com­pletely to­gether and to bring the same ideas to this mu­sic, and I think Gage and Lud­wig com­bine bril­liantly, es­pe­cially in songs such as Gretchen am Spin­nrade and An die Nachti­gall.

Puc­cini’s Manon Lescaut, con­ducted by Ric­cardo Chailly with Kiri Te Kanawa in the ti­tle role is per­haps an un­usual choice. Why so? Be­cause Kanawa’s voice is not how we would nor­mally think of Manon Lescaut – mostly we think of Manon as a dra­matic, full so­prano, but Kiri here is in­stead very fem­i­nine. You can feel the light­ness in her voice, and some­how it works. I also like José Car­reras as Des Grieux. He’s in his best shape and his dic­tion is amaz­ing.

I lis­ten to mezzo Olga Boro­d­ina’s Por­trait CD to get into the right mood be­fore singing. I love the ca­pac­ity and colour of her voice, which has amaz­ing shape, and the way she never pushes it. Her voice is like velvet – soft, mild and warm. In the first disc of this dou­ble set, she goes for arias where you can ad­mire her col­oratura, such as in ‘Nei gi­a­rdin del bello’ from Verdi’s Don Car­los.

‘Amore fa­tale’, Marina Rebeka’s new record­ing of Rossini arias, will be re­viewed in a fu­ture is­sue

sub­lime schubert: mezzo Christa Lud­wig tells com­pelling sto­ries

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