After her sumptuous album of Strauss songs with orchestra, soprano Diana Damrau marks the bicentenary of Liszt’s birth with an album of his most celebrated songs in German and Italian, accompanied by pianist Helmut Deutsch.
“A strong and pleasing voice, in both high and low notes – a combination which one rarely encounters,” ran one contemporary report of Catarina Cavalieri, the soprano who created Konstanze in Die Entführung. Though I’d put it rather less laconically, that verdict holds equally good for Diana Damrau, whose new Mozart recital includes two arias composed for Cavalieri, “Martern aller Arten” and Elvira’s “Mi tradì” (added for the 1788 Viennese revival of Don Giovanni). The glamorous German soprano, now in her mid-thirties, made her international reputation as a sensational Queen of the Night and Zerbinetta.
In many ways, Debussy’s piano music finds its rightful home on the harp. Apart from the distinctive textural and colouristic elements in the writing itself, we have contemporary accounts of Debussy’s piano-playing that refer to his ability to make you forget a piano even had hammers. Of course, this doesn’t allow for dreamy, “impressionistic” interpretations; rather, it makes clarity and precision absolute imperatives – which qualities we find in abundance in this recital by Xavier de Maistre and friends.
"Ascanio in Alba" K. 111 came about through the good offices of Count Firmian, who had shared the Milan audience's enthusiasm for "Mitridate" and exerted his influence on the Empress in Vienna. He suggested entrusting the young Mozart with the composition of a festa teatrale for the wedding of the Empress's son, Archduke Ferdinand, and Maria Beatrice d'Este of Modena. Mozart began working on the score in late August 1771…
Diana Damrau’s primacy as an interpreter of Violetta Valéry in La traviata can be inferred from the names of theatres where she has performed Verdi’s most popular opera: the Metropolitan, New York; La Scala, Milan; London’s Royal Opera House; the Bavarian State Opera in Munich and the Zurich Opera. Paris’s Opéra Bastille joined that list of leading houses in June 2014, when the German soprano appeared in a new production by the film director Benoît Jacquot. Conducted by Francesco Ivan Ciampa, it is presented on this DVD release from Warner Classics, which joins a DVD of Verdi’s Rigoletto, with Damrau as Gilda, recorded in Dresden and released in 2010, and the recent CD release of the soprano’s spine-tingling interpretation of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, recorded live in Munich.
The soprano Diana Damrau stars in the operas of Mozart, Verdi, Rossini, Donizetti and Strauss, but Forever is the ‘soundtrack of her life’ in the form of much-loved numbers from operetta, musicals and the movies – including Die Fledermaus, My Fair Lady, West Side Story, The Phantom of the Opera and The Little Mermaid. “This music shows a side of me that many people don’t know yet,” she says. “These tunes are great art, because they are associated with unforgettable moments in everyone’s lives.”
In this recital of 19th century Italian arias Damrau proves that precision, refinement and controlled intensity of expression – the guiding principles of bel canto (literally, beautiful singing) – apply not only to Bellini and Donizetti, but also in the more explicit passions of their successors, Verdi, Puccini and Leoncavallo. Performing with the Orchestra of the Teatro Regio Torino under Maestro Gianandrea Noseda, and featuring as guests artists Nicolas Testé (Diana Damrau’s husband), Nicole Brandolino and Piotr Beczała, this album sits between two releases of complete recordings of works at the centre of the bel canto canon – Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor (November 2014) and Verdi’s La Traviata (Autumn 2015). This album is sure to further affirm her place as the important dramatic coloratura soprano of her generation.