Arias from Le nozze di Figaro, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Lucia di Lammermoor, L’elisir d’amore, I puritani, Rigoletto, La traviata, The Haunted Manor, Die Fledermaus, La Bohème and Gianni Schicchi. With Francesco Demuro (tenor), Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana, c. Omer Meir Wellber.
Decca 478 2730 (one CD)
Aleksandra Kurzak has much to be joyful about, and as befits the title of her first solo disc for Decca there is a definite smile in her voice. Only a few years ago the Polish soprano seemed to be a pleasant soubrette whose performances were occasionally compromised by some pinched high notes, but in the last two seasons or so she has blossomed into a star. One turning point, on disc anyway, was the album of Chopin songs she shared with Mariusz Kwiecieñ on the Chopin Institute’s label (NIFCCD 016), where her glinting soprano moves easily between melancholy and shy eroticism—perfect casting. In the theatre, her triumphant role debut as Lucia at Seattle Opera in autumn 2010 was another important step, as our not-easily-impressed Seattle correspondent, Theodore Deacon, wrote in these pages: ‘My wife’s first Lucia was Sutherland, mine was Sills. So you can imagine our astonishment at being left breathless by Seattle Opera’s new bride of Lammermoor, Aleksandra Kurzak …’
Lucia’s ‘Regnava nel silenzio’ is featured here—showing the character’s fragile state of mind, it is the only downbeat aria of the collection—and it allows Kurzak to demonstrate her flexible coloratura in an enthralling profusion of trills. Another recent addition to her repertory is Violetta, and Traviata’s first-act scene gives scope for Kurzak to sparkle and capture the courtesan’s free-spirited philosophy. In addition to such new parts, this CD is something of a souvenir of her career so far and includes a part she has already dropped, Musetta; the self-assured glamour she brings here makes one regret this move, even if it is doubtless right for her as she progresses into heavier roles. One sign of things to come, and a role she has not yet (so far as I know) sung on stage, is Elvira in I puritani, whose ‘Son vergin vezzosa’ seems doubly appropriate here on account of its joyful tone and its aria polacca tag.
If Kurzak’s soprano sounds bigger than before, it is still not one of those large voices that naturally command a wide range of colour, yet her musical intelligence ensures that there is no hint of monotony here even in some over-exposed repertoire (Rosina’s ‘Una voce poco fa’, which launches the disc in fine fashion, and Lauretta’s ‘O mio babbino caro’, for instance). She achieves everything without resorting to show-off tactics; indeed, a few numbers might almost be described as reserved. Every track gives pleasure, but highlights include a seductive ‘Deh vieni’ (Susanna, a role she has even sung along the Countess of her mother, the distinguished Jolanta ¯murko) and a laughing ‘Mein Herr Marquis’ (Adele). The dazzling Moniuszko aria for Hanna represents far more that mere patriotic duty and forms a genuine climax to the disc: even in music that is unfamiliar to most orchestras outside Poland, the playing is first-rate, but then Omer Meir Wellber is an attentive conductor and a natural opera accompanist. And it’s wonderful to hear Kurzak in her native language.