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Briefly Noted: Desperate Heroines

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Desperate Heroines (Mozart), S. Piau, Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra, I. Bolton

(released on January 27, 2015)
Naïve V5366 | 47'
Sandrine Piau has been on my wish list for a Washington recital debut for a long time. The French lyric soprano has a gorgeous, bell-like sort of voice, with exquisite diction in French and Italian, and we have admired her on disc many times and live, in a concert performance of Mozart's Il Rè Pastore in Paris. She has a lovely way with Mozart, in particular, and her 2002 disc devoted to the composer remains one of my favorites. Piau's latest recording, Desperate Heroines, feels a little like a slightly disappointing sequel to that earlier one, not in its quality but because it is essentially the same sort of recital and a little less effective. The program is short, for one thing, with some odd choices, starting off with Barberina's aria from Le Nozze di Figaro, a piece that feels more like a fragment than a stand-alone aria.

Piau comes through nevertheless with some beautiful finesse moments, like the little cadenza at the end of Susanna's Deh vieni, with limpid, perfectly placed pp high notes. Slow and delicate music seems better for her voice, as in the tender Se il padre from Idomeneo and the whispered sighs of Geme la tortorella from La finta giardiniera, with its spot-on staccato notes, light as a feather. The more dramatic pieces, like Crudeli, fermate, crudeli from La finta giardiniera, require a forceful edge that does not flatter her as much. In general, the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra and conductor Ivor Bolton provide elegant instrumental support, although I have preferred Piau's partnerships with original-instruments groups, like Christophe Rousset's Les Talens Lyriques and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra.

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