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Diana Damrau, Queen of Mozart

Available from Amazon
Mozart, Opera and Concert Arias, D. Damrau, Le Cercle de l'Harmonie, J. Rhorer

(released on October 28, 2008)
Virgin Classics 50999 2 12023 2 2
Continuing our series on leading ladies of the opera world, after Renée Fleming's Strauss, Diana Damrau's Mozart disc has been in my player recently. This disc continues the happy collaboration between the German soprano and the French early music ensemble Le Cercle de l'Harmonie -- Damrau's recording debut, a (late) 2007 disc of bravura arias by Mozart, Salieri, and Righini has been nominated for a Midem Award in the Vocal Recital category. Jérémie Rhorer founded the group only in 2005, but they quickly embarked on a series of impressive recital discs with opera singers for Virgin Classics. We have been left gobsmacked by her Queen of the Night in Salzburg and New York (she has sung the role just about everywhere else, too, and it was recorded on the Arie di Bravura disc). Recently Jens pronounced Damrau "the most sublime Sophie [...] excited, naive yet also knowing" in the Munich Rosenkavalier in 2007, and he was equally impressed by her Aithra in Die ägyptische Helena at the Met. Damrau, named Singer of the Year 2008 by Opernwelt magazine, will finally make her Washington National Opera debut, in May 2010, as Ophelia in Ambroise Thomas's Hamlet.

While readily admitting Damrau's prowess and achievement, I find the just-so-slightly acidic turn to her voice pleases less. Certainly that edge works remarkably well in the characterization of venomous characters like the Queen of the Night or Vitellia in La Clemenza di Tito, but for an ultimate Mozart soprano give me a voice with a little more warmth and sheen like Natalie Dessay or Sandrine Piau, although Damrau's native pronunciation of German wins hands down. For all of Damrau's technical mastery -- and the runs are indeed mostly fleet and well-defined -- a recital like this is a rave if all the tracks are bold and hard to critique. That is not the case here, where some of the highest notes sound effortful and a little pointy and the fast passage work occasionally gets a little bogged down. The value is improved by the original-instrument sound of Le Cercle de l'Harmonie, especially the horns, traverso flutes, and basset-horn (Nicola Boud -- also on clarinet).


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