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Briefly Noted: Julia Lezhneva

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Rossini, Arias, J. Lezhneva, Sinfonia Varsovia, Warsaw Chamber Opera Choir, M. Minkowski

(released on April 26, 2011)
Naïve V 5221 | 58'
Russian soprano Julia Lezhneva got quite a launch for a singer in her early 20s, mentored by beloved soprano Kiri Te Kanawa and conductor Mark Minkowski. We first heard her in the fine ensemble of singers put together by Minkowski for his recording of the Bach B minor Mass, although without really making mention of her. Earlier this year, Alex Ross picked her recording of Vivaldi's Ottone in villa as his CD of the week (The Rest Is Noise, January 15), singling out Lezhneva for particular praise (a recording we plan to review soon). Lezhneva was given the unusual chance at a solo album, made once again with Minkowski, this time in Poland, a set of full-length Rossini show-stoppers that has received lots of comments, including Derek Greten-Harrison (Julia Lezhneva: "Rossini", August 2011) in Opera News, Chris Mullins (Julia Lezhneva sings Rossini, August 14) in Opera Today, and Richard Wigmore (Rossini - Arias) in Gramophone. Indeed, for someone so young and largely untried -- Lezhneva had her stage debut just this past summer, in a production of Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots at La Monnaie in Brussels, once again under Minkowski's baton -- she makes a beautiful sound. The voice is pleasing across a rather broad range, including some forays into the chest voice, the intonation is mostly clean (even on the staccato notes in Tanti affetti for example), and the agility is remarkable (albeit a little "notey" in runs, with little aspirations on each note). There is room to grow, but as a debut solo disc, it is quite an achievement.

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