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Italian soprano Rosa Feola was a prizewinner at the 2010 Operalia competition, and Welsh National Opera’s audiences fell in love with her when she sang Elvira in last autumn’s tour of I Puritani. Now she makes a rewarding solo CD debut with this programme largely of little-known Italian songs – Liszt’s Three Petrarch Sonnets are included, too, by virtue of their Italian poet. Her singing is marked by poise and eloquence, and she spins out seamless phrases with unflagging care for the words, whether in Respighi’s Tuscan songs, Martucci’s more expansive Tre Pezzi, or parallel Dante settings by Ponchielli and Pinsuti. Even in the Liszt, which takes Feola into the higher, more dramatic reaches, there is no sense of her communication being hemmed in by vocal limitations. Pianist Iain Burnside is supportive and vivid throughout, especially when suggesting the flitting woodland spirits in Respighi’s Deità silvane.
Erica Jeal
Rosa Feola as Susanna was poised and elegant, again with an inner strength combined with suppleness of line. You felt that Feola could have easily taken on the role of the Countess, and her account of Deh vieni gave us some of the finest singing of the evening.
Robert Hugill
Readers of these pages are familiar with Rosa Feola, the Italian soprano. I have reviewed her in opera and concert—“concert” meaning performances with orchestra. She is a favorite of Riccardo Muti, the veteran conductor. Now I have heard Feola in recital, which is to say, in a program with a pianist. In this case, the pianist was Iain Burnside, a Scotsman. And the venue was the Park Avenue Armory.
Jay Nordlinger
Rosa Feola was a delicious Susanna, Davide Luciano was a splendid Figaro, Natalia Kawalek was a delightful Cherubino and Gyula Orendt's Almaviva was a perfect cross between Laurence Llewellyn Bowen and Alan Rickman, the first when trying suavely to seduce Susanna and the second when furious at Figaro or Cherubino.
Rosa Feola was very suited to this part; she displayed a confident command of coloratura and a beautiful, silvery soprano with great projection.
Laura Servidei
The Buenos Aires production is the original production lock, stock and barrel – sets, conductor, orchestra, chorus, principals – with the exception of one cast change, that of the Albanian tenor Saimir Pirgu as the Count. Clearly much of the interest for the local audience was Riccardo Muti, making his Colón opera debut. He amply lived up to his formidable reputation, with excellent conducting that maintained the momentum through the longish and what at times seems drawn out work. Certainly the orchestra – Muti’s Orchestra Giovanile Luigi Cherubini – is well familiar with the work, as are the chorus, although seemingly not on best form on opening night, and the principals, who all sung well. That leaves a special word for Pirgu, who although young (just 31 years) made for a distinguished and believable Count. Like Rossini, Mercadante’s Count is a tenor and Pirgu’s lyric instrument was a delight, with agility and depth, and well fitted the role. This is a father of a daughter, Inez, and while continuing to be taken in by Figaro and Cherubino, one senses they have to work just that much harder to do so!
Jonathan Spencer Jones
This production expands on the concept of opera being a Gesamtkunstwerk by projecting movielike videos throughout, which in flashback retrace the most important moments of the past of the characters; it also uses live cameras. The stage is often divided into separate scenes so that it can show how the unfolding of the plot affects each of the different characters simultaneously. This has the impact of also increasing the sense of isolation and non-communication between the characters. The psychology of the characterizations in Stone’s approach nevertheless remains faithful to the original. The worried Dircé is a victim of her fiancé’s ambitions and Médée’s rage. Intensely interpreted here by the soprano Rosa Feola she lacked, at times, the lightness required for the role. The vain and pompous Jason is interpreted here by the tenor Pavel Cernoch who possesses the right voice for the classicist repertoire and a great stage presence. Vitalij Kowaljow’s Creon is a credible loving father and at the same time a ruthless ruler. However, it is Elena Stikhina, in the title role, that amazed everyone with the sheer strength of her interpretation both vocally and dramatically. She convincingly portrays a wounded woman who oscillates between tender love, jealousy, desperation and uncontrollable rage. As in Euripides, this Médée is a savage force for revenge but also a victim of injustice and despite the crudity of her crimes she can still inspire empathy. Finally, the conductor Thomas Hengelbrock and the exceptional Wiener Philarmoniker orchestra brought to life the dense and rich music of Cherubini’s score as well as the changing moods of the story as it progressed along its course. This Médée, despite its crude realism, was well received by the public and it is an experience worth trying for its innovative and thought provoking take on an old subject.
Alessandro Zummo