German soprano Diana Damrau, mostly a Mozart specialist, pushes her repertoire forward into the Italian 19th century with the awkwardly titled Fiamma del Belcanto. It might seem a recital that covers territory explored many times before, but in fact it has a lot to it, and is entirely suitable for a singer in mid-career. Damrau follows the moves of bel canto opera, the contrast of dramatic introduction, lyric cavatina, and big, vigorous cabaletta, through the 19th century, showing how they were still present in middle-period Verdi even as he began to ask questions the traditional forms could not answer, and even in the verismo operas of Puccini and Leoncavallo at the century's end, works for which Damrau does not quite have the vocal size. The entire program holds together well, though, and Damrau has both flair and a large variety of vocal textures that make most of the music convincing. Her characterizations are without exception distinctive and well thought out. A subsidiary theme is the German literary presence in Italian opera; three of the operatic stories on the album derive ultimately from Schiller. With crack accompaniment from the Orchestra Teatro Regio Torino under Gianandrea Noseda, this is a well-above-average operatic recital.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim