Georgian soprano Nino Machaidze, with a rich vibrato, emerged as a star with a performance in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette at the 2008 Salzburg Festival. For this recital album, the second of a pair designed to propel her to more general notice, she sensibly plays to the strengths in French music she displayed earlier. Machaidze does fine in the obligatory Verdi and Puccini selections, although there's an edge in her voice that somehow robs O mio babbino caro of its sentiment-laden effect. But the scenes by Bizet, the little-known Ambroise Thomas (whose 14-minute excerpt ought to be heard more often on programs of this kind), and especially Massenet's Thaïs and Manon that she really shines. As the line in these French opera scenes builds through several registers, Machaidze is given the chance to display the most distinctive quality of her voice: a top at which the vibrato drops out and is replaced by startling knife-like tones of considerable power, perfectly intoned. There's something uncanny about the shades of this voice, and if Machaidze still has rough edges in both dramatic and lyric capacities, one can easily feel, as the headline of the booklet essay promises, that one is looking into the future. The line refers merely to the fact that Machaidze here has selected works that she has not yet performed on stage, but she's promising in terms of the more general meaning as well. Conductor Daniele Gatti and the Orchestre National de France provide entirely idiomatic support, but it's a little hard to understand what Sony was trying to do with the sound: it's hollow and indistinct, resembling what one might hear in an opera house without terribly good acoustics.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
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