Cheryl Barker

Cheryl Barker sings Great Operatic Arias

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Australian soprano Cheryl Barker has been featured on a number of recordings in Chandos' Opera in English Series, and on her first solo release for the label she continues that tradition with familiar arias translated into English (plus two originally written in English). It's almost always revelatory to hear familiar vocal music sung in one's native language. "Almost" because the experience can depend on the quality of the translations, which in the past have sometimes been embarrassingly awkward, but Chandos is notable for the excellence of its translations, many newly commissioned for its recordings. Barker has made an especially strong impression in repertoire from off the beaten track, such as Rusalka, Katya Kabanova, and The Makropulos Case, and she brings a solid technique and strong commitment to these more familiar selections. Her warmth and easy handling of composers as diverse as Boito, Tchaikovsky, Leoncavallo, and Richard Strauss are especially appealing, and she can soar over the orchestra when necessary. She doesn't quite have the open luminosity of tone to make these performances truly exceptional, but that's a rare quality, and her singing and interpretations are otherwise exemplary. The novelties, arias from Malcolm Williamson's The Violins of Saint-Jacques (1966) and Jake Heggie's The End of the Affair (2004), recorded here for the first time, give the release added interest. Heggie's music for this scene, which is at the crux of the opera, is pleasantly lyrical, but lacks the memorable musical substance that such a moment requires. Williamson's music is strong and distinctive enough to make one eager to hear more of the opera. David Parry leads the London Philharmonic Orchestra in a warm, clean, and rich accompaniment. Chandos' sound is spacious and clear, with good balance.

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