Elizabeth Whitehouse / Richard Bonynge

Rare French and Italian Opera Arias

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Rare French and Italian Opera Arias Review

by Stephen Eddins

The Melba label continues to bring Australian performances of grand opera to international audiences with this CD of (mostly) obscure soprano arias from the French and Italian repertoires from the mid nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries. Elizabeth Whitehouse brings intelligence, passion, and a strong interpretive personality to the arias. She has an attractive, light lyric voice that's not large, and loses a little body at the top, but that's agile and expressive. The decision to highlight unfamiliar territory is a smart move; listeners who have never heard of Whitehouse may be intrigued by these selections from nearly forgotten operas, many by composers who are represented in the standard repertoire by a single work, including Saint-Saëns, Giordano, Ponchielli, Cilea, Leoncavallo, and Mascagni. Since they had at least one enduring work in them, doesn't it make sense that they would have produced other music worthy of contemporary attention? This CD answers the question strongly in the affirmative. There are some questionable selections -- the inclusion of arias from Andrea Chénier and Adriana Lecouvreur don't qualify as rarities -- but the arias from Giordano's Siberia and Cilea's Gloria are real finds. The aria from Sapho, Gounod's first opera, is wonderfully sensuous and foreshadows some of Massenet's effulgence. The verismo school offers some of the most compelling music; in addition to the Cilea, the Leoncavallo and Mascagni excerpts are especially appealing, and the aria from the latter's Sì is a real charmer. Richard Bonynge leads Orchestra Victoria in elegant and passionate accompaniment. Melba's sound is excellent -- clear and present.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Sapho, opera
1 Richard Bonynge / Elizabeth Whitehouse 05:38 Amazon
La reine de Saba, opera
2 Richard Bonynge / Elizabeth Whitehouse 05:37 Amazon
Amleto, opera
3 Richard Bonynge / Elizabeth Whitehouse 03:45 Amazon
Salvator Rosa, opera
4 Richard Bonynge / Elizabeth Whitehouse 04:19 Amazon
Cinq Mars, opera
5 Richard Bonynge / Elizabeth Whitehouse 05:12 Amazon
Étienne Marcel, opera in 4 acts
6 Richard Bonynge / Elizabeth Whitehouse 03:49 Amazon
Le tribut de Zamora, opera
7 Richard Bonynge / Elizabeth Whitehouse 04:48 Amazon
Marion Delorme, opera
8 Richard Bonynge / Elizabeth Whitehouse 03:48 Amazon
Andrea Chénier, opera
9 Richard Bonynge / Elizabeth Whitehouse 04:41 Amazon
Chatterton, opera
10 Richard Bonynge / Elizabeth Whitehouse 02:14 Amazon
Zazà, opera
11 Richard Bonynge / Elizabeth Whitehouse 03:09 Amazon
12 Richard Bonynge / Elizabeth Whitehouse 02:33 Amazon
Adriana Lecouvreur, opera
13 Richard Bonynge / Elizabeth Whitehouse 03:06 Amazon
Siberia, opera
14 Richard Bonynge / Elizabeth Whitehouse 02:40 Amazon
Gloria, opera
15 Richard Bonynge / Elizabeth Whitehouse 02:36 Amazon
16 Richard Bonynge / Elizabeth Whitehouse 03:07 Amazon
Isabeau, opera (leggenda drammatica) in 3 acts
17 Richard Bonynge / Elizabeth Whitehouse 03:24 Amazon
Sì, operetta in 3 acts
18 Richard Bonynge / Elizabeth Whitehouse 03:26 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick