Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review: Julia Lezhneva - a fresh, new voice

It is always a pleasure to hear a new and exciting voice. Julia Lezhneva, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa's 21 year-old protégé, has made her debut recital recording for the French label Naïve. The Sinfonia Varsovia is conducted by Marc Minkowski in six arias by Rossini. Lezhneva had been professionally performing since the age of 16 and won the Elena Obraztsova International Competition for young singers in 2007. She opened the Rossini Opera Festival alongside Juan Diego Flórez in 2008 and has given solo concerts at the Salzburg Festival.

As might be expected from a singer so young, the voice is fresh and commendably flexible. What cannot be determined is how large the voice is and whether it will show to good effect in the world's major opera houses. On this recital disc, the singing is uniformly excellent. Although the arias are for the most part taken from the mezzo repertoire, Lezhneva is a true soprano. Her voice is most effective in the middle to upper middle register. She has first-class technique and a winning style that serves her well in this repertoire. What is most striking is the musical maturity with which the arias are presented. The first cut, Tanti effetti from "La donna del lago," is particularly effective. Throughout the recital, trills, staccati, and other coloratura effects are immaculately executed.

Minkowski's conducting is supportive and flexible, but he never loses the pulse of the music. The playing of the Sinfonia Varsovia is also uniformly of high quality. The orchestral support in Rossini's Willow Song from "Otello" is especially sympathetic. As always, Naïve's digital sound is bright and clear, without the glare and etching that often makes digital sound so tiring. All in all, this disc introduces an exciting new artist.

Look to hear her on the Sunday Opera Matinee's post-Rossini opera feature. Check the schedule of upcoming operas at Click on the link to the Sunday Opera Matinee schedule.

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