Saturday, January 28, 2012

Awards 2011 - Opera recital

"Diva Divo"
Joyce DiDonato; Orchestre De L'Opéra National De Lyon/Kazuko Ono

Clearly it wasn't enough for Joyce DiDonato to win last year's Award for Opera recital, because here she is again. And obviously that wasn't enough either, because she also appears as a soloist on this year's winning Choral album. Oh and that still wasn't enough, because "Diva Divo" - a selection of "trouser roles" and, uh, "skirt roles" - is also the Recording of the Year, the best-reviewed of them all. "Joyce DiDonato is surely one of the best American opera singers to emerge in recent years. Hers is a rich yet smooth lyrical mezzo... She is also as fine a vocal actress as you'll find in opera today", says Kurt Moses in ARG. "Perhaps the best thing about this recital", Robert Levine tells us on Classics Today, "is that everything DiDonato sings sounds spontaneous, as if the character - her- or himself - were actually experiencing it for the first time. Being an American, I'd like to chalk this up to her Yankee pluckiness, but it's really something else: She's a great artist".

"Verismo Arias"
Jonas Kaufmann; Orchestra dell'Accademia di Santa Cecilia/Antonio Pappano

"The Italian Tenor"
Vittorio Grigolo; Orchestra del Teatro Regio di Parma/Pier Giorgio Morandi

"The Maltese Tenor"
Joseph Calleja; L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Marco Armiliato

"Great Baritone Arias"
Peter Mattei; Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Lawrence Renes

There were only 17 entries in this category, compared with about 110 in Orchestral, about 75 in Solo vocal, and over 40 in Opera. So is it that opera aria discs are a small niche market, or that there aren't very many singers out there willing and/or able to record a recital? Hardly the former, seeing as there's plenty of money to be made in a well-marketed star singer. What's also interesting is that you don't have to go very far down the list of entries before you find an album that's regarded, on balance, as a bit meh. Opera critics are a critical bunch indeed, with very particular standards. They say things like "I haven't heard Berlioz's "Premiers transports" sung this beautifully since Gladys Swarthout did it with Toscanini back in 1947" (which is how Lynn René Bayley praised Joyce DiDonato in Fanfare).

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