With recent appearances as Violetta in La traviata at the Metropolitan Opera and Élisabeth in Don Carlos at the Opéra Bastille in Paris, the dramatic-lyric soprano Sonya Yoncheva has been steadily cementing her credentials as a Verdian of consummate style and power.
Her prowess and poetry in the Italian titan’s operas have made The Verdi Album – her third solo recital for Sony Classical after discs focusing on French opera and Handel – a keenly anticipated release. Here, excerpts from the great warhorse operas share the limelight with earlier works in a programme focusing on some of opera’s most memorable grande dames, ill-fated innocents and strident female figures. Disappointingly, Yoncheva stays away from Violetta, although her presence is felt in Leonora’s yearning ‘Tacea la notte placida’ (Il trovatore) and Desdemona’s plaintive ‘Ave Maria’ (Otello), both dispatched with touching emotional fragility.
Throughout, there is an accent on the plaintive – a quality Yoncheva captures with concentrated pathos. She’s at her expressive best with another of Verdi’s Leonoras in the despairing ‘Pace! Pace, mio Dio!’ from La forza del destino, the beseeching ‘Tu che le vanità’ from Don Carlo and heartrending imploring of Stiffelio’s coloratura-accented ‘Tosto ei disse!’.
Yoncheva’s ability to burnish coloratura passages with haunting immediacy is also to the fore in Nabucco’s ‘Anch’io dischiuso un giorno… Salgo già del trono aurato’, where she ranges from beautifully controlled, baleful lower registers to an excitable, ravishing high C to bring an album of otherwise subdued, dark beauty to a thrilling conclusion.
Munich’s Radio Orchestra under Massimo Zanetti’s steady conducting provides steady and wholly sympathetic support throughout, both taking their lead from Yoncheva’s signature impulse towards understatement. If, in the end, The Verdi Album misses some of Verdi’s most popular, grandstanding moments, it nonetheless presents Yoncheva as a singer of considerable artistry.
Performance: four stars Sound: four stars
Sonya Yoncheva: The Verdi Album Sonya Yoncheva (soprano), Münchner Rundfunkorchester / Massimo Zanetti Sony Classical 88985417982 (Released: February 2, 2018)
Michael Quinn is a former deputy editor of Gramophone and Classic FM magazines and associate editor of The Classical Review. Widely published in print and online in the UK, USA, Australia and his native Ireland, he is an Artistic Assessor of Music with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and programming consultant to the region’s newest arts centre, Portico, Portaferry.
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