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Is the title Verdi Heroines perhaps a misnomer? I’m not sure that Lady Macbeth is a role model – but let’s go with the definition of leading lady. The selection of arias across two discs is worth hearing and the choice of singers offers some great voices recorded in their prime. All the singers were hugely well known in their day, though only one still performs, Krassimira Stoyanova. I must confess a bias as I saw all of these singers in their heyday bar one, Maria Dragoni: perhaps that’s why I find her the least interesting, vocally stretched in her Don Carlo aria, admittedly better in Trovatore. On the other hand, Agnes Baltsa’s mezzo hurtles through her Macbeth aria, as does Júlia Várady hers. Várady is a fascinating singer, her soprano quick-toned yet pleasingly dry of timbre, and capable of anything thrown at it, from a virtuosic Violetta (Traviata) to a biting Abigaille (Nabucco). And then there’s the vocal phenomenon that was Ghena Dimitrova, who sails through her number from Verdi’s first opera, Oberto, surprising with her softly traced cantilena if you are more used to her pulverising tenors as Turandot. Add Stoyanova’s elegant yet robust soprano, Ileana Cotrubaş making the most of Verdi’s own least favourite, Alzira, and Marjana Lipovšek’s juicy mezzo as Eboli and Azucena. Grace Bumbry appears here as a soprano, with a staid ‘Pace, pace’ from Forza and an aristocratic Trovatore Leonora. Generally wonderful singing and not just all the usual arias. I feel a bout of reminiscence coming on.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica


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