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Another massive voice belonged to the late Johan Botha, whose work in Italian opera at the Vienna Staatsoper is showcased in two generously-filled CDs. Botha is particularly remembered for his German roles, but as the booklet points out, made his debut in this theatre as Cavaradossi in 1996 and went on to sing many Italian roles there – he considered the balance to be important for his vocal health and suppleness. Caught live, the voice is obviously large and incredibly well-produced, and nothing seems to faze him, plus he is attentive to the score (floating the final B flat of ‘Celeste Aida’, for example). Where there is a chink in the armour is the interpretative skill, which flickers in and out of focus. His Turridu (Cav) and Canio (Pag) both have drama, but then he was onstage with the whirlwinds of Agnes Baltsa and Cristina Gallardo-Domas respectively. When placed alongside the more phlegmatic Violeta Urmana in Andrea Chénier, they just chug along together making pleasing noises. Botha’s voice was treasurable for its even-toned inexhaustibility. But I often found myself listening to his vocal partners here, including Bruson, (I Vespri Siciliani), Hvorostovsky, (Don Carlo) and an exquisite Stoyanova (Otello), rather than the man himself.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica


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