Lezhneva tackles Rossini's bel canto

Russian soprano Julia Lezhneva's technique is astonishing, but she fails to bring individuality to Rossini's demanding arias

Composer: Rossini
Repertoire:  A selection of bel canto opera arias
Artists: Julia Lezhneva (sop), Sinfonia Varsovia/ Marc Minkowski
Rating:  3/5
Genre: Vocal
Label: NAÏVE V5221

The Music: The bel canto (beautiful singing) school of composers wanted to highlight the agility, flexibility, range and expressiveness of the human voice above other musical considerations. Rossini was their earliest exponent, and this recital includes six of his most demanding arias, full of long pathos-dripping melodies and impossibly speedy coloratura.

The Performance: 21-year-old Russian soprano Julia Lezhneva burst onto the British scene last year with a dazzling performance at the Classic BRITS which demonstrated her lovely sound, truly awe-inspiring coloratura skills, and charming sense of humour. Those qualities are all present on this disc as well, and she delivers truly heart-stopping versions of the coloratura showpieces ‘Nacqui all’affanno’ (sung by Cinderella after she’s just won her prince) and ‘Bel raggio lusinghier’ (a triumphant love-song from Semiramide). Marc Minkowski’s conducting is full of joie de vivre and sparkle too.

The Verdict: Lezhneva is one to watch, but isn’t quite the finished article yet. Her youth and inexperience sometimes show through in a lack of dramatic range, and a lack of variety in the emotional ‘colours’ of her voice: although her technique is astonishing, she doesn’t yet imprint her own individual emotional stamp on these arias.

Want More? For Rossini singing at its very best, try Joyce DiDonato’s disc of arias written for the composer’s wife, Colbran: The Muse (Virgin Classics 694 5790).