Two different mezzos to melt your heart

Silvia Tro Santafé's passionate style goes head-to-head with Elina Garanca's beautifully controlled vocal.

Composer: Various
Repertoire: Arias by Donizetti, Bellini, Rossini
Artists: Elina Garanca (mezzo-soprano), Filarmonica di Bologna/Roberto Abbado
Rating:  3/5
Genre: Orchestral
Label: DG 477 6231

Title: Spanish Heroines
Composers: Various
Repertoire: Arias by Rossini, Mozart, Massenet
Artists: Silvia Tro Santafé (mezzo-soprano), Orquesta Sinfónica de Navarra/ Julian Reynolds
Label: Signum SIGCD 152

It’s just like bendy buses: you wait ages for a mezzo-soprano, and then two arrive at once. Fortunately, the two who have popped up this month seem to be going in different directions – one is all polish and restraint, the other all fire and passion – and so hopefully won’t collide in a messy head-to-head.

Elina Garanca’s disc of familiar and unfamiliar arias by Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini showcases her impeccable taste, her marvellous vocal control, and her shimmering, glowing sound. Her ability to create a mood of luxurious melancholy (a must-have for any candidate for the bel canto crown) is heavenly, and Robert Abbado’s exquisite conducting, at the helm of the Filarmonica di Bologna, is an absolute joy in itself.

Silvia Tro Santafé is a mezzo-soprano of quite a different mettle: her voice is bigger, earthier and rougher, and she emotes with red hot fervour. On this disc of Spanish heroines her approach works better for the music of Bizet and Verdi – her Carmen and Princesse Eboli (from Verdi’s Don Carlos) are real spitfires – than it does for Mozart’s Donna Elvira and Rossini’s Rosina. In these arias she feels too 'in-yer-face', and her lack of a melting pianissimo is a disadvantage. Some scrappy accompanying from the Orquesta Sinfónica de Navarra under Julian Reynolds doesn’t help.

Overall then, it is Garanca’s restraint, versatility and greater palette of vocal colours that prove the more satisfying listen, but just occasionally, however, it would be fascinating to hear her take the kind of risks that Santafé does.