Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Fabio Luisi, conductor
Nightingale Classics, 1995
Edita Gruberova’s album is dedicated to the madness scene that in the XIX century filled theatres with fans… and emptied the operas of unrealistic plots. Mad Scenes collects arias from five operas by four composers: Vincenzo Bellini’s I puritani and Il pirata, Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tsar’s Bride and Gaetano Donizetti’s Anna Bolena.
I found both positive and negative sides in Gruberova’s singing because, if her technique is solid and enviable and allows her an unrivalled control of coloratura, on the other hand her thin voice is a limit in expressiveness and in the creation of the characters’ psychological depth, although some qualities sometimes emerge: it is the case of I puritani, where the singer conveys very well the idea of an extravagant dreamy woman, betraying her confused mind. I think it is Imogene in Il pirata to suffer above all, because she lacks the intensity to which other interpreters have accustomed us. There are also moments when Gruberova’s voice acquires an impressive force, as in the finale of Anna Bolena, but this remains an isolated incident.
The real problem with Mad Scenes is not the singer anyway, but the conductor. Fabio Luisi had invariably chosen the slowest times and contented himself with a correct but flat direction. The only moments when the orchestra becomes animated are the closing bars of Anna Bolena and I puritani. It is evident that Luisi’s direction is aimed above all to accompany the singer, but in a way that makes the performance rather boring.