Pavel Baleff, conductor
After her Slavic music album and her Verdi opera arias recording, wonderful Bulgarian soprano Krassimira Stoyanova is back with a Verismo collection.
The first thing that comes to one’s mind when an album with such a title is released is about the term “Verismo” and its implications (which operas and composers adhere to Verismo and if it is correct to include in this current every opera written by a representative of the so-called “giovane scuola”) because it seems rather odd when this definition is applied to operas as Elgar or Turandot, but I do not intend to discuss further a delicate matter that is still unresolved and I limit to point out the possible contradiction.
If we accept the widest meaning of Verismo, we will not be surprised that Stoyanova’s recording includes the aforementioned titles together with some of the outstanding masterpieces of the current as Puccini’s Manon Lescaut and Tosca, Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur and Giordano’s Andrea Chénier. There is also room for pieces taken from less performed operas as Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz and Lodoletta, Puccini’s Suor Angelica and Catalani’s La Wally.
Stoyanova proves once again to possess exceptional vocal means and to be able to powerfully use them. She is remarkable for her round and soft legato and her delicate high notes and pronounces every word with an extremely clear diction, but it is especially her temperament that capture the listener.
The soprano’s performance highlights the frailty and intensity that usually coexist in the same characters. The best examples of this interpretation are in my opinion Adriana Lecouvreur and Tosca, but especially of this latter. She sings Vissi d’arte as a farewell and tragically ends it with tears in her voice, but desperation is balanced by a strength that cannot but impress. The same spirit is recognizable in Adriana, portrayed in a more comprehensive way because both Io sono l’umile ancella and Poveri fiori are present here. The first aria is the occasion for Stoyanova to depict Adriana’s poetic side, the sacred fire of art of the «humble servant of the creative Genius», which Stoyanova sings with abandonment (there is no doubt that the soprano shares the actress’s ideas on art). The pangs of a discouraged woman are expressed instead in Poveri fiori and Stoyanova makes them clear in a simple but effective way.
Manon is another round character. In quelle trine morbide is the expression of a dissatisfied and bored woman who remember what she has lost with a hint of melancholy, but it is in the piece from the fourth act that Stoyanova is really impressive. Her Manon shows an incredible determination in the desperate Sola, perduta, abbandonata and her struggle against death is more tragic than ever. A similar feeling of desperation torments Maddalena in La mamma morta (Andrea Chénier).
Liù is somewhat different. Stoyanova sings both Signore, ascolta (Act I) and Tanto amore, segreto e inconfessato (Act III), stressing the romantic and dreamy feelings of this young and lovely girl despite – but this is not a true contradiction – the admonition in the former and the shadow of death that hovers upon her in the second (she is to the point of committing suicide). Her care and love for Calaf emerges here in an unmistakable and delicate way.
Butterfly is peculiar by her own right. Stoyanova does not sing Un bel dì vedremo with any pathos and her expectation is descriptive rather than emphatic until the overwhelming end. This maybe prevents the listener to be moved by Stoyanova as he/she is by her other colleagues, but it confers a peculiar energy which is valuable and that is perfectly balanced by lyricism.
I had the impression that Stoyanova thinks of her heroines as of independent women, a peculiarity that marks even the sweetest and hopeless characters and that is a guiding thread for the entire album.