Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI
Marco Armiliato, conductor
A Journey is the first solo recording of young South African soprano Pretty Yende, winner (among other competitions) of Operalia in 2011. Two years later, she claims to everyone’s attention when she replaced Nino Machaidze in the production of Le Comte Ory at the Metropolitan Opera, singing opposite to Juan Diego Florez.
It is therefore no coincidence that En proie à la tristesse, Countess Adèle’s aria from Le Comte Ory, is included in the tracklist of Yende’s recording, dedicated to bel canto and French repertoires and that, in addition to Le Comte Ory, proposes arias from Il barbiere di Siviglia, Lakmè, Beatrice di Tenda, Roméo et Juliette, Lucia di Lammermoor and I Puritani.
The first thing I have to say about A Journey is that it is an album projected towards the future, not a definitive one, and the singer seems to declare: «Listen to what I can do now and imagine what I will do later!» I mean that in A Journey Pretty Yende demonstrates that she has a vocal timbre not extremely precious but absolutely beautiful, fluent phrasing, excellent control of coloratura, a perfect homogeneity of the registers and, in short, a solid technique, to which, however, does not correspond a true interpretation. Yende’s characters lack the verve that really would have made a difference: even if it affects less Lakmè and Juliette, Rosina suffers from lack of spirit, as well as all other heroines, who are flat characters. I am not very concerned about this, however, since the soprano is young and will have time and opportunity to fit better her roles and makes me think (and hope) that the detachment perceived here depends probably by a certain caution.
Beyond that, I have to notice a few other little things about Yende’s diction, which is anyway studied with care and scrupulousness, but sometimes her “c” and “g” are a little too hard and spoil the final part of Una voce poco fa: «e cento trappole prima di cedere saprò giocar». Speaking of Rossini, the soprano does not skimp on the final puntatura, leading some purists to make an outcry, but I cannot deny its effectiveness (at my own risk facing those same purists).
I do not linger on the individual arias because there is not a lot to add to what I said earlier: the strengths and weaknesses are equally distributed in all of them. I just remember Marco Armiliato’s conduction. The conductor does not shine for originality but is the singer’s faithful ally.