Handel: Arias (Bonus Version)
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An Unfortunate First Recital Disc
The enthusiasm that has swirled around this soprano for the past few years has, for the most part, been warranted: her only previous recorded forays — in a strictly classical sense — have been DVDs showcasing her winsome vivaciousness and keen dramatic sense in postmodern stagings of Baroque operas (her Cleopatra in Glyndebourne's Giulio Cesare is a delight, as her Hébe in Les Indes Galantes). So perhaps it's the expectation of the well-rounded on-screen artist transferred onto disc that makes this album such a disappointment. De Niese's voice comes off as unevenly produced, even betraying something of a wobble, and the slightly stringent, agile, and even-toned quality that she has shown seems to have been produced-out of this effort. Whereas on DVD she seems capable of seductive piano singing and soulful melismas, here she seems to push for dramatic effect to an extent that there are moments of wayward pitch. One gets the distinct feeling that, in an effort to overcompensate for the lack of a visual medium by which to beguile us, De Niese's problem simply amounts to a vocal overemphasis — she needs to learn to control her energy in order to become a "phonogenic," not ham it up even more. The material selected seems to be a laundry list of the Handel arias that people EXPECT to encounter in a Baroque singer's debut recital disc: one would be forgiven for thinking that this artist has more personality than the music in display here. This disc is, similarly, an unfortunate nadir for the esteemable William Christie & Les Arts Florissants, who — one imagines — underwent some market-driven armtwisting before agreeing to involvement.
Poor Breath Control
She has nice tonality but her breath control, expecially for Handel, is bad. There are better singers, maybe not as pretty, that can do these arias that can really thrill - such as Joan Sutherland, so I would advise spending your money on those recordings and skip this one.
I don't know what is happening to the vocal/opera world... but if this is what the future looks like, then I am really worried. Ms. de Niese should continue to work on her breath support, diction, and tone down the nasality. I think most people who like Charllote Church and Sarah Brightman will (unfortunately) be drawn to this recording. There are much better recordings of Handel arias. As mentioned before, Joan Sutherland would be a good start. Don't waste your time or money here.