Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Desperate Heroines

Mozart Desperate Heroines; Sandrine Piau, Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg, Ivor Bolton; Naive
Mozart Desperate Heroines; Sandrine Piau, Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg, Ivor Bolton; Naive
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Oct 8 2014
Star rating: 4.0

Poised and technically fine account of soprano arias from Mozart operas

For this disc, French soprano Sandrine Piau returns to Mozart for a recital disc for the first time in 13 years. She is joined on this disc on Naive, by Ivor Bolton and the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg in arias from Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, La finta giardiniera, Mitridate re di Ponto, Idomeneo, Lucio Silla and Il re pastore.

The disc is entitled Desperate Heroines and whilst some of the women are more desperate than others, there is no doubting the rather fascinating selection that Piau has come up. Her voice retains the light flexibility which it had 13 years ago and on the disc she veers generally towards the lighter roles, Susanna rather than the Countess, Illia rather than Elettra.


This is demonstrated by the opening item, Barbarina's short but charming I'ho perduta, me meschina from act four of Le nozze di Figaro. Here Piau's voice is lightly flexible and her performance is full of delightful charm, and only the singer's deeper artistry reveals her greater experience.

An exception to the choices is performing Donna Anna's Non mi dir from act two of Don Giovanni. Donna Anna is generally sung by heavier sopranos, but she doesn't have to be and her Piau demonstrates that with the right technique and a sympathetic accompaniment (here provided by Ivor Bolton and the Mozarteum Orchestra), wonders can be created. After powerful recitative, we get the finely shaped aria with some fabulous runs. This is lighter, yes, but not less intense. You are aware that, perhaps, this pushes Piau's voice to the limit, but then Donna Anna is similarly pushed.


A complete change of mood with a fine account Sandrina's poignant Gemme la tortorella from act one of La finta giardiniera. Piau shapes the vocal line beautifully, but here and elsewhere I did rather find that longer notes get a bit squeezed.  Another relative rarity is Aspasia's Pallid'ombre from act three of Mitridate, re di Ponto. Piau gives us a dramatic recitative with superb words. The aria has some lovely woodwind solos with Piau's voice intertwining with the wind in a slow and shapely manner. Written in 1770 when Mozart was 14, the music for the aria comes pretty close to the expressive power of mature Mozart.

Susanna's Deh vini non tardar from act four of Le nozze di Figaro does not quite fall into the 'desperate' category, but Piau sings a delightful, near ideal account  of the aria with fine grained tone and fabulous floated top notes. Written 11 years after Mitridate, Idomeneo is regarded as Mozart's first mature opera. Piau sings Illia's act two Se il patre perdei with poised perfection. Here again though, I noticed the squeezing of the long notes, but set against that a simply lovely trill.

We return to lesser known operas for the final two arias. Giunia's Fra i pensieri from Lucio Silla which starts with a finely dramatic recitative leading to a shapely and affecting aria, but Giunia is her desperate so the final section is full of vibrant excitement. And throughout, Piau is technically superb. The last aria is Aminta's L'Amero from Il re pastore, again sung with poised perfection.

She is ably and stylishly supported by the Mozarteum Orchestra and Ivor Bolton. So much so that you did rather wish they had been allowed a solo item of their own. Given the running time if the disc, at under 50 minutes, there would certainly be room.

You get full texts and translations in the CD booklet, but the disc is a slightly short measure at under 50 minutes and you did wonder whether the Mozarteum Orchestra couldn't have added an overture or two.


The advantage of a maturer lyric soprano singing this repertoire is clear. Not only does Piau have an enviable technique in the more challenging sections, but the depth of her interpretation throughout the disc is revealing and illuminating.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) - L'ho perduta, me meschino (Le nozze di Figaro) [1.36]
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) - Non mi dir (Don Giovanni) [6.23]
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) - Gemme la tortorella (La finta giardiniera) [4.07]
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) - Pallid'ombre (Mitridate, re di Ponto) [6.38]
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) - De vieni non tardar (Le nozze di Figaro) [4.03]
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) - Crudeli, oh dio (La finta giardiniera) [6.39]
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) - Se il padre perdei (Idomeneo) [5.53]
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) - Fr i pensieri (Lucio Silla) [5.47]
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) -L'amero (Il re pastore) [6.28]
Sandrine Piau (soprano)
Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg
Ivor Bolton (conductor)
Recorded in November 2013 at the Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg.
Naive records V5366 1CD [48']


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