In a new album of operatic rarities for PENTATONE, Lisette Oropesa sings off-the-beaten path French language soprano arias by Rossini and Donizetti with wonderful results.
Laure Cinti-Damoreau created the central soprano roles of Pamira in Rossini’s Le siège de Corinthe, Mathilde in Guillaume Tell, and Countess Adéle in Le Comte Ory. Julie Doris-Gras was the original Pauline in the Paris premiere of Donizetti’s Les Martyrs. Lisette Oropesa chose to include excerpts from these operas in her album of French Bel Canto arias, a superb choice, considering that the repertoire sung by the two 19th century divas defined them as lyric coloratura sopranos, much like what Lisette Oropesa is.
Madame Cinti-Damoreau feared that Cornélie Falcon, a rival in the roles of Pamira in Rossini’s Le siege de Corinthe and Countess Adéle in Le Comte Ory would do harm to her reign as the leading soprano of the Paris Opera. She then moved to the Opéra Comique, where she continued to sing for many years, while Madame Falcon lost her voice because of a steady diet of much too heavy roles, like Rachel in La Juive, and Valentine in Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots. Falcon’s career was practically over at the age of 23, while Cinti-Damoreau, on the other hand, sang opera for 25 years, and then continued to concertize until her retirement, after which she taught for quite some time , even writing a book on vocal technique.
Many listeners have grown accustomed to hearing full-blown dramatic voices in some of the operas featured in this recording, especially in their Italian-language versions: Poliuto, Guglielmo Tell, and L’Assedio di Corinto, and Lucia di Lammermoor. It was therefore immensely satisfying to hear Lisette Oropesa in a repertoire originally conceived with the supple, agile, lyric voice that she possesses.
Then there are, among her other gifts, her excellent diction in French and her keen insights into the text. In her handling of Que vais-je devenir and in several of the arioso and accompanied recitative passages in the selections from Le siège de Corinthe, Les Martyrs, and most tellingly in the recitative before Matilde’s Sombre forêt she gives the words her utmost attention while never sacrificing her vocalism. Once she sails into the runs and chromatic upward and downward scales of which Rossini was so fond, her technique and her evenness of registers dazzle.
In the cantilena of Pamira’s Juste ciel from Rossini’s Le siège de Corinthe and in Matilde’s Sombre forêt Lisette Oropesa seamlessly spins a legato line coupled to seemingly inexhaustible breath control. Contrasting with the tragic utterances of most of Rossini’s and Donizetti’s heroines, the pair of arias of Countess Adéle in Le Comte Ory and the trio of arias from La fille du regiment get a tongue-in-cheek treatment from the soprano. In Que n’avons-nous des ailes?, the aria from Donizetti’s French-language Lucie de Lammermoor, with a melody perhaps pilfered by Donizetti’s from Bellini’s La Sonnambula, Oropesa colors her voice, achieving a dulcet sound perfectly suited to the character of the virginal Scottish heroine.
Contributing to the wonderful results of the CD, Corrado Rovaris is the perfect partner, proving himself an authoritative Bel Canto conductor.
Rafael de Acha (c) 2022
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