The pearl of Hungary

Pearl of Hungary – Forum Opéra, Jean Michel Pennettier, August 2017

Recordings entirely dedicated to the early 19th century Italian opera (in common language called the bel canto) are rare. Even more infrequent are those that end up being utterly exciting, so that the lovers of the genre tend to be faithful to the great stars of the past, who presented themselves in this repertoire. This CD of Klára Kolonits is therefore really an exception, with its varied, difficult and for the most part fantastically performed program.
The CD begins in a sweet tone, with Barbiere di Siviglia. Written for a contralto, the Role of Rosina has been promptly picked up by coloratura sopranos, and some of them treated the score with an abundance of interpretational liberty. The famous line of Rossini after having listened to such a Una voce poco fa, says: “It was very pretty, Madame, who wrote it?”. Kolonits doesn’t unleash herself to this extent and her interpretation remains in the rossinian style, with the exception of anachronical final note. With all due respect, the performance paradoxically lacks a tiny bit of craziness, leaving the listener with slightly mixed feelings.
Aria and cabaletta of Linda di Chamounix, on the contrary, offers a really delightful festival of variations and ornaments. Giving full justice to this semiseria role, the singer places herself in the line of the famous predecessors such as Mariella Devia and Edita Gruberova.
The entrance of Odabella is without a doubt one of the brightest points of this recording. Singing with rare aplomb and freedom, Kolonits reminds us in an indeed electrifying way, that the roots of early Verdi aren’t far from bel canto (at that time, Donizetti was writing his last operas). From this repertoire we can also hear the rare Trionfai from the first version of Macbeth – for once sung with the necessary means. It’s rare to hear Verdi’s da capos with variations and convincing variations to it. This aria is a real feat and innovation in the interpretations of early Verdi operas, without falling apart from his style.
The mad scene from Puritani might require a deeper introspection: the interpretation is impeccable yet a bit distant. The variations, however, together with the intriguing and completely new cadenza are highly original. The scenes from Anna Bolena and Lucrezia Borgia are simply amazing. Trills, rapid vocalises, piquées seem all to be a child’s play for the artist, and so even if at times we may miss a bigger volume, we forgive this detail with pleasure. Let us add that Kolonits knows perfectly how to differentiate various moods of the great Bolena scene, all the way to final cabaletta, sung maybe in a slightly rapid tempo. If we want to continue the play of comparisons, we would turn rather towards Beverly Sills (with more beautiful, if slightly paler timbre) than Joan Sutherland.
It would be unfair to reduce the Hungarian soprano to a simple vocal phenomenon, a cadenza machine. Her interpretations of the slower arias are very successful, and if sometimes the colouring might have been more elaborated, she makes up for it with precise accentiation of the text. “Oh quante volte” from I Capuleti e i Montecchi or Giselda’s prayer from Lombardi manifest beautiful interpretation poetry with wonderful pianos and radiant, covered high diminuendos.
Correct orchestra and choir are conducted effectively by Dániel Dinyés – however a maestro with more experience in this repertoire might have been able to put the CD on even a higher level than it is.

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