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CD Review

Paris, mon amour

  • Jules Massenet:
  • Hérodiade "Celui dont la parole"
  • Le Cid
  • "Pleurez mes yeux"
  • "C'est toi, mon père" *
  • Giacomo Puccini:
  • Le Villi "Se come voi piccina io fossi"
  • La bohème "Donde lieta usci"
  • Charles Gounod: Sapho "Où suis-je? "
  • Giuseppe Verdi: La traviata "Sempre libera" **
  • Jacques Offenbach:
  • Les contes d'Hoffmann "Elle a fui la tourterelle"
  • André Messager:
  • Madame Chrysanthème "Le jour sous le soleil béni"
  • Charles Lecocq: Les cent vierges "O Paris, gai séjour de plaisir"
Sonya Yoncheva, soprano
* Étienne Dupuis, baritone
** Celso Albelo, tenor
Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana/Frédéric Chaslin
Sony Classical 88875-01720-2 55:30
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Soprano Sonya Yoncheva has a stunningly beautiful voice to go along with a superb vocal technique and extraordinary dramatic skills. Put simply, this soprano has it all: she could well be the next Anna Netrebko, could well earn a reputation to equal that of Tebaldi or Callas. She is that good. Born in 1981 in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, she studied both voice and piano. She earned a Master's degree at the Geneva Conservatory where her teachers included Danielle Borst. She won a number of prizes and awards, but her greatest competition victory came at the 2010 Operalia (founded and led by Placido Domingo) at the Teatro alla scala in Milan, Italy. After that she scored many successes on the operatic stage, but she drew perhaps her greatest international notice for what must be regarded as something of a feat: she appeared at the Met in November, 2014 singing Mimi as a short-notice replacement and brought down the house. Critics raved. Why is that such a feat, you ask? She had given birth to her first child just five weeks before and while she knew the arias and main duet, she had to learn the rest of the role in less than two weeks and without rehearsals with the orchestra!

Her Met triumph nearly coincides with the release of this, her first recording. I like Yoncheva's Massenet selections best, although she sings everything on the disc superbly. The lead-off aria is the Massenet Celui dont la parole, from Hérodiade, and it is sung so beautifully, so subtly, and with such a broad range of dynamics. Speaking of dynamics, when Yoncheva sings with power, she is never harsh sounding or piercing, but rather creamy and silken instead. Pleurez mes yeux, from Le Cid, is another treasure, but what made me really sit up and take notice was the third Massenet selection, the duet C'est toi, mon père!, from Thaïs. Her high notes in the latter half drew goose bumps: they were so perfect and powerful, so mesmerizing and angelic. This is phenomenal singing! I compared her to Renée Fleming in this number and Yoncheva is at least as good. Her Puccini Donde lieta usci is another stunningly beautiful performance, and her Le jour sous le soleil béni, from Madame Chrysanthème, is so charmingly delicate and fragile, with such well managed dynamics and notes that seem to float arrestingly to the heavens.

In the end, everything here is a success. True, some might observe that the Sapho aria Où suis-je?, has a tessitura that may be a tad low in places and thus not perfectly compatible with Yoncheva's voice. Still, the performance is very good, though perhaps not quite on the exalted level of the other items here. Sony's sound reproduction is clear and powerful. Baritone Étienne Dupuis and tenor Celso Albelo perform admirably, but most listeners won't be noticing them, as Yoncheva simply steals the show. Frédéric Chaslin leads the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana with a masterly hand. Highest recommendations!

Copyright © 2015, Robert Cummings