No matter how passionate soprano Barbara Bonney gets, she never loses the unsullied purity of her tone. And in this 1994 disc of Schubert songs, Bonney often has cause to get passionate: her artless Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (D. 965) is transformed by passionate virtuosity, her mournful Mignon Lieder (D. 877) are transcended by passion, and her ecstatic Ganymed (D. 544) is transfigured by passion. But through all of it, Bonney's tone stays pure, the voice of stainless innocence in the face of sorrow, shame and even death. This is almost – but not quite always – a good thing. Bonney can surely sing the songs: her voice is sweet and her technique is graceful…
When Written on Skin had its premiere at the 2012 Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, conducted by George Benjamin himself, it received a standing ovation. The opera's arrival at Covent Garden in 2013 was eagerly anticipated, and provided audiences with the opportunity to experience the work of two of Britain's greatest living artists. Benjamin previously collaborated with playwright Martin Crimp on Into the Little Hill, a magical retelling of the Pied Piper fairytale, and for this new work they joined forces with acclaimed stage director Katie Mitchell. For all three, the production marked their main-stage debut at the Royal Opera House. The tale, inspired by a medieval legend, tells of an ill-fated troubadour, drawn into a liaison with an innocent maiden. But they are observed by the jealous eye of her protector, who wreaks a shocking revenge on the young couple.
Barbara Bonney's recital of the Schumanns' songs is prefaced, in the booklet-note, with a little feminist homily from the singer defending the reputation of Clara as woman and artist. Clara hardly needs that kind of defence nowadays, witness recent CDs by Skovhus and Stutzmann, plus several others not reviewed in these pages; her songs are far from patronized, let alone neglected. Yet, for all the advocacy of these singers, her inspiration remains for me intermittent, though thoroughly conventional songs are occasionally leavened by notably individual ones, such as, here, her very last and unpublished song, Loreley, which vividly conjures up that dangerous creature, particu lady in the hectic piano part, evocatively played by Ashkenazy. Indeed it seems that Heine most inspired her, as "Sic liebten sich beide" from her Op. 13 provoked a setting of economically intense meaning, to which Bonney finely responds.– Gramophone [9/1997].
This studio recording was made in 1989 coinciding with a memorable production from the Metropolitan Opera, later captured on DVD. It's a delightful performance, and a wonderful highlight of Pavarotti's later career. Kathleen Battle's sparkling soprano is a brilliant accompaniment to Pavarotti's still-ringing tone.
"Pavarotti's voice was still beautiful and pliable, his phrasing exquisite. And he loved the role of Nemorino and always seemed happy with both its comedy and pathos–he steals every scene he's in, and no one minds…Kathleen Battle sings Adina with perfect, pearl-like tone, absolute fluency and commitment, and a trill to die for…Enzo Dara is an ideal Dulcamara, just the right combination of huckster and sentimentalist, with ease in every register and with fast music."
– Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
In 1988 when this period-instrument Figaro was released, the style was still a novelty, and Ostman gained some notoreity for his rushed tempos as well as the scrawniness of his chamber orchestra, by far the smallest to play this great opera on CD. Yet when I read a glowing review by Andrew Porter in the New Yorker, I immediately bought the performance, shortly discovering that it was a true gem in the extensive Figaro catalog.
By Santa Fe Listener