Lezhneva Flies And Mumbles Through Graun

Review by: Robert Levine

Julia

Artistic Quality: 6

Sound Quality: 8

Oh no, Julia! I loved you so. Your Rossini CD was great–filled with flights of coloratura as well as darker, introspective moments. Your lovely Roseanne in Decca’s complete Alessandro was graceful, tasteful, and seductive. Your diction was dreadful, as ever, in Hasse’s Siroe, but still, the singing was glorious.

But now you’ve turned your attention to Carl Heinrich Graun, Frederick the Great’s Kapellmeister, who wrote 20-or-so operas, all of them formulaic, most of them forgotten for good reason; only Montezuma and Cesare e Cleopatra have had any tread. Notes tell us that you spent long periods in a Berlin library trawling for lost gems, and you came up with these 11, showed them to Decca and conductor Mikhail Antonenko, and voila! One can only congratulate you, conductor, and orchestra for learning this many notes and having the sheer energy to speed through them as you do, throwing staccatos and roulades about like confetti, or rather, hurling them like spaghetti against the wall. Well, the confetti is insubstantial but colorful, and when thousands of strands of spaghetti each land perfectly, there’s no wall left–just a landscape of uninflected pasta. One admires your aim, but what is going on here?

Your speed and accuracy are astonishing, but are soon taken for granted and the ear wants more; in fact, after a while there are too many notes and they blur and cackle. Are you having a contest with Maestro Antonenko? We’re used to the opera-serie situations–you are unworthy of my love; beware of the sea; a breeze whispers and a branch trembles; my lover is dying, etc.–but you’ve developed a habit of emphasizing one word, one of the few intelligible ones, in an aria and turning it into drama, while everything else is just, well, confetti. You aren’t varying the tone with which you sing words, you’re just singing them louder or with a bunch of otherwise absent consonants.
Get well soon, Julia; fans–stay with the old CDs.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None

  • GRAUN, CARL HEINRICH:
    Arias from L'Orfeo, Ifigenia in Aulide, Coriolano, Armida, Il Mithridate, Silla, Rodelinda, regina di Langobardi, Britannico
  • Julia Lezhneva (soprano)
  • Concerto Köln, Mikhail Antonenko


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