Uninvolved, Outdated Handel–From A Beautiful Voice

Review by: Robert Levine


Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 10

Having just seen and heard Sonya Yoncheva’s Violetta live at the Metropolitan Opera, and marveled at the big, brilliant high notes and expressive throb in her voice, I was happy to receive this CD in the mail. Happy despite the fact that two of the traits a soprano may not need in singing and interpreting Handel are brilliant high notes and an expressive throb. The voice impresses on this CD as it did live; her intonation is dead-center, and while the voice may not have many colors or dynamic gradations, it is a fine and appealing instrument. Her approach to Handel is what I would expect from a voice of her type: old fashioned, somewhat weighty. Knowing that a few years ago she’d worked with Wiliam Christie’s Les Arts Florissants gave me false hope. This CD recital is very good “of its type”, but I do not much like it.

Surprisingly–or perhaps, correctly, given her set of vocal gifts–she is abetted by Alessandro De Marchi and his period-instrument band, who do not play with what we have gotten to know as sharp attacks; indeed, there’s a lack of distinction and energy in the leadership and playing. And perhaps it is my “misfortune” to have recently been listening to Joyce Di Donato sing Handel and Purcell, and have been remarkably moved by her interpretations–sheer sound aside. “Lascia ch’io pianga” from Yoncheva is handsomely sung, if a bit four-square, whereas DiDonato makes it a true plea; “When I am laid in earth” as sung by DiDonato is devastatingly sad–Dido half way to her grave–whereas Yoncheva is regal and matter-of-fact.

On the other hand, Yoncheva enchants in Cleopatra’s “Non disperar” and Morgana’s “Tornami a vaghegghiar”, both dispatched with fluidity and bright tone, if not the last word in coloratura razzle-dazzle. Alcina’s “Ah, mio cor” is a bore, as is Agrippina’s “Pensieri”, which has layers of meaning that have not entered Yoncheva’s mind. Theodora’s scenes go by unnoticed. Karine Deshayes’ fine mezzo blends nicely in the Rodelinda duet. I will happily listen to Yoncheva in Verdi, but I will not return to this CD.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Album Title: Sonya Yoncheva--Handel
  • HANDEL, G.F.:
    Arias from Giulio Cesare, Alcina, Theodora, Rodelinda, Agrippina, & Rinaldo
    "When I am laid in earth", from Dido & Aeneas
  • Sonya Yoncheva (soprano); Karine Deshayes (mezzo-soprano)
  • Academia Montis Regalis, Alessandro De Marchi

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