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Gioachino Rossini: Arias
14 Aug 2011

Julia Lezhneva sings Rossini

It seems very appropriate that a record company called Naïve should elect to release a solo recital for a soprano in her very early 20s.

Gioachino Rossini: Arias

Julia Lezhneva, soprano. Sinfonia Varsovia. Conductor: Marc Minkowski

Naïve V5221 [CD]

$13.99  Click to buy

Julia Lezhneva was born in Russia in 1989. A surprisingly lengthy biographical note in the CD booklet is crammed with details of her attendance in master classes and various competitions (many of which she won, it should be noted), and fairly few stage appearances, most of which were concerts.

However, Ms. Lezhneva clearly has an esteemed supporter in the person of conductor Marc Minkowski, who leads the Sinfonia Varsovia in this selection of Rossini arias for soprano, along with the La Cenerentola Sinfonia. Mr. Minkowski has proven himself to be a leader with an individual touch, typified by sharp rhythms and surprising mdash; if not occasionally erratic mdash; tempo choices. Many of today’s best singers have taken key roles in Minkowski’s large recorded output, so if the conductor hears something special in Ms. Lezhneva, perhaps this release of her vocalism at such an early stage of her career will prove a fascinating document at some point in the future.

For now, although the disc offers much to enjoy, the possible future greatness of Ms. Lezhneva remains a case of “time will tell.” In slower numbers such as “L’ora fatal s’apressa” from L’assedio di Corinto, Ms. Lezhneva’s voice has a pleasing note of sadness that, over the course of a long aria, tends to degrade into a sort of droopy sameness. She can cover the lower range well enough, and then extend into the higher notes without much strain, but the high notes tend to be unsupported or attenuated.

In a more energetic piece such as La Cenerentola’s “Della fortuna istabile…Nacqui all’affanno,” the expected chirpiness thankfully fails to appear. Still, the voice could use a bit more brightness to really project joyful emotion.

Two of the more successful numbers come at the start of the CD mdash; a languid and sensuous performance of “Tanti affetti” from La donna del lago and a touching “Ils s’ėloignent enfin” from Guillaume Tell. No doubt, there is quality here. By recital’s end, one may have grown weary of a certain monotony in the approach while still maintaining a curiosity about how this singer will develop.

Who knows if Naïve or another company will still be releasing recital CDs in a few years, but should Ms. Lezhneva get another shot, there’s every reason to believe she’ll prove herself a worthy protégé to conductor Minkowski.

Chris Mullins

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