by Puccini -
'... more than sufficient ... to recommend unstintingly ...'
Soloist Cheryl Barker studied in Melbourne with Dame Joan Hammond and in London with David Harper.
Beyond that Ms Barker has achieved a stellar reputation in major roles with several of the world's finest opera companies; among them the Royal Opera (Covent Garden) Deutsche Oper (Berlin), Welsh National Opera, Houston Grand Opera, English National Opera, Hamburg State Opera, Scottish Opera, De Vlaamse Opera (Ghent) and National ReisOper (Holland).
Here, while not nearly in the same league as their Met or Royal Opera equivalents, Victoria Orchestra (Melbourne) seems to meet authoritative veteran Richard Bonynge's requirements.
Now we can savour Cheryl Barker's true verisimo art, with a variety of arias from the best-loved as well as lesser-known Puccini operas. Whether she represents bel-canto style as the late Renata Tebaldi did, is less clear. On this substantially admirable showing, keen listeners will be aware of the soprano's wide vibrato which, during some brief moments, can detract significantly from an otherwise unalloyed musical experience.
No matter, there's more than sufficient within the Passion selection to recommend unstintingly. Hear (for example) Ms Barker's delightfully insouciant flattery expressed in Magda's 'Chi il bel sogno di Doretta' from La Rondine
[listen -- track 12, 1:43-2:23].
Copyright © 14 January 2008
Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand