Russian soprano Julia Lezhneva was only 20 when she made this recording of scenes and arias from Rossini operas, but she was already a veteran, having recorded Bach's Mass in B minor for Naïve when she was 18. Lezhneva has the solid lower register and timbral fullness that ideally equips her for the Rossini roles that can be taken by either mezzo-soprano or soprano. She is entirely at ease as Cenerentola, a role designated as contralto. She's exceptional in each of these scenes for a number of reasons. She has a preternaturally solid technique; there are few singers of any age or level of experience who could toss off Rossini's coloratura roulades with such apparent ease. Her execution of the devilishly demanding music is miraculously smooth and even, without a hint of effort, as if it were the simplest and most spontaneous thing in the world. Her tone throughout her wide range is gorgeous; warm, velvety, creamy, luxurious, shimmering are adjectives that hardly begin to describe it. She is especially gifted in expressing serene, radiant happiness, as demonstrated in the scenes from La donna del lago and Semiramide. She is equally effective in music of resignation and despair, such as the scenes from Guillaume Tell (whose lustrous "Sombre forêt" is one of the album's highlights), Otello, and L'assedio di Corinto. The coloratura affects that are missing from this album are fury and madness; it will be exciting to hear how Lezhneva manages music of a more aggressive character. Marc Minkowski leads Sinfonia Varsovia and Warsaw Chamber Opera Choir in performances of exceptional polish and nuanced sensitivity. Naïve's sound is well-balanced, clean, and detailed, with a nice sense of presence. Lezhneva is a singer to watch out for, and fans of bel canto singing are encouraged to hear her. Stephen Eddins, Rovi
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