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Julia Lezhneva – Opera Arias

David Barmby

The clear potential of a great artist.
Julia Lezhneva – Opera Arias

Julia Lezhneva / Carl Heinrich Graun Opera Arias Concerto Köln. Album cover image via DECCA.

Star Russian coloratura mezzo-soprano Julia Lezhneva has now visited Australia twice (first for the Hobart Baroque Festival and last year for a national tour with the Australian Chamber Orchestra).  At the young age of 26 this artist of rare vocal ability clearly has a highly successful career path before her.  Happily Lezhneva has found a career in repertoire best suited to her voice and she is currently working with the finest European Baroque practitioners in the world.  Her fourth CD for Decca was launched today.  It comprises a series of operatic arias by Carl Graun that Lezhneva unearthed in a Berlin library.  A contemporary of J S Bach, Carl Graun was a composer of the late Baroque contributing, as this recording demonstrates, high-quality Italian opera.  He was also notably Kapellmeister to Frederick the Great from 1740 until the composer’s death in Berlin in 1759.

With a voice of the calibre and similar qualities of Cecilia Bartoli, the young Julia Lezhneva demonstrates total command over every technical detail emanating from these complicated and elaborate works.  Julia Lezhneva’s technical ability including astonishing agility and spot-on tuning is highly impressive. Yet I kept searching for something more.

At around 50 minutes duration the CD is fairly light on and introduces music from Graun’s L’Orfea, Iphigenia in Aulia, Coriolano, Armida, Il Mithridate, Silla and Rodelinda regina de’ Langobardi.  The highlight of the recording for me was Piangete from Il Mithridate that approached genuine suffering in its sincere love longing.

Concerto Köln, the highly distinguished German Baroque ensemble, here under the direction of the little-known Mikhail Antonenko, is given a thorough workout though overall it delivers an unremarkable and restrained presence in the recording.  Instead, the project feels soloist-centred, the ensemble edged out of focus.  I look forward to being introduced to Julia Lezhneva once again joined with a musical director of real calibre (Jacobs?) and material to match her very remarkable vocal gifts.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5

Julia Lezhneva Opera Arias

Carl Heinrich Graun
Concerto Köln
Mikail Antonenko, director
0289 483 1518 5
Released by Decca 14 April, 2017

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

David Barmby is former head of artistic planning of Musica Viva Australia, artistic administrator of Bach 2000 (Melbourne Festival), the Australian National Academy of Music and Melbourne Recital Centre.

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