There's nothing standard about "COLORaturaS," soprano Diana Damrau's stunning new recital disc of opera "standards." As many have noted, Damrau is the total operatic package; a seriously gifted singer with an Actors Studio understanding of how to create character. Another reviewer here noted that he preferred Joan Sutherland's version of Verdi's "Caro Nome." Well, perhaps Sutherland "sang" it better (and that's open to debate), but she certainly didn't capture Gilda's budding sexuality or her cautious thrill that perhaps this man, whose name she says as a kind of prayer, will be the one to free her from both her actual and emotional prisons. It's all there in Damrau's thoughtful, heartfelt rendition. Other tracks are just as complex and revelatory. This is the first time I've heard "Je Veux Vivre" and believed that the singer was a breathless, overwhelmed 13 year old; Damrau's Zerbinetta is wise, playful, practical and world weary...all at the same time; her Lauretta seems to be manipulating Gianni Schicchi as much as appealing to his paternal instincts. And I have never heard a funnier "Glitter and Be Gay." Damrau finds the perfect balance between parody and homage, and still manages to provide insight into Cunegonde's hilariously conflicted psyche. If the way I'm describing the performances sounds in any way academic or studied, rest assured that Damrau does all of the above without ever sacrificing the music itself. The singing is joyous, passionate and technically breathtaking. At every step of the way she is more than admirably supported by Dan Ettinger and the Munich Radio Orchestra.
If I have any quibble with Damrau, it's that her diction is at times a little too pronounced; hard consonants a little too hard, every "r" a little too rolled. Even Bartoli doesn't always sing with such music school precision. Ultimately, though, it's a very minor reservation.
For anyone invested in the future (and present, for that matter) of opera, "COLORaturaS" will be very, very welcome.