It's not an immediately distinctive voice. It does'nt scream for attention in the manner of (say) Bartoli. What you notice first is the exceptional coloratura technique - Lezhneva can sing scales, arpeggios and trills cleanly at any speed, without any audible difficulty. Only Emma Kirkby is as good; but Kirkby has a tiny soubrette of a voice, where Julia Lezhneva (as far one can tell from recordings) is a middle-weight lyric soprano. After enjoying the technique for a while you start to pick up the underlying tone-colour. It's a sweet sound in the old sense - dolce - which reminds me very much of Joan Sutherland; but this is a Sutherland who never scoops up to a note, and whose every word is clear. Lezhneva sings without vibrato, unless that vibrato is an ornament, and has a magnificent messa di voce. What she does not do is to impose emotion onto the vocal line. Modern Rossinians nearly always do (DiDonato is an example) and it's perhaps inevitable when a singer has to put across a 19th century artwork in big 21st century theatre to an audience more interested in personality than vocal skill. Lezhneva's failure to emote is perhaps what made some critics dislike this recording, but she offers other rewards to the attentive listener, including the realisation that Rossini's emotions are rooted in the 18th century, and are more nuanced and ambiguous that ours. I came to this CD having been impressed by Lezhneva's technique in Handel (the new Decca recording of "Alessandro"), and expecting to admire coloratura showpieces (which I did) but the track that struck me was Desdemona's Willow Song, "Assisa a' pie d'un salice". Here is a style of expressive singing which is very unusual today, but one that Rossini might perhaps have recognised. How a 21-year-old Russian learned to sing with so much skill, taste and judgement is a mystery to me but I certainly hope to hear much more from her.
This young lady is a new star in the operatic firmament. Her singing is simply breath taking. There are moments when a little more colour or a little more pathos or a little more pointing of the words would have improved things, but this is just being picky. Buy this CD, put iton your machine then sit back and be amazed by all she has achieved at such a young age. Let's hope she looks after her voice and doesn't go the way of many young singers these days!
Personally, I don't find Lezhneva's intonation issues as bothersome as some other reviewers around here. To my ears, it's not that she actually sings out of tune entirely/full-on, it's just that sometimes what she sings slides somewhere around the right note. For some, this may be cringe-inducing, for me, it doesn't really ruin the things that I do enjoy about Lezhnneva's voice: to me, she seems to possess the technical skills to do this music justice, plus a delicious warm, full sound. To me, this is a very promising singer.
What works against her, however, is her age and consequent inexpierence in the (mature) emotions that should be expressed in these arias. To me, she fails to infuse her portrayal of characters such as Semiramide, Mathilde and Desdemona with life (i.e. the broad range of emotions these women go through).
The inclusion of the Cenerentola Sinfonia on such a relatively short (vocal!) disc is certainly peculiar, but since Minkowski conducts so marvelously, I'm actually pleased with it.
I would buy this disc if you're interested in new young (talented) singers and want to hear the brilliant Minkowski conducting. If you're new to Rossini, however, and would like to hear his arias performed as good as they get (technically and emotionally), I would refer you to Joyce Didonato's "Colbran, the Muse".
Only a tone deaf consumer could love this product.
I desperately wanted to fall in love with this CD. I saw preview clips on the Naïve Classic channel on YouTube and fell in love with both singer and conductor. I saw enthusiasm, people having fun, commitment to getting it right, and what I heard was the wonderful Naïve engineering I have recently come to admire. Imagine my disappointment when the soloist, Julia Lezhneva, misses notes in every single track on this CD. She goes slightly sharp as she holds a note, and some of runs and arpeggios don't sound like they are executed by a seasoned professional. It is really noticeable at the end of the selection from Semiramide "Bel raggio lunsinghieri." She can trill, she has a sound quality that stands up against the greats. But God love a duck she can't stay in tune.
Unfortunately, on this outing, the intonation makes Ms. Lezhneva sound like a promising amateur that has simply been let loose on the public a shade or two before she is ready. I don't care if Dame Kiri is her mentor or how many awards she's won up until now. This kind of misstep could ruin her career. Pitch is basic to all music, and it is non-negotiable. They should have made her stand there and do it over until she got it right. The record producer should be beat senseless with a lamp cord. Anyone with half an ear and just OK pitch can hear this. Let me be clear. The engineering is perfect to the point of heavenly. You can rely on Naïve Classics to deliver delicious, detailed sound every time with perfect imaging. The orchestra is magnificent, as is the accompanying chorus. Balance between the singers and orchestra is perfect. But this is a solo artist CD with accompaniment. Which leads me to my next point.
Why, on a CD of arias, do we have an OVER SEVEN MINUTE orchestral selection? The label does this on the Vivaldi Edition aria recordings, and on those CDs it is less noticeable. This CD clocks in at under 58 minutes which, (not counting the seven minutes of instrumental filler) charming as it is, shortchanges the consumer of ten to fifteen minutes of singing.
I love Naïve Vivaldi offerings, but will be more cautious about future purchases until I have had the chance to listen to a few samples. I want my money back on this one. Don't recommend. Next time less fun and more attention to the basics.
I readily agree with the longer review, this singer sounds like a promising amateur!! How can the classical media rave about this girl, she needs to go back to a good vocal coach and study for at least another 3-4 years...if she continues to sing at her present level I can't see her lasting more than 10 years before her voice gives up the ghost.
But, how can you expect a twenty year old to perform Rossini arias as if she's been doing it all her professional life? The path of the opera world is strewn with the corpses of singers who burst on the scene like comets only to fade away just as rapidly.
Regarding the playing time of this CD, vocal recitals especially opera arias are notoriously bad value for money. All the major companies are guilty of fleecing the record buying public, and it's about time that professional critics started complaining voluably about it!!