Classical

VOICES Notes and news on Classical releases

Stunning Dramatic Mezzo

20 JUN 09 JASON SERINUS

When the great American mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick first sang for veteran mezzo Fedora Barbieri, who had shared stages with Callas, Barbieri exclaimed, "What a voice!" That voice is captured on the Telarc release The Art Of Dramatic Mezzo-Soprano.

In a joint interview with Barbieri in Opera News, Zajick acknowledged that the imposing nature of her instrument made for a rough start. She chose singing over studies to be a physician, won Third Prize in the 1982 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music. She said, "It was a frustrating experience, because like many conservatories today, they did not know how to deal with big voices."

Telarc's engineers had no such problem when Zajick, one of the richest and grandest mezzo sopranos currently on the roster of the Metropolitan Opera, stepped before the microphones in the year 2000. In her only solo recital of operatic arias, she is captured in prime form as she rips through arias by Verdi, Gluck, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Cilea, Rossini and Saint-Saens with extraordinary mastery. Defying categorization for someone with such a huge, rafter-shaking instrument, Zajick handles the coloratura hurdles of "Ah! Quel giorno ognor rammento," from Rossini's Semiramide, with aplomb. Her high notes, especially, would leave many a soprano quivering in envy.

Especially noteworthy are the arias from Verdi's Il Trovatore, Don Carlo and Macbeth. Again showing off her high extension, the artist famed for her portrayals of Verdi dramatic mezzo roles switches to soprano for two of Lady Macbeth's bone-chilling arias. It's an extraordinary tour-de-force that all opera lovers will want to hear.