Pretty Yende has become one of the world’s most sought-after singers for her energetic and positive stage presence. Her Cinderella story is widely recognized and her performances have become must-see events.
Having dominated the world’s greatest stages and released her first album “A Journey,” Yende now brings audiences a taste of what is to come in her second album “Dreams.”
Like her first album, which explored her career path from significant and meaningful (to her) arias and duets, Yende once again opts for a themed album depicting not only her “dreams come true” but the dreams of love and longing and delusion and desperation of many of opera’s greatest heroines.
The result is an album filled with many of opera’s greatest arias that showcase Yende’s virtuosic power and developing instrument.
The album kicks off with “Ah! Jeux vivre” in the key of G. The aria is dispatched with an incredible amount energy and in the soprano’s voice, one hears the joy in Juliette’s desire to enjoy life. The coloratura passages are sung with accuracy and the high notes are pulled off with a bright timbre.
Donizetti then dominates the second portion of the album. Yende sings the mad scene from Lucia and to this reviewer, it is probably the weakest portion of this album. Yende sings with a beautiful tone which easily brings the listener into this haunting aria. But it is not always for the most dramatic effect. For a mad scene, it sounds too clean and beautiful and one forgets that what we are listening to a delusional woman that has just committed murder. Still one has to give Yende credit for the detail for dispatching each coloratura run with care.
In “O Luce di quest’anima,” Yende once again brings her delightful personality. Her voice takes on a youthful personality that combined with a quick tempo, brings forth Linda’s joy of being in love.
In the second half of the album, Yende turns to Bellini and Meyerbeer. The soprano may be known for her coloratura roulades but in this second half, the superstar singer succeeds in her middle register, particularly in Bellini’s “Sono all’ara” from “La Straniera.” Here Yende displays a delicate and rich middle voice that shows a true lyrical quality that is about to bloom. It also showcases Yende’s dramatic instincts as she phrases with anguish, bringing Alaide’s torment to the fore. The subsequent “Or sei pago, o ciel tremendo,” while a virtuosic display, is delivered with more emotional pull, giving Yende an ample display of her volume and what the future will hold in the more dramatic coloratura roles.
Like “La Straniera,” Yende’s work in the “La Sonnambula” excerpt is exceptional. Her “Ah! Non credea mirarti” is given a quality of longing. Each passage is held a little longer as if Yende didn’t want to let go of the music. And as the aria continues to build, so do Yende’s dynamics, giving the piece extra emotional weight.
“Ombre Legere” features clear diction, the soprano displaying a wide range of emotions. All the while, the coloratura runs are thrown off with ease and flexibility. The dynamics are also varied, allowing one to understands Dinorah’s visions and shadows. The B section of the aria allows Yende to melt into the French lines and here she sings with great freedom in her tone, extending the tempi with ease. In many ways, this aria shows Yende’s clear understanding of the French style and highlights her versatility in the repertoire.
As noted Yende exudes an incredible energy in the album as it comes through in her shining voice. But perhaps that is also what takes away from some of the beautiful musical moments. Throughout the Mad Scene from Lucia or in “Linda di Chamonix’s” aria, Yende can move into the excess of adding more coloratura than needed. The new Cadenza from Lucia creates patterns of roulades that sound, at times, more like a coloratura exercise as opposed to the delirium of a mad woman. Still, you have to give props to Yende for taking the risk and giving audiences a fresh listen.
The same can happen in the cadenzas for “Linda di Chamonix” and “Dinorah” arias. Here, Yende’s additions are showy and display some high notes that are tend to sound a bit strident.
And this leads to the other big issue in the album. While not written in originally by Donizetti, the E Flats at the end of the “Lucia” aria, which has become tradition, have a forced sound that is augmented by the awkward cutoffs. The same happens at the end of “La Straniera” aria where Yende’s final D lacks the luster or power for a climactic moment. One wonders why these choices were made but they make for awkward moments that hinder the album.
Another big issue is Giacomo Sagripanti’s conducting. While I have to praise him for never embracing the languid tempi that have become synonymous with Bel Canto these days, Sagripanti opts for another extreme. Yes, the tempi in the album give energy and buoyancy to the music, but their seemingly rushed manner also hinders the music. Arias like the Mad scene demand more time to create the delirium the character is in. The Sonnambula “Ah! Non Giunge” is given a speedy tempo but Sagripanti gives no time for Yende to interpolate her coloratura, making for some awkward transitions. The “Ah! Je Veux Vivre” and “Ombre Legere” lack the creamy colors and passion that the French music needs. As a result, the contrast that Yende makes in her nuanced music making is simply lacking in Sagripanti’s reading of these scores. They tend to be rather boisterous in loud sections and almost lacking in texture or color in quieter moments.
What I will give credit to Yende and Sagripanti is the fact that all the scenes and arias are kept in their complete form without any cuts. This allows the music to not only breathe but also allows audiences to get a complete feel of the composer’s true intentions.
Overall, however, this second album is an enjoyable listen as Yende continues to explore her vocal colors and develops into a mature artist.