Arias from I masnadieri, Un ballo in maschera, Il trovatore, I vespri siciliani, Il Corsaro, Attila, Ernani, Macbeth, Luisa Miller, and La traviata

Guest Reviewer, Alexander Campbell

Operatic recital releases, especially debut ones, can sometimes be a mixed bag. They will of course find a home in the collections of already committed admirers familiar with the artist, and they can certainly help promote a budding career. The repertoire selected must provide a suitable showcase for vocal and interpretative skill, be diverse, appeal, intrigue and yet promise more for the future.

In a personal note in the nicely detailed booklet (including texts and translations) the Ukrainian soprano Olga Mykytenko describes her career-long affinity with Verdi’s music, and particularly how the roles of the idealistic composer have inspired her. Some of this is reflected in her performances – indeed it is those that are more intimate from the early operas that catch her at her imaginative and vocal best. Her plangent tone is appealing and the strength of the voice in all registers impressive throughout. Yet, the close balancing doesn’t always favour her since occasional stresses on the line and tone become evident, along with a few lapses of precision in her execution of some coloratura passages.

The recital starts with Amalia (I Masnadieri) and then Amelia (Un ballo in maschera). Amalia’s graveside lament at the tomb of her uncle brings a palpable sense of anguish and nerviness to the introduction and the joyful concluding cabaletta shows her technique in florid music – fluttery trills and assured decoration. Amelia’s plea to see her son, “Morro, ma prima in grazia”, is impassioned and the strength of Mykytenko’s lower-register a distinct asset. Elena in I vespri siciliani is a tricky role for it encompasses the need for a dramatic voice early in the work and delicacy, poise and agility later. The soprano acquits herself well in “Arrigo! ah! Parli a un core”, expressing understanding of her lover’s moral dilemma.

Mykytenko also tackles two of Verdi’s rather more fearsome ladies in the forms of Odabella (Attila) and Lady Macbeth. Both have arias requiring force and vocal dexterity to express their lust for revenge and power respectively and Mykytenko certainly isn’t afraid to harden her tone and attack the words to convey meaning and a fearsome quality to her singing. Both ladies have vulnerable sides too and here the soprano scores well in bringing the contrasting aspects of these characters to life.

Odabella’s cavatina “Oh, nel fuggente nuvolo”, where the voice is supported by flute and harp especially (a classic bel canto mix) shows much expressivity. Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene certainly has its moments – helped particularly by Kirill Karabits and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra from the “Di Fiffe il sire” section onwards where they conjure a chilling intensity. On this showing, it would be an enticing prospect to encounter Mykytenko in the theatre. Chandos CHAN 20144.