Excerpts from Athalia, Idomeneo, Fidelio, Lucia di Lammermoor, La traviata, Faust, Manon, Tannhäuser, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Elektra, Die lustige Witwe, Show Boat
Lieder by Brahms & Reger
Ch’io mi scordi di te, K505
Inga Nielsen (soprano)
Various orchestras, conductors and pianists including:
Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Gerd Albrecht [Erwartung]
Antonio Pappano (piano) [K505]
Recorded between 1952 and 2007
Reviewed by: Alexander Campbell
Reviewed: October 2007
CD No: CHANDOS
CHAN 10444 (2 CDs)
Duration: 2 hours 37 minutes
This 2-CD release is a collection of recordings made by the Danish soprano Inga Nielsen released in celebration of the 35th-anniversary of her first professional appearances.
However, some of the recordings actually hail from her childhood. As with many compilation records there are a few plums to which the collector might well want to return to occasionally, but sustained listening right through is not always the most satisfying of experiences given the number of items extracted from complete works. However, approaching this as a document of a major career, there are some hugely enjoyable and interesting experiences on the way.
Inga Nielsen has, sadly, not been that regular a visitor to the concert-halls and opera-houses of the UK, but she has recorded some of the major roles of her diverse repertoire complete. Particularly fine are her performances of Salome under Michael Schønwandt (also on Chandos) where she presents a very individual and unsettling portrayal of the headstrong princess, and her Leonore in “Fidelio” on Naxos.
The first CD is principally an operatic recital. Here the most successful selections are Elettra’s fiery aria from “Idomeneo”, taped in 1991, which has all the agility and fireworks one could hope for, and in terms of drama this is not a happy woman by any means. This was a time when the singer’s Mozartean credentials were very much to the fore. Also impressive is Lucia’s ‘Mad Scene’, from 1989, which is treated not just as a showpiece, but as a true and detailed nightmarish recollection. The excerpt from “Fidelio” is fairly similar to that on her complete recording, but as a soprano Nielsen can to full justice to the range of this taxing aria.
The extract from Strauss’s “Elektra” has much going for it. The part of Chrysothemis is one that very much suits Nielsen’s individual bright timbre and she is well up to the challenge of making the character interesting and not a whiner! As with “Erwartung” some may prefer more opulence to the sound, but this is more involved and involving. The excerpt from “Die Frau ohne Schatten” promises much but is too short to be satisfying.
The French and Handel arias are not much out of the ordinary – save that Plácido Domingo is heard in the “Manon” selection – and cleanly though the extract from “Tannhäuser” is sung, the characterisation is a bit bland – it lacks the spirited abandon that the character needs to display at this her first entrance. Perhaps what Nielsen’s voice does not give as recorded is the sense of a smile.
The second disc, while including “Erwartung”, is more a Lieder recital, but like some of the operatic material it suffers from being rather bitty. The Brahms songs are taped in a slightly over-bright acoustic, the Pergolesi is well shaded and felt, as is Strauss’s ‘Im Abendrot’ (“Four Last Songs”).
The ‘crossover’ numbers will be an acquired taste and probably are only for the diva’s die-hard fans. And even they would probably only listen to the childhood recordings once. The inclusion of these is an indulgence too far; a demonstration of saccharin kitsch. Suffice to say I went straight back to the antidote of “Erwartung” in an attempt to forget them and end my listening on a more positive note. It worked!