Music of Gounod, Praulins, Mascagni, Gomez, Mozart, Bizet, Puccini, Adam, Vasks, Allegri, and Vavilov
Elina Garanca, mezzo-soprano; Latvian Radio Choir/Orch/Karel Mark Cichon, cond.

Music of Araia, Raubach, Oglio, Madonis, Manfredini and Cimarosa
Cecilia Bartoli, soprano; I Baroccisti/Diego Fasolis, cond.
DECCA 478 6767 TT: 77:57

'STELLA DI NAPOLI" - Bel Canto Opera Arias
Music of Pacini, Bellini, Rossini, Mercadante, Donizetti, and Valentini
JoyceDiDonato, soprano; Lyon National Chorus and Orch/Riccardo Minasi, cond.
ERATO 08256 463-5656 TT: 72:14

Three of today's top divas have outstanding new recordings that will delight their admirers. Mezzo Elina Garanca's CD is called Meditation and features serene music mostly related to her native Latvia, in which she is accompanied by the superb Latvian Radio Choir. A few of the selections will be familiar, but for the most part this music will be new to most listeners. The chorus sings several works without the star soprano. This is beautiful, peaceful music and these performances are glorious, recorded in the rich acoustics of the Sauerbrücken venue in October 2013. It is remarkable that the innocent purity and rich sound of Garanca heard on this recording is the same person who starred as the sultry, impassioned Carmen in a recent Met production.

Cecilia Bartoli's CD. called St. Petersburg, is quite stunning. It is a premium-priced issue, but a deluxe one with a luxurious 128 page booklet replete with program notes and photos. Music of Tsarist Russia is fatured, composed by Italian composers working for the Russian Court: Fancesco Domenico Araia, Dominico Dall'Oglig, Vincenzo Manfredini, and Domenico Cimarosa. All of these are world premiere recordings, presented to perfection, with Bartoli accompanied by the superb baroque ensemble directed by Diego Fasolis. Excellent sound, profuse program notes and complete texts. A class issue, indeed!

The popularity of Joyce DiDonato is reflected in her being cosen to sing The Star Spangled Banner at the last game of the World Series with accompniment by the Kanss City Symphony. This is eons away from DiDonato's new CD, Stella Di Napoli, in which she celebrates Bel Canto opera as heard in 19th-century Naples. The album's title is taken from Stella Di Napoli, a song by Giovanni Pacin, with other works by Bellini, Rossini, Mercadante, Donizetti and Valentini. Much research went into this production, and we can be sure the music is presented as originally intended, and doubtless performed much better. The mezzo's glorious voice has never sounded better. Complete texts and translations are provided. Don't miss it!

R.E.B. (October 2014)