Can Belto

On the art of singing and those who practice it…

A rude awakening…

I bought a copy of Inva Mula’s aria recording The beautiful Dream (Il bel sogno). Where to start? The title comes from Magda’s Ch’il bel sogno di Doretta from Puccini’s La rondine. After hearing most of the CD I’ll say that Doretta was woken up with a bat. This recording is appaling in so many ways I am looking for reasons not to return it at once, but I am not sure I have them, so off to Borders first thing tomorrow morning.

The recording starts with the title track and moves to some more Puccini: Mi chiamano Mimi, Donde lieta and O mio babino caro. On the evidence of the recordings, Puccini is not the composer to best showcase Inva Mula’s voice.  She sounds underparted, unsupported and just plain flat in many of the selections. the arias are of some of the most beloved operas in the world, so they come with some major baggage and competition. I will not waste my time conjuring ghosts of operas past like Moffo, or Caballe; this woman could not even hold to comparison to Luba Orgonasova, whose recording of the role of Mimi is enchanting in every way, even if she is not in the best company and her recordings of the rest of the Puccini arias in her Favorite Soprano Arias on Naxos give Mula a lesson in how to sing Puccini and how to sing it affectingly. The Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra  didn’t do themselves any favors by covering Mula in the climaxes either.

With this poor impression, I cautiously went to some French rep. I thought, OK, let’s give her a chance in the French, it might be that the voice is just not made for Italian climaxes. Next we got 2 arias from Gounod’s Mireille (Trahir Vincent & Voice la vaste plaine) ; Adieu notre petite table from Massenet’s Manon, The Miror aria from Thais, and 2 sections from Gounod’s Faust (the Jewell aria and Il ne revient pas). Alas, I didn’t finish the arias. The coloratura in the Mireille was labored, the French not very idiomatic (in her defense, it is a hard language to sing idiomatically, it takes a lot of work) and the feeling was that she had no idea what she was singing about. Once again, the voice sounded unsupported and the tome uninteresting.  The Manon was better, but not in a way that would redeem what was around it. I did make a point to listen to the Thais. This sucked so bad it was incredible. She sounded  out of breath, unsupported (are you getting the common threat?) and the trills, what trills? She simply could not sustain the long phrases and the voice could not reach the lower reaches of the aria. It was just unattractive and so un-French it was embarrassing. Hell, Moffo, with all her crooning and jazzy mannerisms in the same aria was able to convey the desperation of Thais.  One last thing, a lyric soprano like Inva Mula, SHOULD be able to sing a high D.

With this royal mess in my hands, I came to the last 2 arias of the recording. And it did not bode well for Mula, they were from Traviata, my favorite opera and one that I can sing from memory from start to finish, all parts and uncut. After a strange and unidiomatic reading of the letter (Addio del passaggio, I mean, pasato  comes first in the recording) she actually was able to communicate something in the aria.  Finally, I was listening to actual singing, you know, the kind that merits a solo recording in this economy we are living. Alas, it was not to last. Once again, we were treated to that colorless tone without body  and unsupported high notes. It would have also been nice if she was able to sing the high A’s on pitch, but she does get extra points for singing both verses. Would I hire her to do Violetta? in your dreams, I would rather hire Ana Maria Martinez, Eglise Gutierrez or Angela Meade (and the last one would not be the typical consumptive looking Violeta). Do I need to tell you how the Act 1 scene was handled? The words royal mess do not convey the complete lack of coloratura ability or the absence of any musicality or even the inability to sing the right pitches. I know the scene is hard, VERY hard. But a singer of Mula’s type (a lyric to a lyric coloratura) should be able to sing basic coloratura with some degree or respectability, not her. She sounded amateurish, not even her attempt at an Eb (thin, unsupported, ugly) saved the aria ; and help me understand this, no High D in the Thais but an Eb in the Traviata… You know it is bad when the off stage tenor steals the scene, Agim Hushi’s lines as Alfredo did just that.

Which brings me to the question: Are singers these days not taught how to support and sing on the breath? I have heard so many singers these days, specially of the Susanna, Contessa, Violetta, Mimi kind sing like they do not have a diaphragm. They actually sing like those unsupported tones are supposed to mean something. Do they think it is an artistic choice, or that we are supposed to interpret them as such? Sweet Jesus! I have heard Handel and Mozart sung with such lack of breath that it is making me believe that singers are actually not required to learn a good breathing technique. If Inva Mula is one of the world’s foremost lyric sopranos we are in deep shit people, we better get to church and PRAY.

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November 30, 2009 - Posted by | Opera Review |

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