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Arias [Import]

S/Various/Nelson;J-Ens Blythe Audio CD
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 18.30 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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1. Serse: Recitativo: Frondi Tenere
2. Serse: Aria: Ombra Mai Fu
3. Hercules: Recitative And Aria: Where Shall I Fly?
4. Semele: Recitative: Awake, Saturnia
5. Semele: Aria: Iris, Hence Away
6. Giulio Cesare In Egitto: Aria: Al Lampo Dell'armi
7. Giulio Cesare In Egitto: Recitativo Ed Aria: Dall'ondoso Periglio... Aure, Deh, Per Pieta
8. Giulio Cesare In Egitto: Aria: Priva Son D'ogni Conforto
9. Giulio Cesare In Egitto: Recitativo E Duetto: Madre!... Son Nata A Lagrimar - Stephanie Blythe/David Daniels/Martin Isepp
10. Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244: Aria: Erbarme Dich, Mein Gott
11. Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244: Aria: Konnen Tranen Meiner Wangen
12. Saint John Passion, BWV 245: Aria: Von Den Stricken Meiner Sunden
13. Saint John Passion, BWV 245: Aria: Es Ist Vollbracht! - Stephanie Blythe/Emmanuelle Haim/Jerome Hantai
14. Mass in b, BWV 232: Agnus Dei

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Amazon.ca

This is a lovely recording. Stephanie Blythe's voice must be one of the most beautiful to be heard today: smooth as silk, warm as velvet, pure, dark, almost masculine at times, even in quality across a big range down to F-sharp. She can spin out endless phrases without strain. Her intonation is impeccable, her expressiveness heartfelt, simple, and direct. The program is a string of priceless jewels, opening with the famous "Ombra mai fu" from "Serse" (better known as Handel's Largo) and closing with the Agnus Dei from Bach's B minor Mass. However, with the exception of Juno's furious outburst of jealousy from Handel's Semele, the dramatic "Where shall I fly?" from his Hercules, and one fast, light aria from Giulio Cesare, everything is slow and primarily mournful. This seems to be in the nature of the contralto repertoire, but it does generate a certain sameness despite all attempts to create variety.

One of the highlights is the heartrending mother-son duet between Cornelia and Sesto from Giulio Cesare with the splendid countertenor David Daniels, but Blythe includes both Cornelia's and Cesare's arias, fulfilling a wish no doubt cherished by many great contraltos, but impossible to realize on stage. She seems more at home in Handel's worldly arias than in Bach's sacred ones, some of which--notably the "Erbarme dich" from the St. Matthew Passion--sound a little too operatic. The violinist who plays the wonderful obbligato here is not named (and often inaudible); the fine wind soloists in the St. John Passion are also unidentified. The orchestra is good but rather stiff, the rhythm pedantic, the style, with normal tuning, semi-baroque. This is underscored by the truly baroque gamba solo in St. John. However, the beauty of the singing triumphs over all misgivings. --Edith Eisler

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars La Reina! Oct. 12 2003
By Grady Harp TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
Stephanie Blythe is a name honored in the circles of the music cognescenti where she is considered nearly without peer as the reigning contralto of the day. In this very generous sampling of arias by Handel and Bach the reason for such admiration/devotion becomes readily apparent. Blythe may be called a 'contralto' and, indeed, she has that lush dark burnished tone so often conjured by the contralto roles in opera and oratorio. But she has an amazing range that allows her to effortlessly scale the contralto to mezzo to lyric to coloratura like few other singers. Only Marilyn Horne comes to mind as one with the beauty of voice in tandem with impeccable musicianship and technique for comparison.
Opening this recital (accompanied by John Nelson conducting the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris) she wisely selects the well-known 'Ombra mai fu' and allows first time listeners to bask in the beauty of tone and perfection of execution she brings to every subsequent work on this CD. Unlike other singers who attempt this repertoire Blythe shows no audible break in register as she soars into the passionate stratosphere of 'Where shall I fly' from Handel's "Semele" or plumbs the depths of Bach's touching arias from both the St Matthew and St John Passions.
As far as the perfect display of all her gifts in one piece then her duet with countertenor David Daniels in the 'Madre..Son nata a lagrimar' from Handel's "Guilio Cesare" is that pinnacle. This duet has to be one of the most beautiful baroque experiences ever captured on disc. A singer to watch and collect!
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5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest American singer of our time? Sept. 4 2002
Format:Audio CD
I had the great fortune to be in the audience for two Metropolitan Opera performances of 'Giulio Cesare' which featured, among others, Jennifer Larmore and superstar countertenors Brian Asawa and David Daniels. However, it was the young American contralto Stephanie Blythe who managed to steal the show from all of them as Cornelia, becoming an overnight sensation. Actually, I had already been following Blythe's career for several years - from a 1995 Berta in 'Il Barbiere di Siviglia' (where, admittedly, she sounded a bit too big and 'divaish' for a comic comprimaria), she impressed me mightily. She was then a member of the Met's Young Artist Program, and went on to such roles as Auntie in 'Peter Grimes', Antonia's Mother in 'Les Contes D'Hoffman', Madelon in 'Andrea Chenier', and Baba the Turk in 'The Rake's Progress'. You could call these Cornelias her 'graduation present'. She recently was a splendid Dame Quickly in 'Falstaff', and this season she will sing Mere Marie in 'Dialogues of the Carmelites' and reprise Baba. Bluntly, Blythe is probably the finest American singer of the current generation before the public today.
Nearly everybody who has reviewed Blythe has stated that she is the heir to the throne of Marilyn Horne, and I agree. In fact, she is one of Horne's 'babies', who did some of her earliest work as a recitalist for the Marilyn Horne Foundation, and she often sounds uncannily like her. Blythe has not only Horne's power, richness, and huge lower register, but also a gentleness and vulnerability that one almost never hears from Horne. Her voice is warm and womanly, and, surprisingly for a contralto, young-sounding. She is equally adept at machine-gun coloratura and silken legato. She has beautiful control of dynamics, especially messa di voce.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful, captivating surprise... Jan. 24 2002
Format:Audio CD
I was browsing through the classical section of one of my favourite record stores when, to my utter amazement and delight, an extraordinary version of "Ombra mai fu" poured out from the speakers. Bear in mind that I, a countertenor and Baroque repertoire aficionado, already *own* several versions of said aria (by Scholl, Mera, Taylor, and Daniels). So when I heard this one I was completely captivated. Who was this enchanting new countertenor whose voice I had never heard before?
When I was told it was Stephanie Blythe, a contralto, I was more than a bit surprised, something more like shocked. The only other contralto I'd heard performing Handel works was Ewa Podles. I was in a record store in Quebec at the time, and when I heard Ewa's version of "Cara sposa" from Handel's Rinaldo I was a little put off. Her voice seemed to be lacking the delicacy of the countertenor tone, although she did perform with great passion and gusto. It was a much more fiery voice, earthy and heroic, perfect for a character such as Rinaldo. Blthye's voice, in contrast, performed the song "Ombra mai fu" as a more pastoral song, much more gently and passively.
I was tempted to buy the CD, but the song that *made* me do it was my favourite Baroque religious song "Erbarme Dich" by Bach. I own two other versions of that as well (Scholl and Taylor) and I thought that I'd never hear anyone sing it more beautifully. But Stephanie's voice is something so like a countertenor's: velvety smooth, dark, mysterious, melancholy, and pure. My quest for the perfect voice extended to countertenors only--until Stephanie Blythe. There is something so magical in that voice type that I am powerless in its wake.
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