Handel: Sonya Yoncheva. Academia Montis Regalis; Alessandro De Marchi. Sony: 88985302932 [63:00]. International release 3rd Feb 2017.
Bulgarian born, Swiss trained Sonya Yoncheva is the dramatic soprano flavour of the month (year). This after a series of last minute substitutions at the Met. She starred as Violetta, Mimi and in Rigoletto. All to great acclaim. She was even compared to the great Netrebko.
Sony snagged her and this CD of Handel arias is her third for that company. She guested as the Countess on DG's latest Nozze di Figaro [reviewed here].
Yoncheva is blessed with a beautiful soprano voice, flexible and flawless in pitch. She is adept at portraying the text with lots of different 'colours' and inflections, making the sometime strophic nature of Handel's arias varied and musically interesting. Her vibrato is tasteful and flexible. Technique -- trills, vocalizing, etc -- is spot on. Nothing to see here.
The past thirty years has seen a growth in the popularity of Handel's operas and Yoncheva has included the most popular soprano arias from his most popular operas. Also included (I'm not sure why other than its beauty) is Purcell's most famous aria, When I am Laid from Dido and Aeneas. Yoncheva gives the greatest recordings of this Purcell masterpiece a run for their money. Superb!
It is the same standard of singing for the Handel arias. Sometimes the Bulgarian accent flavours the English, but nothing too bothersome. With Yoncheva, you are getting a thoroughly modern approach -- fulsome vibrato and very dramatic soprano renditions. Which is interesting as her accompanists, the Academia Montis Regalis is an Italian period group. They sound wonderful and are very sympathetic musical partners. Yet, Yoncheva is philosophically mid stage at the Met or Vienna State Opera. A boutique opera house with tiny stage? You'll have to look elsewhere. This is big boned Handel. And it's wonderful.
Se pietà di me non senti (from Giulio Cesare)
Ah! mio cor! (from Alcina)
Theodora, HWV 68: With Darkness deep
Tornami a vagheggiar (from Alcina)
Io t'abbraccio (from Rodelinda) with Karine Deshayes (mezzo)
Pensieri, voi mi tormentate! (from Agrippina)
Non disperar (from Giulio Cesare)
Ogni vento (from Agrippina)
To thee, thou glorious son of worth (from Theodora) with Karine Deshayes (mezzo)
Lascia ch'io pianga (from Rinaldo)
Thy hand, Belinda … When I am laid in earth (from Dido & Aeneas)