Magdalena Kožená’s Lamento has already been reviewed in Opera News. Once thousands of years ago I sang Bach’s “Vergnuegte Ruh,” and I see that Opera News also thinks that this is all supposed to be slower. I did something approaching lento, certainly not faster than andante. Andante con moto is what I would call her tempo. “Blessed rest” indeed.
So what do I think? I like her voice and technique, but for my personal taste she is a bit cool. I think this is her true self and not evidence that she is holding back.
Janet Baker was a somewhat cool mezzo, too. I remember going to a recital of hers in the War Memorial Opera House in SF and being bored to tears. It was all of a piece. For instance, she did some Ives, but picked out the early songs that sound like Schumann more than anything else. She managed to make Ives sound the same as everyone else instead of like the monumental iconoclast he was. Janet Baker’s best work came when she engaged her intellect. The arias from Bach’s Mattaeus Passion are staggering in her interpretations.
I have to say Magdalena Kožená seems to be a bright woman, capable of thinking more deeply about her interpretations even if she never becomes exactly passionate. I apologize for giving her such a hard time. She’s very talented and needs to give me more to be excited about.