Looking at the history of the prolific treatments
of this story, the liner notes proclaim her to be way ìahead of Medea as
the stageís Number One Sorcerer.î If quantity of composersí interest
alone didnít put ìArmidaî in the lead, surely these superlative
readings by German soprano Annette Dasch and company would alone propel our
heroine to the forefront of operatic accomplishments.

Ms. Dasch encompasses all of the rolesí technical and artistic demands
with aplomb. Moreover, she succeeds quite admirably in creating a different
aural persona for each composerís treatment. No matter how celebrated the
artist, I often find such solo recitals eventually suffer from a certain
sameness, unbroken by the variety of other vocal timbres in full opera
recordings. Not really so with this one. The disc leads off with some
splendid cuts from Gluckís ìArmide,î which slowly build in emotional
conflict, tension, and release, characterized by increasingly plangent

Immediately, I was drawn in by the sopranoís subtle word accents,
coloring, and sensitivity to the text. Not to say that musical lines were
slighted, oh no. She mined every delight in these offerings, from charming
floated high notes, to phrases of throbbing and weighted dramatic conviction,
to meaningful dramatic development of emotional state, to effective
crescendi, to lyrical ascents of high tessitura. The voice is even throughout
the range, capable of soaring with well-shaped legato phrases, as well as
clean execution of angular and arpeggiated demands.

While the Handel pieces were more familiar, they did not at all suffer in
comparison to other well-recorded versions. ìAh, crudel, il pianto mioî
(ìRinaldoî) was a model of a controlled ìtorment,î witness her
skilled start with a hushed, straight tone, which she then lets bloom into a
full throbbing lamentation. The middle agitato section almost
out-Bartoliís-Bartoli with trip-hammer, spot-on, rapid-fire coloratura.

Jommelliís ìArmida Abbandonataî is well represented by ìAh! ti
sento, mio povero coreî (oh, that again!), featuring a silvery filigree of
a voice over 3/4 pulses, superbly ornamented with immaculate trills and
wide-ranging arpeggiated accents.

If the two perfectly fine selections from Handelís ìArmida
Abbondonataî are the least ìinterestingî to my ears, perhaps it is
because they are so familiar; or perhaps because by this point in mid-play I
just wholly took it for granted that Annette Dasch is some kind of special
singer; sort of, ìoh, yeah, here is that rich tone, intelligent artistry,
and knowing display of wide-ranging, arching lines. Again. Still.î

However, just as I might have been in danger of taking all this terrific
singing for granted, I was jarred right back to proper attention with the
juicy offerings from Haydnís ìArmida.î

Bold legato statements alternate with introspective moments of uncommon
beauty, that give way to busy, hushed, mosquito-like fioritura and
ornamentation, the whole of which amounts to an awesomely controlled display
of idiomatic virtuosity.

Itís hard to believe that the Jommelli ìOdio, furor, dispettoî
(ìArmida Abbandonataî again) is listed as a ìBonus Track.î I mean,
who in their right mind would have thought to leave this fiery jewel off the
recording? First, it is a wonderful contrast to the other introverted
melodies, and second, Dasch sings the living hell out of it. Like Mozartís
ìElettraî in full meltdown, this is passionate, bravura singing complete
with staccato ascending and descending laughs and cackles that are as
meaningful as they are accurate.

The Bayerische Kammerphilharmonie under David Syrus is a satisfying
accomplice in this accomplished music-making. Always solidly supporting Ms.
Dasch, I especially delighted in their shimmering bucolic murmurings that
marked portions of the Gluck set; the lilting, even sassy three-quarter-time
playing in the first Jommelli aria; and of course, the stand-alone
instrumental treats of the Gluck ìChaconneî and the Jommelli

If there is truth in advertising, Ms. Dasch is also a lovely young woman
as evidenced by the evocative cover and liner art. On disc, her handsome
voice seems to have good size and potent allure. I look forward to hearing
her live, with the hope that she would make as favorable and commanding an
impression in person as she does on this wholly successful theme album.

James Sohre

image_description=Armida — Annette Dasch
product_by=Annette Dasch, soprano, with the Bayerische Kammerphilharmonie, David Syrus, conductor
product_id=Sony 88697100592 [CD]
price=EUR 15,95