First reviews about “The Courtesan”
First reviews are out about Sonya Yoncheva’s new album The Courtesan. Published on her own label SY11 Productions, the album is being widely acclaimed and lauded by the international press. The Spanish magazine Ópera Actual has highlighted it as their “Record selection of the Month”, the German Oper! Das Magazine has distinguised it as their “CD of the Month”. Please see below the first reviews:
“In her fifth solo recording, Sonya Yoncheva plays female figures with complex personalities that, due to circumstances, have ended up working as courtesans. They are heroines who have fascinated various opera composers those that the Bulgarian singer rescues and selects on this album –recorded in May 2021 and released
by the soprano’s own record label– giving them voice and underlining their sensuality and tragic destiny, since
they all end up punished by their respective societies.
A dreamy “C’est Thaïs” from the opera by Massenet, together with the tenor Charles Castronovo, opens the CD with a voice showing full maturity, with an intoxicating timbre, homogeneous throughout its range and capable of reaching both extremes without problem. Her Thaïs is delicate and romantic and, how could it be otherwise the protagonist’s main aria is also included, “Dis-moi que je
suis belle”. More lightness shines in Mimì’s aria from La Bohème by Leoncavallo, “Musette svaria sulla bocca viva”, which juxtaposes the portrait of Puccini’s Mimì
with a captivating version of the popular “Sì, mi chiamano Mimì”. Neither Manon nor Violetta could be absent in this recording about women who are on the game. The first one is present with her two most famous representatives, the one by Massenet, represented with an “Adieu, notre petite table” to die for, and with the two great arias from Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, a magical “In quelle trine morbide”, where the sound is carefully detailed, and a resounding and dramatic “Sola, perduta, abbandonata”. The Verdi heroine is represented by the duet “Parigi, o cara”, together with Castronovo. The soprano has appeared on stage in little known verismo roles such as Stephana, the protagonist
of Siberia by Giordano, of which she offers a heartfelt “Nel suo amore rianimata”, as well as a fantastic “Ho fatto un triste sogno pauroso” from Mascagni’s Iris.
An album that continues to be highly recommended
In the midst of all this interesting discussion, and very much in keeping with the flexible attitude of a singer who moves like a fish in the water between bel-canto and the 20th century, two surprises appear, the first one by Saint-Saëns, Dalila’s aria “Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix” sung with power, security and a somewhat full-bodied diction in the low register (without the high note the tenor sings and which usually sopranos and mezzos sing when they perform the piece), and, at the opposite end, a bonus track not so far from the rest of the courtesans, “In trutina mentis dubia” from Orff’s Carmina Burana.
Pablo Meléndez-Haddad, Opera Àctual
“After illustrious albums with French repertoire (“Paris, mon amour” 2015), arias by Georg Friedrich Handel (2017), Giuseppe Verdi (2018) and a baroque album (2021), which remains a matter of taste, the soprano, although still a Sony exclusive artist, released her new album on her own label. It is produced by her production company, which is also responsible for her concerts. This decision cannot have been due to an unusual repertoire, because under the title Courtesan, roles such as Mimì (Leoncavallo and Puccini), Manon (Massenet and Puccini), Traviata (Verdi) and Dalila have been collocated, popular arias and duets (in Thaïs and La traviata alongside Charles Castronovo). All of them are women who were often strong and very fragile at the same time, at all times defenseless against life and always soon at the mercy of death if they gave up their status in order to live only for love.
The first track already makes clear the dilemma of every courtesan, cocotte, mistress, geisha or simply lover: Thaïs and Nicias assure each other that from the next morning they will only be names for each other. How touching when Stephana sings about the happiness of new love in Giordano’s Siberia; how bitter when Cio-Cio-San longs for her Pinkerton in “Un bel dì vedremo”, knowing inwardly that he will never return. Or when Iris in Mascagni’s opera of the same name dreams from the very beginning of the threat to her doll and thus imagines her own fate, being abducted to a brothel as a Japanese woman and dying in the end, nevertheless reconciled with the world thanks to the rays of the sun (“Ho fatto un triste sogno pauroso”).
Yoncheva sounds no less heartbreaking when, as Manon, she laments that all her wealth cannot give her back the tenderness of love for the poor student Des Grieux, or when she ends up dying of thirst in the desert. Whether Puccini, Leoncavallo or Mascagni – the verismo in the broadest sense suits Sonya Yoncheva’s intense, brightly colored soprano voice, which she uses expressively, in every phrase. (…) To this end, Marco Armiliato elicits fine facets from the Orchestra dell’Opera Carlo Felice in Genoa. And with “In trutina mentis dubia” from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, there is a bonus track in Latin, which also musically comes from a completely different world and tells of the fact that one has to follow one’s heart, no matter what the consequences are”
Klaus Kalchschmid, Oper! Das Magazin
“Sonya Yoncheva—The Courtesan Arias and duets from Thaïs, La Bohème (Leoncavallo), Manon, Siberia, Madama Butterfly, Iris, Manon Lescaut, La Bohème (Puccini), Samson et Dalila, La traviata, Carmina Burana. With Charles Castronovo (tenor), Orchestra dell’Opera Carlo Felice Genova, c. Marco Armiliato. SY11 Productions (one CD) If, despite the soprano’s written advocacy in a liner note, the title of her disc (her first release on her own label) seems a touch catch-all in its definition of courtesanship, Yoncheva’s vocalism proves well suited to the bulk of the items—all but a couple of them in her repertoire—which she performs with assistance from Charles Castronovo as Thaïs’s Nicias and Violetta’s Alfredo.
Delicacy and subtlety are on offer from both artists in a duet from Act 1 of Massenet’s Egyptian opera, Yoncheva maintaining accomplished vocalism (…) with a respectable trill.
As Massenet’s Manon she is in close alignment with the character’s conflicted nature—tremulous with emotion, for instance, in the recitative preceding ‘Adieu, notre petite table’.
There are two versions of La Bohème. From Leoncavallo’s comes the jocular Act 1 solo in which his Mimì presents Musette to her Bohemian friends; Yoncheva’s light yet widely varied tone is deployed with intelligence and discretion, and is amply lavish at the top of the voice. Represented by her familiar aria di sortita, Puccini’s Mimì sounds relaxed yet full of personality.
Stephana in Giordano’s Siberia is a role Yoncheva has recently made her own. Her delicately impassioned interpretation of ‘Nel suo amore rianimata’ proves ideal, the piece itself a lovely fragment from an underrated score. (The booklet, incidentally, omits some lines of text at the beginning.)
To Butterfly’s ‘Un bel dì’ she brings all the necessary resources, her clear, clean, never over-applied tone always in the service of the drama (…)
For Mascagni’s Iris she locates a refined set of vocal colours and initially an almost childlike vocal demeanour. There’s never a routine or conventional moment and high notes hold no fear for her: once again, she makes you listen to the music with renewed attention. As Puccini’s Manon, her ‘In quelle trine morbide’ is a resplendent piece of singing, her registers perfectly matched, while she supplies full vocal value to ‘Sola, perduta, abbandonata’, riding the climaxes with ease.
Though Saint-Saëns requires a mezzosoprano for Dalila, Yoncheva has all the notes, if not the richer resonances lower down.
‘Parigi, o cara’ from the final act of Traviata is nicely done, Yoncheva’s Violetta lightening up to match her tenor partner— though there could be greater tautness in the duet’s insistent dotted rhythms. The sensuous lyricism of ‘In trutina’ from Orff’s cantata proves congenial.
Fine playing from the Genoese players, while the conductor Marco Armiliato supplies sensitivity and detail.”
George Hall, Opera
“The 41 years old Sonya Yoncheva is taking off to the pinnacle of her career. The premiere and worldwide cinema broadcast of Umberto Giordano’s »Fedora« from the Metropolitan Opera in New York (see p. 10) has just caused a sensation, the fruits of a long-term exclusive contract with SONY are some attractive albums over the last years and now this: such an important portrait, the inventory of Yoncheva’s veristic soprano quality, the drama of the lirico-spinto-soprano and French bravura arias from roles such as Thaïs, Dalila and Jules Massenet’s “Manon” are assembled in a convincing album on her own label SY11 under the motto “The Courtesan“. The greatest thing about the extraordinarily versatile Bulgarian voice is her breathing technique. In Cio-Cio-San’s “Un bel dì vedremo” she phrases well connected legato lines like only a few others can. … the brilliant handling of some arias, such as the death aria of Puccini’s Manon: “Sola, perduta, abbandonata”, now signals that there are hardly any limits in the selection of future parts.
Since the accomplished Marco Armiliato also accompanies the experienced (in the best sense of the word) orchestra of the Genoa Opera wonderfully, a very beautiful CD has been created, with a detailed text in the booklet. And Yoncheva confesses: “In a way I wanted to make a connection between the life of the courtesan and that of a modern day diva”.
M. Lehnert, Das Opernglas