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Stellar reviews for “Renaissance” Concert at the Salzburg Festival

Stellar reviews for Sonya Yoncheva’s Renaissance concert at the Salzburg Festival! “Sonya Yoncheva enchants with the most beautiful sounds that can be experienced on today’s opera stages and concert podiums” (Jürgen Kesting, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), “the sensual warmth that Yoncheva’s great soprano voice unfolded was deeply touching” (Florian Oberhummer, Salzburger Nachrichten), “a triumphant afternoon at the Haus für Mozart” (Maximilian Maier, BR Klassik).

Check out the complete press review here below:

“The most beautiful thing that can currently be experienced
“The praise saying that soprano Sonya Yoncheva enchants with the most beautiful sounds that can be experienced today on an opera stages and a concert podiums deserves a strong reaffirmation after her program under the motto “Renaissance” with works by Italian, English and Spanish composers. A strong reaffirmation for the many, many notes that she let float into the Haus für Mozart, on endless breath like a magic carpet. Although the Bulgarian soprano has sung huge roles such as Norma, Violetta (La Traviata), Elisabetta (Don Carlo) and Tosca all over the world in recent years, the texture of the voice – one would like to speak of peach skin – shows no signs of use. Whether an aria from Alessandro Stradella’s oratorio “San Giovanni Battista” or from Francesco Cavalli’s “Serse”, whether a lute song by Orlando Gibbons or John Dowland’s “Come again, sweet love envite” – she bestows on her listeners a bath in harmonious sounds. The fact that the most beautiful melodies are infinitely sad, becomes an unforgettable experience in a “Pièce bulgare” under the title “Zableinano mi agunce”. How gladly would one have found the texts in the program booklet. The singer, moved to tears, thanked the audience with a song by Abba wrapped in velvet and silk: “Like an Angel”.”
Jürgen Kesting, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

“A great baroque diva may also own music by ABBA
In the first concert of the “Canto Lirico” series at the Salzburg Festival, Sonya Yoncheva spanned an arc from 1600 to the modern age of pop.”
SALZBURG. Early music is a relative term. For millennials, ABBA is likely to belong to an antediluvian pop era. So it seems quite consistent when an original sound ensemble intones the song “Like an Angel Passing Through my Room”.
The idea for this encore, like the overall conception of the “Renaissance” project, came from Sonya Yoncheva. The Bulgarian soprano dedicates herself to the music of the 17th century. The Salzburg Festival’s Poppea from 2018 was accompanied by Claudio Monteverdi in her recital, which initiated the “Canto Lirico” series on Friday at the Haus für Mozart. One could hear the long-standing collaboration with William Christie in her nuanced, delicate interpretation.
(…) … the sensual warmth that Yoncheva’s great soprano voice unfolded was deeply touching. Yoncheva was able to increase the emotional power of this moment in a “Pièce bulgare”. Her greeting from home tore the audience from their chairs.
The Cappella Mediterranea played predominantly exquisite music, the instrumental pieces between the arias ranged between Spanish baroque and wistful Latin American music. Head of the ensemble Leonardo García Alarcón is an old college friend, said Sonya Yoncheva. Their familiarity on stage finally ensured a dance by the diva who was in excellent mood.”
Florian Oberhummer, Salzburger Nachrichten

Sonya Yoncheva herself called her program at the Salzburg Festival “Renaissance”. Not only because she mainly sang works from this period with the Capella Mediterranea under the direction of Leonardo García Alarcón. But also because she wanted to make clear that cultural life is now being reborn. It turned out to be a triumphant afternoon at the Haus für Mozart.
Sonya Yoncheva is a kind of vocal chameleon. She can put on different musical styles across the centuries like clothes of different colors. And yet she remains essentially herself. After difficult Verdi and Puccini roles, such as Elisabetta in “Don Carlo” or Tosca, she is now after a baby break returning to her roots, since Yoncheva started her career primarily with (pre-) baroque music. The range of colors and shades that she demonstrates – often sitting on a stool in the middle of the musicians – is literally phenomenal. In “Queste lagrime e sospiri” by Alessandro Stradella one is reminded of Gruberova in her prime. Yoncheva’s tones float in space. It’s hard to tell where they are coming from. She creates them completely seamlessly, with her mouth almost closed, more sounding than singing.
She is interpreting “The Silver Swan” by Orlando Gibbons as intimately as an art song. She almost tenderly savours to the full the text and naturally places it on the musical phrases. In “S’apre la tomba” she embraces the audience with gentle vocal warmth, like in a lullaby. … it is precisely in this aria [Purcell’s “When I am laid in Earth”] that she shows her enormous versatility. Whether it is a veiled, almost smoky sound, playing with overtones with a mixture of head and chest voice, operatic opulence, very straight or breathy sung passages: Yoncheva masters all possibilities of expression. In John Dowland’s “Come Again Sweet Love” she finds a color for every single verb.
Because she uses her voice so instrumentally, she can also adapt to the sound of the Capella Mediterranea at any time. They show not only in the instrumental pieces like the “Tarantela” by Murcia / Huete that they are a top class original sound ensemble. The climax is “Zableiano mi agunce”, probably a kind of folk song from Yoncheva’s Bulgarian homeland. The hall is as quiet as a mouse, while Yoncheva with closed eyes displays all of her art. She sings each of the melismatic lines, reminiscent of the songs of Arab desert people so individually, so deeply and so genuinely that one cannot escape the magic that arises. Yoncheva herself cannot hold back the tears afterwards. This seems to have been a matter very close to her heart. Just like building bridges between the epochs. That’s why she sings “Like an Angel” by ABBA as an encore. It’s interesting to hear this for a change like this, in Baroque style. The audience celebrates enthusiastically, the diva is happy: this is how rebirth works!”
Maximilian Maier, BR Klassik

“Salzburg Festival: Yoncheva moved to tears with a solo concert
Together with the Cappella Mediterranea under the direction of Leonardo Garcia Alarcon at the Haus für Mozart, the soprano made great feelings audible with Early Music repertoire.
Salzburg (APA) – music that moves you to tears. Was that what Sonya Yoncheva had in mind when she chose her solo program for the Salzburg Festival? On Friday afternoon at the Haus für Mozart together with Leonardo Garcia Alarcon’s Cappella Mediterranea, the soprano presented the achievements of musical culture around 1600, but above all great feelings.
The “Canto Lirico” series brings together the great names of the opera world for solo concerts at the Salzach. Sonya Yoncheva opened the festival’s small series of concerts… . Yoncheva has often proven that she has a special weakness for early music in addition to grand opera, not only at the Salzburg Festival.
Great arias also find a good place in such a program, after all, the invention of opera is considered to be perhaps the greatest achievement of around 1600, which is what the program together with Leonardo Garcia Alarcon was ultimately about. He, in return, is considered one of the greatest experts in the field of early music and has taught Yoncheva, as she will say during the encores, “everything about Baroque music” and recently composed the lost third act of the opera “El Prometeo” by Antonio Draghi.
In addition to Italian and Spanish literature, Henry Purcell and John Dowland also made it into the program. The lament of Dido “Thy Hand Belinda” from Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” is definitely one of the quieter operatic excursions of the concert, but these are exactly the highlights. Without a doubt, Sonya Yoncheva is currently one of the strongest voices in the operatic world, which her powerful and clean interpretations of the Monteverdi and Cavalli arias prove once again. But what makes her really special is shown in the smaller numbers.
She sings the Purcell Lamento as an intimate dialogue with the theorbo, to which not only the audience, but the whole Cappella excitedly listens, and when she then lets melodies hover over a spherical keynote of the strings like a vocal study in “Zableiano mi agunce – Piece bulgare” , the spell is broken. Even if probably nobody in the audience understands the text, the way Yoncheva sings it touches the audience and in the end even the singer herself so much that tears run down her cheeks during the applause.
‘Chamber music is timeless’, Yoncheva calls out to her cheering audience during the final applause. The audience is so excited that some of them forget to put on their masks again. What is timeless is, above all, real love for music, which was heard at the highest level that afternoon at the Haus für Mozart.”
Larissa Schütz, APA

“SALZBURG FESTIVAL – Concerts with Riccardo Muti and Sonya Yoncheva
Quieter tones, on the other hand, were taken in the afternoon at the Haus für Mozart, where Sonya Yoncheva started with a dramaturgically cleverly structured recital. The motto “Renaissance” was chosen very deliberately: on the one hand based on the repertoire, but also as a recognition that the cultural industry is forced to reinvent itself a bit in these times. The singer may continue on the path she has chosen here though, even after the – hopefully soon – return to normality.
It certainly had its charm to hear these arias of Cavalli, Monteverdi or Purcell for a change from a voice that had otherwise already arrived at Verdi and Puccini. Especially since Yoncheva consistently managed to gently take back her lush soprano voice during this return to her roots, setting dramatic outbursts as a conscious contrast. For example in a moving lament from her Bulgarian homeland, after which even a few real tears flowed on stage.
She was accompanied in style by the Cappella Mediterranea under the direction of Leonardo García Alarcón. A virtuoso ten-man troupe, which not only demonstrated competence in their usual core repertoire, but also in the surprising encore, for which a song by Abba co-founder Benny Andersson was dressed in baroque style. “Not as a provocation”, as Yoncheva emphasized, “but as proof that music is timeless”. After this touching performance, it was difficult to disagree with her.”
Münchner Merkur

“In the afternoon at the Haus für Mozart, the audience was made happy, and not only with “early music”. The reason for that was Sonya Yoncheva, who for the most part fascinated with pieces by early music composers: Right from the beginning one was immersed in another, intimate world with Alessandro Stradella’s aria “Queste lagrime e sospiri”.
Sensual warmth
The Bulgarian soprano also knew how to impress with Claudio Monteverdi, as in “Oblivion soave” from L’incoronazione di Poppea.
Her sensual warmth, art of phrasing, secure style and nuanced musical shades were wonderful.
And she proved that she has temperament, when, in a piece by an Anonymous from the 17th century not only did she rousingly sing, but also danced barefoot. Encore: “Like an Angel Passing Through My Room” by ABBA. She was skillfully accompanied by the ten-member Cappella Mediterranea under the direction of Leonardo García Alarcón, on the organ and on the harpsichord.”
Helmut Christian Mayer, Kurier

“Like an Angel: Sonya Yoncheva can even sing Abba.
Salzburg Festival. The opening of the festival‘s concert series “Canto lirico” with the Bulgarian soprano: elitist opera and popular sounds.
At the end of the official program, Sonya Yoncheva revealed that she titled this recital “Renaissance”. … a rebirth of music-making after the lockdown.
Sonya Yoncheva has not a voice to just lean back, to indulge in pure harmony – but that should not be a criticism. She can still use her soprano in a youthful, slim and bright way, but can also soar to more dramatic fullness, leaving no doubt about the majesty of her opera characters and the authority of her musical language. In addition, the lyrical singing never becomes thin or sparse, but is pulsed with character. (…)
Touching piece from Bulgaria
The emotional highlight of the afternoon was, however, another piece – not only for Yoncheva herself, who could not hold back the tears afterwards, but also for the spellbound audience: an anonymously transmitted song from her home country Bulgaria, “Zableiano mi agunce”. Here, her voice rises over the sound of a drone, from earthy depths to melancholic melisms and oriental sighs; penetrating, tenderly, half aspirated, half sung, as if transported into another world, joined by the autentic color of the Swirka, a Bulgarian shepherd flute.
… Yoncheva had savored every word in John Dowland’s “Come again, sweet love”, enriched it with meaning and showed with a light hand that one doesn’t necessarily need a singer like Sting to prove the timeless pop qualities of the Dowland songs. But Yoncheva did even more, and with more beguiling vocal means: She built a bridge from the present to the past. Fantastic: Gato’s baroque refashioning for the Abba number “Like An Angel” – as if one had stumbled over the historical original in a music archive. And it was great how Yoncheva struck the heart with artful simplicity. … exhilarating.”
Walter Weidringer, Die Presse

“Emotion and tempo
“A great voice with feeling and dance add-ons” (…)
“the singer indeed was angelic when her voice merged with the flute to a symbiosis of sound.”
“… Yoncheva stayed in the center of the ovation.”
Roland Ruess, Kronen Zeitung

[Photo: © SF / Marco Borrelli]