Cuban-American soprano Lisette Oropesa has had a stellar career in the last five years, making a name for herself as a hugely accomplished lyric coloratura soprano both in the States and abroad. Called “Ombra Compagna”, this is her first solo album, and it’s comprised of Mozart concert arias in what seems like a natural move given her success in this repertoire. Unfortunately, it’s not the easy triumph that her fans would have expected.

Lisette Oropesa

Though her basic sound is undeniably beautiful, with a flickering, glowing quality, Oropesa’s high notes on this album are frequently wiry and nasal, most evident in Vorrei spiegarvi and Alcandro lo confesso. Surprisingly, she seems unable to explode into the stratosphere with the facility that Mozart’s vocal writing often demands, and that her live appearances have often demonstrated.

What’s more, most of her interpretations feel straitjacketed and small. There’s little sense of grandeur or ferocity, the effect one of modest sameness. For instance, Ah! se in ciel sees the heroine plead for pity, declaring “either take my life or leave my lover”, but those stakes don’t really come across. That same lack of dramatic urgency is heard in Misera, dove son, even though it recounts chilling nightmares. Thankfully, Ah, lo previdi carries more conviction – there’s a greater attack in the recitative and a more evident responsiveness to the text. Chi sa, chi sa qual sia is likewise more expressive and compelling, suggestive of the charm that Oropesa has in spades.

Though Il Pomo d’Oro under the baton of Antonello Manacorda are very fine as always, they often sound curiously recessive on this disc, contributing to the rather small-scale vibe of the entire album. 

Listen on Apple Music.

Composer: Mozart
Works: Concert arias
Performers: Lisette Oropesa s, Il Pomo d’Oro/Antonello Manacorda
Label: Pentatone PTC5186885