This disc of Verdi arias by Chinese soprano He Hui is spectacularly all over the shop, and the finger can be pointed squarely at the Orchestra Della Fondazione Arena di Verona. Conducted by Roberto Rizzi Brignoli, it’s shockingly pedestrian playing, not helped by the dreadful acoustic – muddy sound alternates with what can only be called a bathroom acoustic. Rife with coordination, balance and intonation issues, musical values are scarce and really, the orchestra become such a distracting, unpleasant element that it will have you hitting pause before you’re a third of the way through.
It’s a shame, because the singing’s not at all bad. Although Hui is more fine than exciting – which one really ought to be when venturing into such well-trod territory – she’s the only reason you’d ever give this recording a second listen (or a first one).
She’s most engaging in the disc’s opener, Ritorna Vincitor, giving an urgent, dramatically committed reading that’s only overshadowed by some unmusical breaths and uneven legato. She’s similarly compelling in Ecco l’orrido campo, well done despite a weak lower register and the same shaky legato.
The rest of her singing is more inconsistent. She’s not great at the floaty notes of Tu che le vanita and the coloratura of Tacea la notte placida escapes her, as do the fiendishly difficult trills of D’amor sull’ali rosee. Of course, she’s hardly inspired by the orchestra, who are a right nuisance.