Duets [2000]

No second names are needed in the title to tell music lovers who is singing in this gala recital. The original, audio-only Cecilia & Bryn: Duets, issued in 1999, had opera-lovers around the world echoing one Amazon.com customer's remark: "After listening to this album, all I could say was 'I want more.'" Here it is: a live performance with the same conductor, an even better orchestra, and a video dimension that brings out the singers' considerable acting skills. There is some duplication of the CD's contents: "La ci darem," "Dunque io son," and the "Pa-pa-pa-papagena" duet from The Magic Flute, as well as the opening numbers of The Marriage of Figaro. But the video cameras, the singers' gestures, and their facial expressions make the duplication worthwhile. Cecilia Bartoli is most at home in mezzo-soprano material, where her tone is particularly rich and natural, her style exactly what the music requires. But she also slips easily into the soprano roles of Zerlina, Papagena, and Susanna. She takes a tantalizing step into promising, relatively unfamiliar territory with an aria from Haydn's L'anima del filosofo. Bryn Terfel shows a significant comic flair in the "catalog aria" from Don Giovanni and a heroic dimension in an aria from Judas Maccabeus--in either style, displaying a voice that is pure gold. Still, vocal material is relatively scanty in this 90-minute production compared to the CD. Two overtures are included and are well played, but are not likely to appease fans who will continue to call for more singing. --Joe McLellan

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