Molto voce

Oct 18, 2000 at 12:00 am

Although she has recorded full-length operas, Dolora Zajick has never cut a solo CD, until now. And what a debut this is from the astounding singer from Nevada. There is a glut of light, coloratura mezzos today, but there is a dearth of big, dramatic mezzos. Zajick can claim this territory almost to herself, and she shows why in this collection of 12 arias.

Zajick is almost boundless in her range, singing inky-black low notes and sky-scraping top notes with equal aplomb. She even takes on the punishing “Sleepwalking Scene” from Macbeth — a part normally reserved for sopranos — and she doesn’t transpose it down. Zajick glides fearlessly up to a thrilling high D-flat, sung pianissimo as Verdi indicated. However, it’s not just vocal fireworks that distinguish this singer; Zajick convincingly portrays Lady Macbeth’s unraveling sanity. It’s impossible not to be knocked out by Zajick’s bone-crushing high B-natural in “O don fatale” from Verdi’s “Don Carlo,” but she also communicates Princess Eboli’s pain and jealousy.

Still, the most satisfying selection on this recording is Marfa’s Act II aria from Mussorgsky’s sadly beautiful opera Khovanshchina, which Zajick colors with vocal and dramatic intensity. There are some minor disappointments, though. Delilah’s aria of seduction, “Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix,” is oddly lacking in passion. Also, it’s perplexing why “Ah! Quel giorno” from Rossini’s Semiramide is included when there are already so many good recordings around by coloratura mezzos. Zajick hits all the notes, but her voice is heavy and sluggish, especially on the runs.

But there is far more to luxuriate over than to quibble with here. If anyone can bring back Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur to prominence, Zajick can, simply on the strength of the superbly sung “Acerba volutta.” In the first-act aria from Tchaikovsky’s Joan of Arc, sung in Russian, Zajick wrings the emotion out of it and still has power left to top it off with a heaven-storming B-flat. Conductor Charles Rosekrans is a sympathetic and understanding partner, urging the orchestra to play with subtlety and vigor. All told, this is ravishing singing by a rare and intense artist.

George Bulanda writes about music for the Metro Times. E-Mail [email protected].