Renata Scotto, the preeminent Italian soprano, sang a recital at Wolf Trap last night of works relatively unfamiliar to most of her enthusiastic fans.
The names were familiar but the works were esoteric; the Bellini, Verdi, Puccini and Catalani compositions were mostly off the beaten track -- except to those in the audience who heard her sing an almost identical program at the Kennedy Center this spring.
The Italian recital literature is relatively thin. She also threw in some Respighi and Mascagni. Unlike most opera stars, Scotto does not choose to bolster her concert programs with German lieder or French chansons, though there was an excerpt last night from Debussy's "L'Enfant Prodigue."
The result is that Scotto, the recitalist, has considerably less meat on her musical bones than the operatic Scotto as Madama Butterfly, Manon Lescaut or Giocanda. One does not feel that one is being starved, but a greater change in mode would be welcome.
Further, the graceful intimacy that makes these events warm and charming regardless of the nature of the material was undercut last night by the open dimensions of Wolf Trap. Scotto's precise passage work and careful diction were partly lost, especially to those in the balcony. Also it was chilly -- particularly a problem for Scotto in her low-cut pale blue post-intermission dress.
Of the less well-known works, the most compelling was Puccini's "Se come voi piccina io fossi" from "Le Villi," with its captivating melody suggesting the aria from "La Rondine."
Until the top notes were pressed hard, her voice was in very beautiful shape. Who can quite match Scotto's particular combination of the sumptuous and the delicate?