November 2005

The Art of Elaine Bonazzi
Elaine Bonazzi, mezzo-soprano; Ellen Mack, piano; Karen Tuttle, viola; Timothy Day, flute; Stephen Kates, cello
Bridge 9176
Format: CD
Released: 2005

by Richard Freed

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

Elaine Bonazzi represents the highest level of American vocal art. She distinguished herself for decades in the category of "singing actors," with her superb stage presence and all-round dramatic power, in works ranging from Offenbach opérettes to Handel and Rossini to Berg’s Lulu and the tragic title role in The Trial of Mary Lincoln, the opera Thomas Pasatieri composed for her. She was no less persuasive as a recitalist, as many will remember who heard her in New York and at the Library of Congress in Washington.

The Bridge label has done us a huge service in finally bringing out this lovely program, recorded 20 years ago at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, where Bonazzi taught for several years. The splendid faculty associates who joined with her in the vocal chamber music by Brahms and Ravel seem to have been every bit as fully committed as Bonazzi herself. There is no hint of mere "accompaniment," but plenty of real give-and-take. The ever-reliable Adam Abeshouse has maintained his impressive standards in his mastering of the recording, Noel Lester’s comprehensive notes are supplemented by a generous helping of photographs, full texts and translations are provided, and Bridge’s generosity extends to a "selected discography" of Bonazzi’s memorable recordings on six other labels. Shame on you if you miss this!