La Zingarella - Through Romany Songland / Isabel Bayrakdarian
Soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian has travelled far and wide, as an international opera star and an Armenian who was born in Lebanon, immigrated to Canada, and is now settled in southern California. Her life is a journey that informs her new recording, La Zingarella: Through Romany Songland. “The music transcends geography,” she says. “It taps into human nature and unites us all. It’s about freedom of the spirit, about living life without knowing what tomorrow holds. It’s about enjoying every single minute.” Isabel embarked on an album of art songs that draw on Romani melodies – Brahms’ Zigeunerlieder, Dvorák’s Cigánské Melodie, Bizet’s Habanera – and while those appear here, her journey also led to a wealth of recherché gems.
The title track by French composer Maurice Yvain commingles with fellow-operetta composers Franz Lehár (‘Lied und Csárdás’ from Zigeunerliebe), Emmerich Kálmán (‘Heia, heia, in den Bergen’ from The Csárdás Princess) and Victor Herbert ("Gypsy Love Song" from The Fortune Teller). Two South American Gypsy Songs by American folk song collector Henry F.B. Gilbert set words by ethnomusicologist Laura Alexandrine Smith, whose book lends the album its subtitle. The ever-adventurous Isabel commissioned new arrangements for the songs on this album, with violin, viola, cello, and piano lending a laser beam lucidity to the music that “has a lot of fire in it,” she says with a glint in her eye.
Bayrakdarian reigns supreme here. She is nominally a soprano, but her range extends well below the treble staff. She takes on Liszt’s opening `3 Gypsies’ and the succeeding Brahms and Dvorak sets with assurance, and when she moves on to Sebastian Iradier she cleverly follows his `Habanera’ with Bizet’s, so obviously based on it and so obviously a natural improvement in carrying the opening scale further down. The latter half of the disc is excerpts from operettas: Maurice Yvain’s Chanson Gitane, Franz Lehar’s Zigeunerliebe, Emmerich Kalman’s Czardasfurstin, and Victor Herbert’s Fortune Teller. The distance from Romany originals is greatest here, and yet I hear, not cultural appropriation, but cultural appreciation.
-- American Record Guide
Bayrakdarian is in fine voice and exuberant high spirits for these mostly high-spirited selections, yet poignant or sensuous when appropriate. This exhilarating cross-cultural excursion is enthusiastically recommended.
-- The Whole Note (Canada)
Release Date: May 20, 2022
Catalog Number: AV2506
Number of Discs: 1
Composer: Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms, Antonín Dvořák, Sebastián Iradier, Georges Bizet, Henry F.B. Gilbert, Maurice Yvain, Franz Lehár, Emmerich Kálmán, Victor Herbert
Orchestra/Ensemble: Gryphon Trio
Performer: Isabel Bayrakdarian, Mark Fewer, Juan-Miguel Hernandez,