This is her first recital album devoted entirely to Italian opera.
For this Fiamma del Belcanto, Diana Damrau has put together a collection of her special favourites from the Italian operatic repertoire. ‘I was obsessed with this music even as a girl,’ she says. ‘Seeing Teresa Stratas and Plácido Domingo in the film of La traviata was a real turning-point for me. From then on I knew that I wanted to be a singer.’
Today she is recognised as one of the greatest of Violettas, but she has also become identified with many other key roles in Italian opera. ‘I quickly became aware that the development of this art form is anchored in a shared understanding of opera, and one which is very close to my heart: it is not an abstract art, but one firmly rooted in human experience. As a twelve-year-old I had already sensed, witnessed and experienced the immediacy of this kind of drama.’
Now Damrau is intent on exploring even more of this repertoire, singing arias that she has already performed on stage, but also trying out new roles such as Nedda in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. ‘The great thing about an album like this is that it gives me the chance to sing arias that I’ve never done on stage,’ she says. ‘Nedda’s “Qual fiamma avea nel guardo” is one such piece. It’s a concise and powerful human volcanic eruption, burning with the fire of forbidden love. It is one of my very favourite arias from this opera.’
Damrau follows the torch of Italian opera from the great masterpieces of bel canto, via the transformation of the art brought about by Verdi, to the great verismo composers Puccini and Leoncavallo. ‘The remarkable thing about this story is that it is based on the understanding that opera is an art form that deals with real feelings, takes into account our desires and makes us gaze into those abysses that in every day life we would prefer not to dwell on – it takes us down to the level of the all-too-human.’