Chinese soprano Ying
Huang burst onto the scene last year with an exquisite portrayal of the title role in
Frédéric Mitterand’s film version of Madama Butterfly. Trained in the
Shanghai Conservatory and with little prior stage experience, Huang was chosen out of a
field of several hundred Asian sopranos by conductor James Conlon, who saw in her a rare
combination of talent, looks, and charisma that was perfect for the fifteen-year old
geisha. He coached her intensively for six months, and the result was a movie universally
praised for the singing and acting of its heroine.
Their collaboration continues with the recently
released album of arias by Bellini, Donizetti, Puccini, Rossini and Verdi, in which Huang
tackles a varied and demanding repertoire, from the soubrette roles of Oscar and Norina to
the more lyric coloratura roles of Lucia, Rosina, and Semiramide. Her singing amply
demonstrates that she is indeed an exceptional talent. The voice is at once fresh, clear,
lovely, agile and without edge, even at the highest notes, while the middle register is
unusually warm and full for a lyric voice. Her diction is exemplary, her Italian entirely
idiomatic, and her grasp of the style is astonishing given her background. She credits
James Conlon, and particularly Renata Scotto, her coach for this recording. James Conlon
conducts the London Symphony with a deft hand and the recorded sound is full and vibrant.
Like so many young singers at the very beginning of
their career, Huang’s brilliant vocal achievement is tempered by a certain
interpretive sameness that intrudes, after one gets accustomed to the beauty of her voice.
There is little variety in her singing. For example, one hears little projection of
character in Musetta”s Waltz, and her “Ah! non credea mirarti” from La
Sonnambula is rather faceless and bland. With further study and stage experience (she
is scheduled to sing Nanetta with Maestro Conlon at Cologne Opera), one can expect a
deepening of interpretation and a more vivid projection of personality. Hers is definitely
a career to follow. Joseph So.