To those who have witnessed Daniela Barcellona only on the operatic stage, it may come as a surprise to learn that she is a convincing and elegant artist on the recital platform. All images of striding mezzo soldiers are thrown aside when she enters dressed with understated chic: measured and controlled, as was her singing.
On Monday night at Milan's La Scala she conquered platea and loggione alike with her radiant smile, well-judged characterizations, and flawless musicality. Although the voice shows signs of tiredness in some ranges, her technique is spot on and allows her to play as she likes with dynamics and coloratura. It was unusual to hear the colour of the voice maintained throughout Manuel de Falla's Six Spanish Popular Songs without pushing out the lower notes, and her top is confident and powerful.
Although Di tanti palpiti from Rossini's Tancredi was a clear choice for Barcellona, she performed Tosti's Quattro canzoni di Amaranta with captivating style. She has plainly worked out each physical gesture with precision, and Händel's Va tacito e nascosto from Giulio Cesare was beautifully judged, full of witty glances and expressive hand movements, but never too much to take away from the beauty of her singing.
It is probably obvious that a coloratura mezzo with power and range would wish to take on Princess Eboli, and Barcellona will be tackling the role for the first time soon in Peru, and then next season in Torino. But the French repertoire seems ideal for her voice too, as her encore, Mignon's aria Connais-tu le pays, clearly showed. Who knows, maybe a Dalila might be an exciting possibility. At more than 180 centimetres (about 5'10”) tall, she might not seem ideal for the seductress from Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila but, after having seen her sing the Habanera from Carmen during her encores, it could be just her role: big girls can be sexy too!
After the ovation she received it shouldn't be long until La Scala invites her back.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.