Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
The Guardian, Monday 23 February 2009
Vassily Petrenko has already revitalised the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic with his Gergiev-like charisma and boy-band looks; now, he introduces a Russian teenage soprano already being marked out as the next Anna Netrebko. Julia Lezhneva is not yet 20, yet has already won the prestigious Obraztsova prize and sung opposite Juan Diego Flуrez at the Rossini Opera festival in Pesaro. Lezhneva is tiny: she looks almost like a porcelain figurine. But her voice is remarkably supple and perfectly adapted to the florid displays Rossini wrote for the great Neapolitan soprano Isabella Colbran.
Of the three arias she performed, only the champagne-like showpiece from La Cenerentola is moderately familiar. She sails through a limpid cavatina from La Donna del Lago with admirable restraint, and unleashes a furious fusillade from the tragedy Zelmira. Though she still has some way to develop, Lezhneva’s coloratura is an articulate combination of bubbling lightness and controlled power, like a ping pong ball bobbing in a jet of compressed air.
Petrenko also turns out to be a closet Rossinian, as a sparkling account of the overture to Semiramide proves. He is even better when closer to home with Prokofiev’s First Symphony, which sounds like something Haydn might have written had he been witness to the October Revolution. His muscular version of Mendelssohn’s Fifth Symphony breaks new ground with the first performance of a dozen or so recently rediscovered bars for solo flute. The RLPO’s principal flautist, Cormac Henry, seizes his 30 seconds of history with lyrical dexterity.
• This programme is partially repeated tonight. Box office: 0151 709 3789