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David Perkins
The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC), January 2009

This Naxos release is the opera's second recording, and it's a good one. The second-tier American singers, led by Ellen Chickering as Vanessa, are committed, personal and strong throated. Gil Rose sets fluid, broad tempos, and the National Symphony of the Ukraine makes a fine sound --and turns on a dime.

T.J. Medrek
Boston Herald, January 2009

"If there were a classical music man of the month, November would surely belong to conductor Gil Rose... the performance is bursting with life, in large part thanks to Gil Rose's passionate leadership of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine. Soprano Ellen Chickering is nothing short of overwhelming in the title role and tenor Ray Bauwens and soprano Andrea Matthews as the other two points of a love triangle are first-rate. So are Marion Dry, Richard Conrad and Philip Lima, who complete the cast of locally based singers."

Turok’s Choice, March 2004

"Samuel Barber's Vanessa receives an impressive update recording with fine American singers (Ellen Chickering [Vanessa], Andrea Matthews [Erika] et al.) and Gil Rose leading the Ukrainian National Symphony."

Dalia Geffen
Audiophile Audition, March 2004

"This recording of Vanessa, which won Samuel Barber the 1958 Pulitzer Prize for Music, far exceeds all expectations. The lush sound, sensitive conducting, and exceptional singing accord this set an honored place among the great CDs of 2003... The voices of Chickering and Matthews meld beautifully. In addition, these two seasoned sopranos deliver terrific characterizations, skillfully presenting Vanessa's and Erika's disparate ages and personalities... The Ukrainian orchestra is terrific, the acoustics are good."

Daniel Felsenfeld
Time Out New York, December 2003

"Gil Rose leads the excellent National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine with a sure hand and an appropriately roughshod bonhomie...Ellen Chickering's powerful Vanessa is well matched by Andrea Matthews' Erika...Marion Dry's terrifying Baroness and Ray Bauwen's brash young Anatol round out a particularly well chosen cast. This recording, the first new version in almost half a century, will no doubt rekindle interest in this masterful yet somewhat shaggy opera."

Anthony Burton
BBC Music Magazine, December 2003

"...the all-American cast of a recent Boston revival is vocally more than adequate and dramatically convincing, while the conductor of that revival draws full-blooded playing from the excellent Ukranian orchestra...this set is a valuable account of an opera of strong, old-fashioned theatrical effectiveness."

Patrick O'Connor
Gramophone, December 2003

"Ellen Chickering is a commanding Vanessa, with crisp diction...Ray Bauwens as the cad Anatol, and Marion Dry as the Baroness are both fine...The sound quality is clear, the balance between voices and orchestra excellent. Anyone who is attracted to American verismo will enjoy this."

Matthew Rye
The Daily Telegraph (Australia), October 2003

"...given the price, this is a rewarding way of getting to know one of the first American "grand operas", a genre still very much in vogue across the Atlantic."

Ted Medrek
Boston Herald

"A local cast that's practically peerless."

David Shengold
Opera News

"As part of its admirable, ongoing American Opera Classics series, Naxos offers the second studio recording of Samuel Barber's first commission for the Met, Vanessa....This enjoyable performance shows moving commitment and basic musical virtues...Naxos's extraordinary marketing acumen will surely give Barber's memorable opera great currency."

Richard Dyer
The Boston Globe

"In 2002, members of the old Boston Academy of Music flew to Ukraine to record Samuel Barber's romantic "Vanessa," an opera the company had produced earlier in the Cutler Majestic Theatre.

Now Naxos has issued the recording, the first since the world premiere version in 1958. The opera got off to a difficult start but now is beginning to become a repertoire piece; the widespread availability of the new recording may help accelerate its progress. It is a nice souvenir of an interesting period in our operatic history, and it documents the work of singers who deserve something more than "local favorite" status.

The title role is a gift to a prima donna in late career --it was Kiri te Kanawa's last new stage role. A prima donna is certainly what Ellen Chickering is. Hers may be more a theater than a recording voice, but it is a major instrument, and her control is still impressive --listen to the pianissimo, the decrescendos, the cleanly attacked high notes. And, as always, she is an enthusiastic singing actress.

Cast a little against type, Andrea Matthews makes a nice contrast as Erica. Matthews is a lyric soprano, not the mezzo Barber calls for, but this does make her sound younger than Vanessa. Ray Bauwens occasionally sounds too well-mannered for the self-centered Anatol, but it's nice to have a record of his solid, musical tenor. Marion Dry, Richard Conrad, and Philip Lima make flavorful contributions in the character roles, and conductor Gil Rose wrings an exciting orchestral performance out of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine."

Robert Cummings
Classical Net

"Gil Rose leads the NSO of Ukraine with an incisive baton throughout and seems intent on calling greater attention to Barber's orchestration, an approach which at least in part accounts for the greater orchestral presence in the sound reproduction...In the end, this Naxos Vanessa must be assessed an impressive effort...This, then, especially at Naxos' budget price and because it incorporates changes made in the opera in 1964 by Barber and Menotti, is eminently recommendable."

Robert Levine

"This recording is splendid... a remarkable achievement. Ellen Chickering sings Vanessa beautifully and with great feeling... Marion Dry has a true, dark sound for the Old Baroness and it's apt; her words are always understandable. Ray Bauwens has a bright, good-sized tenor, he articulates well, and he has the right swagger for Anatol. Baritone Richard Conrad (who was an exquisite, very light bel canto tenor in the '60s and recorded with Joan Sutherland) gets everything right as the Doctor--he's completely involved with this dysfunctional family. Conductor Gil Rose leads a taut performance... it presents this maybe-masterpiece handsomely, and at a bargain price."

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