Hui He

CD Oehm classics

Madame He has a lot to offer. She sounds like a good Italian lirico-spinto of the fifties and sixties; let’s say Orianna Santunione, Rita Orlandi-Malaspina, Gigliola Frazzoni or Lydia Marimpietri. This implies she has the necessary decibels, doesn’t sound like a lirico in wrong repertoire and has the metal and the colour necessary for the big Verdi and Puccini-roles. This means too that she doesn’t possess the very individual colours a really great voice has. She is no Tebaldi or Price or young Stella. There are some problems in her vocal armoury too. The voice is rounded and expressive till high B but one note higher (that horrible exposed C in O patria mia which escapes so many sopranos; even on CD with all its possibilities) the sound becomes thin and stretched. I don’t think it has anything to do with her early vocal training as a mezzo. It is a true soprano, though maybe a little short (as was Tebaldi’s voice). Her coloratura in Tacea la notte is rather sketchy and one wonders who took the decision to give us one verse only of the cabaletta. In live performances this is still often done but I cannot remember a soprano recital of the CD and even LP age where the score was cut that way. Another weak point is her enunciation. Apart from the first sentence most of her Italian is not very clear. It remains a wonder for everybody among us that a lady from Shangai will devote herself to an art so far from her own culture but if one makes a living of singing Italian opera one of the consequences is exemplary pronunciation. Madame He is a bit exemplary for the  the common mistakes made by a lot of Chinese or Korean singers: passionate delivery,  volume and not too subtle an interpretation. In Pace, pace or Morro, ma prima one wants the voice to float during phrases of sad reminiscences but one gets straight singing and big outbursts only. Understandably, she is better in her Puccini arias than in Verdi. It may sound as a cliché but she is really at her best as Cio Cio San where she clearly lives the arias. Maybe I’m a bit severe but the recorded competition she is up too is especially strong. No doubt, I would be more than happy to hear her in many of the roles on record as there are not many ladies at the moment who will be better than He.

Jan Neckers, Operanostalgia