Swedish soprano Camilla Tilling is one of the stars of her country's BIS label, a top-notch company that also hosts international heavyweights such as English pianist Freddy Kempf and Masaaki Suzuki's Bach Collegium Japan.
Loves me . . . Loves me not is her fifth release, a first operatic venture after three enterprising lieder recitals. Recorded in Italy with the marvellous Musica Saeculorum, under live wire German conductor Philipp von Steinaecker, this exemplary collection focuses on the classical opera of Gluck and Mozart.
A succession of arias explores the vagaries of love, bound together under a title drawn from the old French game designed to test the amatory potential of a possible lover.
Before a note is sung, the orchestra makes its mark with the overture to Mozart's Idomeneo, given special vitality and spring from period instruments, with Robert Kendell's timpani dealing out the finest 18th century thunder.
First up are the storm-tossed emotions of that opera's heroine, Ilia, conveyed by Tilling with effortless coloratura and recitatives that touch the soul itself. Even more compulsively engaging is the following set from Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice, especially when singer and orchestra tackle the hurtling emotions of Euridice's Act III aria.
Not every singer would be courageous enough to present both Susanna and the Countess from Mozart's Marriage of Figaro almost side-by-side. Tilling does just that and succeeds admirably, thanks to the sureness of her characterisation, with some of the forthright Susanna echoed in the singer's later portrait of the feisty Fiordiligi from Cosi fan Tutte.
Fiordiligi's great protestation of fidelity, Come scoglio, is positively confrontational with the soprano making impressive use of her forceful lower register.
In times when thrown-together albums of operatic extracts are a tempting option for singers and companies, this release stands out for the freshness of its performances and unswerving curatorial intent, perfectly reflected in Julian Rushton's succinct and thoughtful booklet essay.
What: Camilla Tilling, loves me . . . loves me not . . . (BIS, through Ode Records)
Verdict: Swedish soprano impresses with vignettes of love from Mozart and Gluck.