July 2013 NAXOS released the new recording of “Semiramide” staring Alex Penda in the title role

The heart of the performance, as she should be, is the Babylonian queen herself. Alex Penda (who as Alexandrina Pendatchanska blazed through Ermione in Santa Fe and at NYCO) is, in temperament and delivery, a real prima donna: her vocalism, while admirably wide-ranging, dramatically pointed and stylistically attuned, is not always ravishing, but it scores its points with panache. Unlike many Semiramides, Penda is credibly a killer as well as a siren.Opera News, December 2013

Ten years ago Alexandrina Pendatchanska – or Alex Penda as she now calls herself – was a formidable Ermione. Here she is formidable Semiramide.GRAMOPHONE, September 2013

(Penda) combines a blazing, wide-open top with the juicy lower-middle range that is particularly vital…International Record Review, September 2013

The star performance comes from Alex Penda (formerly Alexandrina Pendatchanska) in the title role: the Bulgarian soprano is in glorious voice, seconded by Pizzolato’s refined Arsace, the contralto trouser role.Financial Times, 16th August 2013

…the Bulgarian soprano Alex Penda’s staggering Semiramide – thrillingly sung, and the most complex characterisation of the role on disc … wonderful and highly recommended.The Guardian,  7th August 2013

Alex Penda is a very impressive Semiramide. Unusually for this role, her rich, lustrous vocal tone is more suited to the middle and bottom of the part, though that is not to undermine her security at the top. Her coloratura is very impressive and the distinctive colour of her voice stands out well in the ensembles. The opulence of her tone suits the role of the queen very well indeed, and lends an extra touch of class to her big set piece, Bel ragghio lusinghier. —  Musicweb international, 2th September 2013

… this new Semiramide rivals Pesaro standards thanks to Fogliani’s ever-alert and lively conducting. His cast includes singers who challenge this long and wonderful opera’s most famous interpreters on disc…this is an unmissable bargain.Sunday Times, 14th July 2013

… a red-blooded Bulgarian soprano, Alex Penda, who portrays a Semiramide that you would not argue with, and she certainly gets around the fast decorations with considerable agility, and hits the high notes in total security, her steely brilliance very different to Sutherland’s lyric approach. — David’s Review Corner, July 2013

Joseph Newsome , Voix des Arts

Bulgarian soprano Alex Penda — née Alexandrina Pendatchanska — is a musical and dramatic firebrand whose performances almost never leave neutral impressions.  Like Ms. Pizzolato, Ms. Penda is a seasoned bel canto singer, her experience with Semiramide including a much-lauded assumption of the title rôle in Paris in 2006.  It has been suggested that appreciation of Ms. Penda’s vocalism is an acquired taste, but her singing in this performance confirms that it is a taste that any lover of Rossini’s operas should pursue.  It can hardly be surprising that Rossini’s music for the title character in Semiramide is sublime when it is recalled that the part was written for Isabella Colbran, who assured her top billing and musical prominence by marrying the composer.  There is still debate about the nature of Colbran’s voice and her true Fach, with most modern scholars at least tenuously agreeing that she was likely a soprano sfogato; in short, a mezzo-soprano with a meticulously-refined technique and an upper register with greater power than a lyric soprano but a shorter range than a coloratura soprano.  It is impossible to conjecture how Ms. Penda’s voice might actually compare to Colbran’s, but there is no doubt that she is a natural successor to a rôle like Semiramide. The slight ‘shudder’ in Ms. Penda’s vibrato as recorded lends the sound of her voice an immediacy that serves the drama hardily. Dramatically, Ms. Penda thrusts herself into the performance with an appetite for fire that makes her colleagues seem somewhat tame by comparison.  If her account of the familiar ‘Bel raggio lusinghier’—the aria for which most of the audience are waiting in any performance of Semiramide—is not as poised or clean of line as it could be, it wants for nothing in terms of passion. Ms. Penda is a monumental presence in the opera, often burning and melting within the space of a single phrase and making bold choices with employment of chest resonance. The buzzing strength of the singer’s lower register is put to great use, and excursions to and above top C are accomplished with panache.  Ms. Penda’s individual articulation of coloratura occasionally brings to mind the vocal method of Cristina Deutkom; so, too, does the fearlessness with which Ms. Penda approaches Semiramide’s music. In many performances, Semiramide ultimately seems to be a game girl who sings some smashing tunes and otherwise is merely along for the ride, so to speak. Ms. Penda’s performance leaves no doubt that Semiramide is the opera’s title character by right. The glowing zeal of her singing makes the opera’s dénouement plausibly moving, and her ardor shapes a Semiramide who is a credible tragic heroine.

July 2013