“Colin Lee, a frequent but still under-appreciated presence in the ranks of the world’s finest bel canto singers, provides a masterclass in the art of bel canto singing with every note that he sings in this recording.  Mr. Lee’s voice is not of grandiose proportions [but] like Carlo Bergonzi, Mr. Lee proves that, among the most talented and well-trained singers, the amplitude of a voice is not as important as the skill with which it is produced and projected.  The complete lack of strain with which Mr. Lee ascends into his upper register is exceptional, and he achieves a clutch of top notes in this performance that would be the envy of the best tenors in the world, past and present.  Indeed, his excursion above top C in the coda of the aforementioned cabaletta in Act Two, ‘Morte, morte! Fur troppi gl’insulti,’ has to be heard to be believed.  More impressive still is the way in which Mr. Lee manages to be very moving in a rôle that, despite certain felicities, is neither in music nor in drama a particular credit to its composer.  The depth of feeling that Mr. Lee evokes in Gerardo’s interactions with Caterina is touching, and the melting lyricism of his singing of the extended melodic lines Gerardo is given in duets utterly overwhelms any qualms about their musical distinction.  This performance inspires a longing to hear Mr. Lee in rôles that give him opportunities to fully explore the obviously rich trove of nuances in his artistry and engage his compact, exquisitely-supported voice on the highest possible level.  It is remarkable that, as Gerardo, Mr. Lee does so much with so little.  This is, in short, the finest bel canto tenor singing committed to disc in many years…
This performance is a gallant reintroduction to Caterina Cornaro and —perhaps most rewardingly — an opportunity to hear stupendous singing from one of opera’s greatest tenor voices.”

Voix des Arts, 8 June 2013

“Donizetti’s interests are primarily focused on his depiction of a marriage based on profound respect but not love, and on the growing friendship between Lusignano, the king, and Gerardo, Caterina’s former lover, now her husband’s military ally. That their relationship dominates Opera Rara’s new recording so strongly is largely due to powerhouse performances by Colin Lee (Gerardo) and Troy Cook (Lusignano), whose big duet together is very classy indeed.”

The Guardian, 4 July 2013

“This role is sung by the excellent Colin Lee, certainly more of a Rossinian than Donizettian, who has the merit of dealing with the particularly challenging tessitura with no particularly obvious effort and who is thoroughly musical and dramatically impeccable. One has certainly heard richer tones and a more authentic Italian style, but never combined with such accuracy in the vocalises combined with a confounding ease in the top register (when we hear his magnificent contra-D at the end of his cabaletta, we regret that the conductor did not allow him similar artistic license elsewhere in the work).” [Translated from French], 5 July 2013

“The lover is well served by Colin Lee, unexpectedly for two reasons: firstly, the South African tenor is associated more with lighter roles… while, Gerardo is invariably associated with more lyrical voices… To his credit, Lee has musicality and impeccable style, and is able to breathe life into a character which is unexpectedly weak. Also he shows a magnificent legato in the cantabile parts of the duets, precise vocalization and a firm and secure top, as demonstrated by the magnificent top D in the Second Act cabaletta.” [Translated from Spanish], 5 July 2013

“As Gerardo, the opera’s tenor lead, Cape Town-born Colin Lee illustrates why he is regarded as one of South Africa’s most distinguished vocal exports. Fearlessly essaying the high-lying tessitura of his music, he delivers a performance that stylishly complements Ms Giannattasio’s heroic account of the opera’s title role.”

The Mercury, 5 July 2013


“Opposite [Pretty Yende], we heard the equally stellar Lee as Edgardo. Here is another young artist who has matured in a gratifying fashion and whose light Rossinian tenor had fleshed out just sufficiently to give it the fuller timbre required for a role (and accompaniment) of weightier mien. Throw in stratospheric top notes and you have another singer who engrosses… Lee sounded as vocally fresh as on his first appearance and brought the work to a triumphant conclusion.”

The Cape Times, 22 April 2013


“Colin Lee has taken progressive but unceasing strides to the front lines: and now stepped into the full glare of the spotlight. Certainly Lee has the vocal gifts and musical temperament to dispatch the infamous high Cs in ‘A mes amis’ — the last relished and sustained to substantial applause. And, in the yodelling leaps he revealed a heroic timbre to counter his previous hapless, bumpkin-esque persona, revealing the sincerity of Tonio’s affections… he (has) a confident, controlled elegance: his superbly shaped, long, legato lines pay detailed, intelligent attention to phrasing, and the effect is complemented by a focused vibrato, which was put to superb effect in his tender declaration of love, the Act 2 aria, ‘Pour me rapprocher de Marie’.”

Opera Today , 25 April 2012

“Two years on from first singing the role of Tonio at Covent Garden, Colin Lee has turned into the finished article. Lee sings (it) with elegance and good humour with a voice that is light, clear and confident. He negotiated the famous nine high Cs of Ah Mes Amis with ease – the first eight in a sort of yodelling phrase which echoes Tonio’s Tyrolean roots, the last a sustained close designed to bring the house down. Tonio gets a succession of lovely romantic melodies: Pour me rapprocher de Marie was the one I enjoyed most.”, 20 April 2012

“Last night, the South African tenor Colin Lee enthralled the audience by belting (the high Cs) out with no problem at all. The whole opera is a glorious romp. Colin Lee is outstanding…”

The Daily Express, 20 April 2012


“Colin Lee was a deeply moving Alfredo, torn between immature emotions and loyalties. Lee has a beautiful tenor voice and paid close attention to details of articulation and phrasing.”

The Cape Times , 13 October 2011

“The Capetonian Colin Lee, who is based in London and who has sung bel canto roles from Covent Garden to the Metropolitan, impressed with his even tone and intuitive singing.  He sings beautifully long legato phrases, as in the duet “Un di felice”, and, though the voice is light and lyric, he is not afraid of the dramatic sections, as in “De’ miei bollenti spiriti… Oh mio rimorso!”.”

Die Burger, 13 October 2011


“How then can one best describe the remarkable singing of this young man now at the height of his vocal powers? It is that kind of singing which goes straight to the heart imbued as it is with a quality which not only somehow seems to suspend time but also convinces the listener that, at that particular moment, there is no other way in which the music could possibly be sung. Perhaps also because he is brave enough to bare his deepest emotions to a hall full of strangers and, in allowing himself to be vulnerable, becomes a consummate communicator. There was so much that was memorable in the programme that to single out any song for special mention would require more space than the hapless reviewer is allowed. But for sheer beauty of line and musical control, especially in such seamless legato singing, I found his interpretation of Duparc’s fragile-setting of Phidylé achingly beautiful.”

The Cape Times, 20 September 2011


“Colin Lee is luxury casting for Ernesto. He is one of an extraordinary wealth of tenori di grazia who now populate the world’s opera stages with an assurance which would not have been thought possible even twenty years ago. He offers purity of tone but also drives the music onwards with an excitingly muscular vigour and his top notes are fearlessly produced. He had begun the second verse of his cabaletta softly but ended it with a high D flat in full voice. Dramatically he was always on the ball, nicely balancing boyish playfulness with adult calculation.”, 7 June 2011

“Top vocal honours went to the Ernesto, the South African tenor Colin Lee who is now deservedly enjoying a high-profile international career. He has a personable stage presence, and a voice at the more substantially rounded end of the flexible bel canto tenor spectrum, with bright liquid tone which pings right to the back of the auditorium.”

Opera Today, 20 June 2011

“[Colin Lee’s] singing of Ernesto was the musical highlight of the evening. He lavished plangent tone and superb breath control on “Povero Ernesto” and “Com’e gentil” and sang the cabaletta to the former with real slancio crowned with a stonking top D Flat. He also made more of the wimpy character than usual – all in all a distinguished performance.”

Opera Britannia, 10 June 2011


“Colin Lee sings Orestes. As well as having the necessary vocal flexibility, he fields more body of vocal tone than his Peruvian coequal. This enables him to invest significant characterisation in his interpretation without distortion of his singing or vocal line. This quality is particularly appropriate and appreciated in the act one duet with Ermione.”

Musical Criticism, November 2010

“But it was Colin Lee as Oreste who stole the show with some brilliant pyrotechnics: I’m not sure that Juan Diego Florez could have fired them off better.”

Daily Telegraph, April 2009


“As Elena’s intended husband, Rodrigo, Colin Lee has the unenviable task of going up against Mr. Flórez but brings it off brilliantly. A high point comes in an extended number in Act 2 — perhaps the opera’s finest piece — when the two tenors repeatedly trade high C’s.”

New York Times, June 2010

“South African Colin Lee, vied with Florez for the pingiest tenorissimo notes. It was a rare chance for Lee – who is used to filling in for Florez on his nights off at Convent Garden – to pit his considerable talents against the star’s. He, too, is a Rossini tenor to be reckoned with.”

Sunday Times, July 2010


“The important issue for the audience at the particular performance was whether this revival would survive without Juan Diego Flórez the star tenor Tonio, who was succeeded by Colin Lee. Never having heard Flórez sing ‘Ah! mes amis’ with the infamous nine high Cs, I cannot make a direct comparison but I doubt that he could surpass Mr Lee. He received a prolonged ovation for this defining moment at the end of Act I, when he hit the top notes solidly without the slightest hint of strain. I was also grateful that he was not a typically French-sounding tenor with a slender, reedy tone: he has a much more resonant, full-bodied sound and he sang winningly – and most affectingly – throughout the evening while acting a suitably gauche, but heroic, Tonio.”

Musical Criticism, May 2010