Parisotti’s “If you love me” (Se tu m’ami) was Omo Bello’s first Italian song at the Concertgebouw Recital Hall. And the audience made it immediately clear that they loved what they heard. Ignoring the customary bunching of songs into sets, they started applauding after each and every number with mounting enthusiasm. Ms Bello possesses a singular lyric soprano with a timbre that is both clear and lustrous – silver plated with gold. The fact that it has the same breadth from top to bottom makes for luxurious listening. Add to that the great technical confidence with which she wields her extraordinary instrument, plus a beguiling personality that leaps across the footlights, and you have the makings of an exceptional performer.

The early-to-mid 19th century selections that made up the bulk of the programme showed off Ms Bello’s proficiency in bel canto. She can tie big intervals with stylish portamenti, suspend mellow soft notes with ease and peal out full fortes. Clean and pretty runs graced her execution of Rossini’s “La pastorella dell’Alpi” (The alpine shepherdess), and Bellini’s melancholy “Ma rendi pur contento” (Only make her happy) showcased her spotless legato.

Pianist Clément Mao-Takacs was a sensitive accompanist and one of Ms Bello’s biggest fans in the hall, beaming and clapping after each gorgeous song finale. Donizetti followed after the break, with a light, fleet touch from both singer and accompanist in “Il barcaiolo” (Barcarolle). Everything Ms Bello sang was steeped in loveliness, yet the songs could have used more character through varied treatment of the text. Ms Bello’s Italian pronunciation is exemplary; what was missing was finer word colouring and elasticity in the phrasing. Subtleties such as occasionally stressing consonants and modifying vocal weight could have brought more playful impudence to Verdi’s “Stornello” (Folk Song), a show of cheery indifference in the face of rejection, and increased the palpable desperation in his vignette of a dying woman, “In solitaria stanza” (In a lonely room). 

Ms Bello’s uniform approach to text was more problematic as she moved on to 20th century repertoire. The trio of Tosti settings of poems by Gabriele D’Annunzio, dripping with blood-rimmed sensuousness, called for more intensity than she proffered. Inversely, Mr Mao-Takacs seemed to have more affinity with this period than with bel canto. In the Tosti songs he achieved fine contours and fluid phrasing, evoking a languid Neapolitan afternoon in a lilting “'A vucchella” (A sweet mouth). Of the two instrumental interludes, the first of which was by Catalani, it was in Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Il raggio verde (The Green Ray), a seacape for piano solo with glittering harmonies, that he left a cohesive and vivid impression.

The concert ended with Puccini’s “Ch’il bel sogno di Doretta” (Doretta’s beautiful dream), an arioso rendition of a poem from the opera La rondine. Again, it was elegantly sung, but one longed for more emotional abandon, and a luxuriating in the splendour of voice, perhaps a high C that lingered longer. There is no doubt that Ms Bello is capable of singing with generous emotion and supple phrasing. One of her encores was “O mio babbino caro” (Oh my dear papa) from Gianni Schicchi. An unbridling of feeling in his second Puccini aria transformed her singing from beautiful and correct into lush and exciting. This copiously gifted young singer has plenty of time to mature into a consistently expressive artist. After all, a woman who grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, a city with neither an opera house nor a music conservatory, and now performs on important European stages, should be able to achieve anything she sets her mind to.