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TENOR: Great Arias for the Tenor Voice ... and to be Experienced as a Protagonist
CD 1
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1868)

L’Elisir d’amore, ‘Una furtiva lagrima’
Don Pasquale, ‘Sogno soave e casto’
Lucia di Lamermoor, ‘Tombi degli avi miei’ ‘Tu che a Dio spiega’
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

Madama Butterfly, ‘Addio, fioriyo asil’
Manon Lescaut, ‘Tra voi, belle’
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Aida, ’Celeste Aida’
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)

Werther, Pourquoi me reveiller’
Silvano Santagata, (ten); Stefano Secco, (ten)
Orchestra and Chorus ‘Compagnia D’Opera Italiana’/Antonella Gotto
Recorded June-August 1997. No venue indicated
CANTOLOPERA 95039 [60.19]

CD 2
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

Turandot, ‘Nessun dorma’
Manon Lescaut, ‘Donna’ non vidi mai’
Tosca, ‘E lucevan le stelle’
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)

Il barbiere di Siviglia, ‘Ecco ridente in cielo’
Georges BIZET (1838-1870)

Carmen, ‘La fleur que tu m’avais jetée’
Francesco CILEA (1866-1950)

L’arlesiana, ‘E la solita storia’
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Otello, ‘Esultate!’
Otello, ‘Dio, mio potevi scagliar tutti I mali’
Silvano Santagata, (ten); Stefano Secco, (ten); Francesco Paolo Panni, (ten)
Orchestra and Chorus ‘Compagnia D’Opera Italiana’/Antonella Gotto
Recorded June, July and September 1997. No venue indicated
CANTOLOPERA 95043 [56.57]

CD 3
Friedrich von FLOTOW (1812-1883)

Martha, ‘M’appari’ ‘Den Teuren zu versinnen’
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

La Boheme, ‘Che gelida manina’
Tosca, ‘Recondita armonia’
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)

Cavalleria rusticana, ‘Mamma! Quell vino e generoso’
Umberto GIORDANO (1867-1948)
Fedora, ‘Amor ti vieta’
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Il Trovatore, ‘Di quella pira’
Rigoletto, ‘Ella mi fu rapita…Parmi veder le lagrime’
Silvano Santagata, (ten); Stefano Secco, (ten)
Orchestra and Chorus ‘Compagnia D’Opera Italiana’/Antonella Gotto
Recorded June-October 1997. No venue indicated
CANTOLOPERA 95048 [51.55]

CD 4
Amilcare PONCHIELLI (1834-1886)

La Gioconda, ‘Cielo e mar!’
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1858-1919)

Pagliacci, ‘Vesti la giubba’
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1868)
L’Elisir d’amore, ‘Quanto e bella’
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

La fanciulla del West, ‘Ch’ella mi creda’
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Luisa Miller, ‘Quando le sere al placido’
Macbeth, ‘Ah, la paterno mano’
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Don Giovanni, ‘Dalla sua pace’.
Silvano Santagata, (ten); Stefano Secco, (ten); Francesco Paolo Panni, (ten)
Orchestra and Chorus ‘Compagnia D’Opera Italiana’/Antonella Gotto
Recorded June-October 1997. No venue indicated
CANTOLOPERA 95049 [48.24]

CD 5
Umberto GIORDANO (1867-1948)
Andrea Chenier, ‘Colpito qui … Un di all’azzurro spazio’
Georges BIZET (1838-1870)

Les Pecheurs de perles, ‘Je crois entendre encore’
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Un ballo in Maschera, ‘Di tu se fedele’, ‘Forse la soglia… Ma se m’é’
Rigoletto, ‘La donna e mobile’
Rigoletto, ‘Questa o quella’
Georges Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)

Faust, ’Salut! Demeure chaste et pure’
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

Turandot, ‘Non piangere Liù’
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Lohengrin, ‘In fernem land’
Silvano Santagata, (ten); Stefano Secco, (ten)
Orchestra and Chorus ‘Compagnia D’Opera Italiana’/Antonella Gotto
Recorded June-November 1997. No venue indicated
CANTOLOPERA 95053 [61.44]

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In summer 2003 I reviewed on this site a CD ROM entitled ‘Between Earth and Sky: the Hour of Meditation and Prayer’. This was an issue from Cantolopera being Volume VII of their ‘Great Interactive Opera Encyclopaedia’. On that disc there were hours of involving content including a spoken and visual analysis of the characteristics of the baritone voice. Other volumes in the series covered the other vocal registers. Each disc allowed analysis of ones own vocality with the opportunity to sing arias with the music coming from speakers or headphones as the words and score passed in front of ones eyes on the VDU.

This new series from Cantolopera are ‘straight’ CDs but their sub-title ‘to be Experienced as a Protagonist’ gives the clue to their secondary purpose. Each of the arias is sung by professional singers, backed by orchestra, and chorus when appropriate. These ‘model’ tracks are then followed by the music and chorus alone, allowing the listener to try his/her talents and skills, with the backing of an orchestra rather than just a piano. The words, in the language of the aria, are given with an English translation. However, as no music script is given, as was the case on the ROMs, a vocal score is a must for the serious protagonist, particularly as the words provided do not indicate reprised phrases. There is also the complication that some arias are given in abbreviated performance versions that may differ from standard vocal scores. Serious users of these discs, which are in no way ‘jokey karaoke’, should have no difficulty in using them as protagonist as well as listening to the performances of professional singers. Given also that each disc has ‘fach’ variations, such as lyric and dramatic etc arias, they will help the user define their individual vocal strengths for themselves. Not all potential singers have the benefits of a music college coach or personal teacher. Each disc is a separate entity and can be purchased in that form.

The tenor voice is the highest naturally-produced male voice with a maximum range from C below ‘middle C’ to c above, known as tenor high C. That said, few tenors retain tone and sound at ease easy above A. Decca issued a Pavarotti disc titled ‘King of the High Cs’ which built on his renowned performances on record, and in the theatre. This included his singing of Tonio in Donizetti’s ‘La fille du régiment’ with its sequence of the note in the finale to Act I which he takes quite beautifully without recourse to the use of head tone. The Spanish tenor Alfredo Kraus was also capable of singing that sequence from the chest well into his fifties. The difference between those two tenors, and others of that generation and what they sang in the opera house, is a good basis for an understanding of the divisions within the voice type. These are relevant to the examples on these discs. That understanding, and the limitations of the exemplar singers here will help putative tenors better to understand where their own voice might lie.

In the Italian repertoire the lightest tenor voice called for is the ‘tenore di grazia’, sometimes referred to as ‘tenorino’. These tenors have light flexible voices with a secure top; the best current example is Juan Diego Florez. Such voices are admirably suited to the florid runs in the Rossini comic operas and extend into the tenor parts in Bellini’s ‘Sonnambula’ and ‘I Puritani’. The role of Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni has its own particular demand for a smooth transition through the ‘passaggio’ into the head voice. Some ‘tenore di grazia’ develop sufficient strength of voice and depth of tone to take on Rodolpho in ‘La Bohème’, the Duke in ‘Rigoletto’, Alfredo in ‘La traviata’ and even Edgardo in ‘Lucia’. These roles are the plums of the ‘lyric’ tenor repertoire and are well represented here. Singers in this ‘fach’ will often sing roles such as Faust, Werther etc in French works. Strong lyric tenor voices such as those of Pavarotti and Björling extended their ‘fach’ towards the lirico-spinto repertoire with roles such as Radames in ‘Aida’ and Manrico in ‘Il Trovatore’. It is important to note that both singers restricted appearances in the opera house in these and other heavier roles in the ‘verismo’ repertoire. On the other hand Domingo, with a more natural ‘spinto’ voice had no need for that limitation and went on to be the ‘Otello’ of his generation. Otello is the ultimate dramatic tenor role in the Italian repertoire and relates to the ‘heldentenor’ voice demanded by Wagner for Tannhäuser and Tristan. Often in meeting the strength required by these dramatic roles a tenor voice may develop, or have from the outset, a baritonal hue to its tone.

Any putative tenor should be aware of the basic nature of his own voice as the exemplar singers here have limitations. Lyric voices should not be tempted to try roles too heavy for the voice except in ‘marked’ mode. The lightest voice, that of Francesco Paolo Panni, sings the aria ‘Dalla suo pace’ from Don Giovanni (CD 2 tr. 5) with too much chest tone, lacking a lighter middle and head tone. His voice is better suited to Rossini’s ‘Ecco, ridente’ (CD 2 tr. 2). All the remaining roles are shared by Stefano Secco, in the more lyrical ‘fach’ and Silvano Santagata who takes the heavier roles. Secco sings with a lightish tenor voice and phrases well in both the Italian and French repertoire arias. His compatriot, Santagata, fares less well in the heavier roles. His is a true tenor voice without baritonal hue. He attempts to thicken his tone to give more colour and heft but this only serves to coarsen the effect. His maximum should have been Pinkerton from ‘Butterfly’ (CD 1 tr. 5), whilst it is kinder to pass over his efforts as Radames and Otello. I must remember, however, that these are not merely recital discs. The music-only tracks of these arias, with chorus and other soloists when appropriate, will enable protagonists to try out their own strengths. Santagata is shown as the singer of ‘Tombi degli avi miei’, ‘Tu che a Dio spiega’ from Lucia (CD 1 tr. 4). If it is he, and it sounds more like Secco, the bloom round the voice being confusing, that ‘fach’ suits him far better than the heavier roles he has to sing elsewhere.

In my reviews of this series the exemplar singers on this group of discs is the weakest so far of all the vocal registers. I would not recommend it for general listening. However putative protagonists may find the orchestral backing useful for trial and learning. For the best singer performances listen to CD 1 trs. 1 and 4 and CD 2 tr. 2.

Robert J Farr

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