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Simon Keenlyside - Tales of Opera
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792–1868) Il barbiere di Siviglia: Largo al factotum della città [4:56]; Guillaume Tell: Sois immobile [2:25]; Jules MASSENET (1842–1912) Hérodiade: Vision fugitive [4:23]; Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901) Don Carlo: Per me giunto è il di [8:17]; Un ballo in maschera: Eri tu che macchiavi quell’anima [6:00]; La traviata: Di Provenza il mar [4:16]; Ambroise THOMAS (1811–1896) Hamlet: O vin, dissipe la tristesse [3:53]; Vincenzo BELLINI (1801–1835) I puritani: Ah! Per sempre io ti perdei [5:22]; Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791) Die Zauberflöte: Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen [4:07]; Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO (1858–1919) Pagliacci: Si può, si può [5:23]; Francesco CILEA (1866–1950) L’Arlesiana: Come due tizzi accesi [3:36]; Peter TCHAIKOVSKY (1840–1893) Pique Dame: Ja vas ljublju [4:49]; Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Don Giovanni: Dah vieni alla finestra [2:09]; Zaide: Nur Mut, mein Herz, versuche dein Glück [5:22]; Richard WAGNER (1813–1883) Tannhäuser: Oh, du mein holder Abendstern [5:14]
Simon Keenlyside (baritone)
Münchner Rundfunkorchester/Ulf Schirmer
rec. Bayerischer Rundfunk, Munich 29 May–2 June, 2006
SONY CLASSICAL 82876884822 [70:12]
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Simon Keenlyside has been around for quite some time now and for the last decade or so has been firmly established as one of the leading lyrical baritones of his generation. He has appeared on a substantial number of complete sets and has also made some excellent Lieder recordings. This is, as far as I know, his first operatic recital. It is a testing programme with (mostly) standard arias sung throughout the history of the phonograph by all the greats – and he stands up well against comparison.
He opens, as so many before him, with Figaro’s Factotum-aria from Il barbiere di Siviglia, where we first hear the excellent orchestra impressively recorded in a generous but finely detailed acoustic. Keenlyside’s first phrases are distanced and I reached for my pen to make a note about recording balance until I realised that he wasn’t on stage yet. When he was I had no complaints. His voice sounds in mint condition, no tear and wear in spite of the years gone by: a manly sound with brilliant top and easy access to a mellifluous pianissimo – so important for a Lieder artist. His Figaro sparkles with joy and he executes the patter singing with elegance and tongue-in-cheek. A fine cello solo opens the William Tell aria, sung in the original French. There he adopts a softer timbre, more French if you like but also in character. Vision fugitive is wonderfully nuanced and the Don Carlo scene, sung a bit inconsistently in Italian, is deeply felt. The excerpt encompasses both the aria and the following death scene. This is one of the best items on the disc. The Ballo aria shows Renato’s dual feelings towards Riccardo: sorrow and then intense fury. He sings O dolcezze perdute! With a soft and inward quality. The Traviata aria is warm and conversational, directed to Alfredo and not to the audience as is so often the case. The concluding Dio mi guidò is scaled down to a marvellously beautiful pianissimo.
The Drinking song from Hamlet is ebullient and joyous and the orchestral prelude and postlude are bucolic dances. In the Puritani aria, with its fair share of florid singing I would have liked more light and shade. As it is it becomes unnecessarily monotonous. True, this isn’t one of Bellini’s best creations and he still sings it with admirably steady and beautiful tone, reminiscent of Ingvar Wixell in his heyday with that quickly fluttering vibrato. He actually sings the recitative before the aria proper, though the text is omitted in the booklet.
Papageno’s second aria from Die Zauberflöte is on the other hand as varied in tone and as full of word-pointing as anyone could wish. This is certainly a role that Keenlyside relishes. Tonio’s prologue from Pagliacci is strong and confident, with Schirmer’s conducting a positive factor; as it is throughout. He sings un nido di memorie in a soft half-voice, gradually growing to an impressive Il tempo gli battevano.
Cilea’s L’Arlesiana is today almost exclusively remembered for the tenor aria É la solita storia but this wide-ranging baritone aria is atmospheric in an impressionistic manner. He sings the wonderful melody of the Pique Dame aria with all the requisite heart-on-sleeve passion and judging from this he must be a splendid Eugene Onegin as well. Don Giovanni’s serenade is hushed and honeyed, the second stanza close to a whisper with the voice shivering with suppressed lust. The other rarity, Allazim’s first act aria from Zaide, which I just recently came across in Harnoncourt’s complete recording (see review), is gloriously sung and the aria is a little gem that should be heard more often.
Wolfram’s song to the Evening Star from Tannhäuser brings the recital to a wonderful end, sung initially with grave dignity, inward and nuanced and with a both warm and glowing O du mein holder Abendstern.
A quality product from all points of view and the only criticism relates to my usual hang-up: Why do they have to print the notes in white, yellow and even light brown against a darkish background? Thank God the texts and translations are readable.
A splendid well-filled, well-sung and well recorded recital with some of the finest baritone arias and with two rarities as an extra bonus. Not to be missed!
Göran Forsling


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