This is a very thoughtfully programmed and carefully constructed recital. Not just a star vehicle, though it is definitely that, it seeks also to analyse the development of Verdi’s style of writing for the tenor as well as the progress of this particular tenor’s career as a Verdi singer. Alvarez is one of the finest Verdi interpreters today, having wowed London audiences in the lead roles of Trovatore, Rigoletto and Ballo, to name a few. He is one of the few antidotes to the current appalling dearth of spinto tenors and this CD - his Decca solo debut - allows him to show off what he is best at, though it is honest enough not to cover over some deficiencies.
Alvarez’s voice tends to be full and heroic, capable of golden tone in the middle register but not beyond a bit of bellowing at the top. It’s not surprising that he is at his best while showcasing the roles that he has performed on stage. The highlight of the disc is the scene from Trovatore. Manrico has long been one of his signature roles and this disc shows us exactly why. Ah! si, ben mio is heartfelt and passionate, for once sounding like a real love song, while Di quella pira positively thumps with energy and vocal fireworks, including a thrilling top C at the end which seems to go on forever. Likewise, his two numbers from Ballo show how good he is at portraying both sides of Riccardo’s character. The governor’s laddish sense of humour is clearly evident in the jokey tone of Di tu se fedele, while his boisterous confidence gleams from the sheen on the top notes. However Alvarez also captures the conflicted sense of loss in Ma se m’è forza perderti, if anything even more successfully, sounding quite moving towards the climax. Perhaps surprisingly, in fact, the gentler numbers on this disc come off very well indeed, such as the flawless sense of line in Quando le sere al placido, sung with beautiful glowing tone. The ensuing cabaletta is audibly more effortful but still bold and likeable. Likewise, the aria from Forza is very beautiful: Alvarez shades his voice down to a gorgeous pianissimo without any loss of colour, accompanied all the while by a very sensitive orchestra, laden with sorrow. Next to this Celeste Aida sounds rather effortful in places, with gasping breaths occasionally breaking up the musical line altogether. However the final note shows the ringing thrill that he can do so well.
Elsewhere the trademark swagger is on ample display, fitting in perfectly with the rum-ti-tum of Lombardi and the reckless vigour of Ernani in his mountain camp. His vocal energy captures Don Carlo’s hopelessness as well as the poignancy of lost love, and there is a palpable sense of grief in a very sensitively sung Macduff. However, the disc builds to Otello, as do the booklet notes which make a great deal of Alvarez’s ascent to “that same great role ultimately destined to crown his success.” Let’s hope so, because if this performance of Nium mi tema is anything to go by then we have a lot to look forward to. He darkens his voice dramatically for this aria, sounding almost like an entirely different singer. The opening lines are full of sombre resignation, heroism recalled at a time of tragedy. The cries of “Morta” verge on the histrionic, but “Pria d’ucciderti” feels like a look into the abyss, helped by barren woodwinds. The final lines are gentle and wistful, but the closing orchestral chords strike the listener like palpable blows. Magnificent.
So while there may be problems on this disc there is a massive amount to enjoy. It provides us with a worthy survey of Alvarez’s Verdi career and gives us a tantalising peek at where he may be heading.
1. Se quell querrier io fossi …. Celeste Aida (Aida) [4:46]
2. Di tu se fedele…(Un ballo in maschera) [3:21]
3. Forse la soglie attinse…Ma se ma forza perdeti (Un ballo
in maschera) [6:03]
4. Fede negar…(Luisa Miller) [2:09]
5. Quando le sere al placido (Luisa Miller) [4:00]
6. L’ara, o l’avello apprestami (Luisa Miller) [3:24]
7. La vita e un inferno all’infelice (La forza del destino)
8. O tu che in seno (La forza del destino) [3:28]
9. Quale d’armi fragor poc’anzi intesi? (Il Trovatore,
feat, Annalisa Raspagliosi as Leonora) [2:23]
10. Ah! Si, ben mio (Il Trovatore) [3:18]
11. L’onda de suoni mistici (Il Trovatore, feat. Anna Raspagliosi
as Leonora and Arturo Chacon Cruz as Ruiz) [1:41]
12. Di quella pira (Il Trovatore, feat. Annalisa Raspagliosi as
13. La mia letizia (I Lombardi) [2:15]
14. Merce diletti amici ... Come rugiada al cespite (Ernani) [3:28]
15. Dell’esilio nel dolore ... O tu, che l’alma adora
16. Lo l'ho perduta ... Io la vidi (Don Carlos) [3:47]
17. Figli, o figli miei ... Ah, la paterna mano (Macbeth) [3:48]
18. Niun mi tema (Otello) [6:02]