José Cura (tenor)
Canio/Pagliaccio; Barbara Frittoli (soprano) Nedda/Colombina; Carlos Alvarez
(bass) Tonio/Taddeo; Charles Castronovo (tenor) Beppe/Arlecchino; Simon
Keenleyside (baritone) Silvio; Netherlands Radio Choir; Royal Concertgebouw
Decca 467 086-2 [73'05]
Riccardo Chilly's innate feeling for Italianate lyric tragedy, José
Cura's involved reading of Canio, Simon Keenleyside's triumph in the role
of Silvio and Barbara Frittoli's beautifully-shaded assumption of Nedda make
this an eminently recommendable Pagliacci. Perhaps to list the strengths
of this issue in this manner is a trifle over-simplistic: it also ignores
the contributions of the Netherlands Radio Chorus, which is nothing short
of exemplary. What is in no doubt, however, is that this is a major issue
that exudes acute dramatic sense from every side.
Frittoli confirms her position amongst the higher rungs of the ladder
contemporary operatic sopranos. She has the ability to float high notes magically
(try O che bel sole de mezz'agosto in Act 1 Scene 2, for example)
and to shade her phrases with an innate musicality (try anywhere in Act 2
Scene 1). Alvarez's Si può? (a non-serial equivalent to the
opening of Berg's Lulu) has just the right weight. Simon Keenleyside's
success as Silvio stems from his refusal to lay on the vibrato heedless of
context. Instead he offers an intelligent reading of the part.
Cura, like Keenleyside, realises the value of not over-stretching the limits
in a piece that on the surface positively cries out for over-indulgence.
His Un tal gioco, credetemi, therefore, is all the stronger for this.
He brings an almost baritonal quality to Vesti la giubba.
Any initial qualms about the Concertgebouw Orchestra's abilities were banished
within the first bar: it is obvious its outing into this territory was a
hugely rewarding one. To top it all, Decca's recording is of demonstration
quality. This hugely impressive issue will grace even the most
Pagliacci-heavy of shelves.