> Jaakko Ryhanen Opera Arias [CH]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Jaakko Ryhänen (bass)
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
(1756-1791)

Don Giovanni: Madamina, Die Entführung aus dem Serail: Ha, wie will ich triumphieren, Die Zauberflöte: O Isis und Osiris, In diesen keil’gen Hallen
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)

Il Barbiere di Siviglia: La calunnia è un venticello
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Don Carlos: Ella giammai m’amò, Macbeth: Studia il passo … Come dal ciel precipita, Simon Boccanegra: A te l’estremo addio … O lacerato spirito
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Der fliegende Holländer: Mögst du mein kind
Jonas KOKKONEN (1915-1996)
The Last Temptations: Paavo’s "Fisherman Monologue"
Piotr Ilych TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Eugene Onegin: Gremin’s aria
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)

Boris Godunov: Prologue (Coronation Scene), Death Scene (Act IV)
Jaakko Ryhänen (bass), Tampere Opera Choir, Kuopio Symphony Orchestra/Markus Lehtinen
Recorded 15-18.5.2001, Kuopio Music Centre
FINLANDIA 8573-87779-2 [67.41]


Ryhänen was a new name to me but perhaps I’ve been living a sheltered life since he has appeared at Covent Garden, the Vienna State Opera, the Metropolitan, La Scala, the Bolshoi, Paris Opera and much else. However, I venture to say that his career has been principally based on the Finnish National Opera where he was engaged as permanent soloist from 1975 to 2000, and why not if this enabled him to build up steadily a repertoire of all the important bass roles in a world where the company system has almost disappeared? The booklet (which gives texts in the original languages – Russian in transliteration, English and Finnish plus a useful essay entitled "A low voice creates authority" and biographical sketches of singer, conductor and orchestra) has photographs of him in all the roles on the disc, so for Finnish opera-goers this will be an essential souvenir of a singer to whom they must owe a great deal. Other CD collectors will enjoy a rich, well-produced voice, a real bass with nothing of a baritone about it.

On home and Slavonic territory I need add little more – his Gremin and Boris sound thoroughly authentic to my ears and I am prepared to take the Kokkonen extract on trust (an impressive piece, not notably more modern in idiom than Mussorgsky). I have a slight query regarding his seeming difficulty in getting the words out in fast, comic music. I thought, in "Madamina", that this might be a question of less than perfect Italian, but since Osmin’s aria brings the same problem I concluded that it is a technical matter. It is true that big bass voices tend to swallow up words, but if you listen to Boris Christoff’s wonderful account of "Madamina" (preserved in the RAI archives, I’m not sure if a commercial recording is available) you will hear that this need not be so. Basilio’s "Calumny aria" starts very well indeed but as the tempo gets up he might as well have forgotten his words and be ad libbing to "diddly-dee" and "rum-ti-tum" for all that gets across. I also feel that he is not an especially memorable interpreter. The phrase which concludes each verse of "In diesen heil’gen Hallen" is one of the most divine even Mozart penned; here it is well sung but no more than that.

Still, most of the disc is given over to those powerfully authoritative characters which we associate with a real deep bass. In two of the three Verdi I also had Christoff comparisons to hand and I have to say that here things were not so definitely in the latter’s favour – and Christoff had after all one of the most fascinating bass voices of the twentieth century. There is real passion as well as rich authority in these Verdi arias and this is a disc I shall certainly return to on their account. In short, I think that anyone who wishes to have a selection of some of the principal bass roles, sung with real authority, will get a lot of enjoyment out of this.


Christopher Howell


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