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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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Tenor Arias: ‘Amore, sublime amore’. Janez LOTRIC (tenor)
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

La forza del destino, ‘Qual sangue sparsi’ (St. Petersburg Edition of 1862)
Il Trovatore, ‘ Di qual tetra luce….Ah si, ben mio Di quella pira’ (with Yaroslava Poberezhna, sop.)
Otello, ‘Datemi ancor l’eburnea mano’; ‘Niun mi tema’
Un ballo in Maschera, ‘Forse la soglia… Ma se m’é’
Mikhail Ivanovich GLINKA (1804-1857)

Ivan Susanin, ‘Bratsi! V metel’ (‘Brothers into the snowstorm’)
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)

Der Rosenkavalier, ‘Di rigori armato il seno’
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)

Guglielmo Tell, ‘Prelude, and ‘Ah, non mi lasciar, o speme di vendetta’ (Act 4)
Adolphe ADAM (1803-1856)

Le postillon de Lonjumeau, ‘Mes amis, écoutez l’histoire’
Umberto GIORDANO (1867-1948)
Andrea Chenier, ‘Come un bel di maggio’.
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

Turandot, ‘Nessun dorma’
Kiev Chamber Choir
Ukrainian National Opera Symphony Orchestra/Johannes Wildner
Recorded at the Grand Concert Studio of the National Radio Company of Ukraine, Kiev. September 5th – 8th 2001
NAXOS 8.555920 [62.07] Bargain Price.

 

This is the second CD Naxos have issued featuring this singer. In the previous issue he was singing duets with the baritone Igor Morozov. On the back of the jewel case are quotations from a review extolling his tone, even line and incisive high notes. Given these virtues and the interesting repertoire I approached this disc in eager anticipation. The repertoire presented is such that I expected an open toned lyrico-dramatic tenor with good extension and vocal heft with the capacity to hit, and hold, some of the highest notes in the fach. The first track features the aria from the original, 1862, St. Petersburg version, of Verdi’s ‘La Forza del Destino’. This is the one omitted when he revised the score in 1869, substituting the ‘Rataplan’ in a revised Act 3. Lotric reveals a strong, rather tight, slightly nasal tenor with a touch of baritonal hue. There is a certain thrill in the sound but the choppy phrasing and rather monochromic tone soon began to tire my ears. These failings are even more clearly evident in tr.2, an extended scene from Act 3 of ‘Il Trovatore’ concluding with ‘Di quella pira’ with its notorious, if unwritten, high note. At this point, with Lotric’s voice being squeezed to give a bleating tone and with an ungainly near wobble, I knew that at least some of the repertoire featured here is at least a couple of sizes too heavy for his voice. This is confirmed by his inability to add weight to the tone in the ‘Otello’ extracts that follow. However, in Otello’s death scene in tr.4, he starts more promisingly and his first cries of ‘Desdemona’ have real feeling whilst in the reprise of the call he does try to soften the tone a little. His rendering of the final act aria from ‘Ballo in Maschera’, tr.5, confirms my earlier feeling that this should be the heaviest role on this disc. It is where Lotric sings with a more varied tone if without any great palette of colour or grace of phrasing.

By far the longest extract is on tr. 8. This is over 13 minutes. The prelude is followed by Arnold’s ‘Non mi lasciare’ from Act 4 of Rossini’s ‘William Tell’. Here Lotric uses a distinctly lyric tone with ease, fluency and altogether better line than he exhibited in the heavier roles. However he does not have the beauty of tone or the free concluding high note that Pavarotti gives in his portrayal in the complete opera (Decca). I was also reminded of another renowned tenor of yesteryear as I moved to tr.9, Adam’s ‘Mes amis’, notorious for its stratospheric vocal demands. Using his lyric voice, Lotric’s slight nasality suits the French repertoire. He shapes the start of the aria well, actually using some near ‘mezza voce’ head voice, but his approach to that infamous high note, and its execution, are crude, particularly to one introduced to the aria, and opera, by Gedda’s open voiced rendering on an EMI vinyl LP of long ago.

The ‘supporting cast’ of soprano, orchestra, chorus and recording are all up to the high standard that Naxos demands, and regularly gets, from its east European sources. The booklet is a model of its kind for this price category, and much better than often provided elsewhere at double or even triple the price, with full libretto and English translation in addition to a brief essay on the extracts in English and German.

Recognising that this disc does not portend another contender in the ‘4th tenor stakes’, it features a real opera singer with the vocal capacity to sing at least some of these roles in a staged performance. Given that the selection of arias is more varied and interesting than many, then at the modest investment involved it is worth hearing and may tempt purchasers to extend their operatic horizons a little way from the standard fare.

Robert J Farr

Robert Hugill has also listened to this disc

Before I had listened to a note of this recital, I was rather puzzled (and fascinated) by the wide scope of items chosen. A selection of arias that ranges from the high-wire antics of 'Le Postillon de Lonjumeau' to the heavy-weight dramatics of 'Otello' might conceivably represent a greatest hits album. But to have this range in one recital seemed to be both unlikely and possibly foolhardy, though it is true that in the recording studio a number of 'portmanteau' artists can be made to have a repertoire far wider than would be possible in the natural acoustic of the opera house. One of the few artists who would seem to have been capable of recording this repertoire naturally would be Nicolai Gedda.

On listening to the disc, Gedda is not too wide of the mark. Janez Lotric, a Slovenian tenor who made his operatic debut in 1980, has a clean, Northern-sounding voice, neither Slavic nor truly Italianate. He has already garnered plaudits for his disk of Tenor and Baritone duets recorded for Naxos. This is his first complete recital. Some idea of his strengths and weaknesses may be gained by listening to the aria from Glinka's 'A Life for the Tsar'. With his mixed vocal character, Lotric would seem to be ideal for this aria. Glinka's music lives in a world mid-way between Italian and Russian opera and needs Italianate-Russian singing. The more dramatic opening section is a little disappointing, Lotric sounds uncomfortable in Russian and his vocal production is uneven. But the top of his voice is clean and gleaming and comes into its own in the more relaxed middle section with its stratospheric notes which Lotric seems to take in his stride. This impression is reinforced by the following item, the Tenor Aria from "Der Rosenkavalier". Lotric's voice is not ideally Italianate, but you cannot help but admire its bright ease and he concludes with a stupendous held high C sharp.

But the clinching item is the aria from Adam's "Le Postillon de Lonjumeau" (an opera famously recorded complete by Gedda). This (in)famous showpiece needs a free, easy top with a stupendous range. Lotric provides all of these. You could perhaps imagine a more ideal performance, lighter with more of a sense of humour. But faced with such vocal pyrotechnics I cannot really complain. This aria is followed by a fine performance of Arnold's Act IV aria from William Tell. Given Lotric's perfectly acceptable French in the Adam item, it is a shame that this number was recorded in Italian. Arnold seems to be one of Lotric's calling cards, he has just been performing the role at the Paris Opera. Given the performance here, this is perfectly understandable. There was still sometimes a hint of the uneven quality in Lotric's vocal emission, but quality of his top register again makes you forgive him.

By now, a curious reader will be wondering why I have said nothing about the first five items, all by Verdi. Verdi's tenor parts, particularly in the later operas, require a tenor to possess something of a baritonal quality (Domingo, after all, sang as a baritone in his youth). This is something that Lotric lacks. He seems to be aware of it and I think he is trying to over-compensate. So, particularly in the Verdi items, the lower register sounds effortful and his vocal emission uneven with the addition of a number of aspirates. This is a shame, because when he relaxes he can produce some lovely music. Though sometimes a bit generalised emotionally, his opening aria from the St. Petersburg version of 'La Forza del Destino' creates a credible dramatic portrait and has fewer faults than the other Verdi arias.

Given my strictures above, the 'Otello' items are remarkably successful. They are well chosen in terms of the dramatic weight required. If we had to have 'Otello' then these are the most suitable bits, I could not imagine Lotric having the correct vocal heft for the opening 'Vittoria'. His version of 'Di Quella Pira' from 'Il Trovatore', of course includes all the traditional high notes in quite stunning form, even though Lotric does not quite convince as a spinto tenor in the rest of the aria.

On repeated hearing, I began to wonder about this issue of vocal heft. On this recording Lotric's voice is rather spot-lit and closely recorded. This over closeness of recording might, in reality, be the cause of the vocal 'problems' described above. Recorded in a more natural way, Lotric's voice might have a far smoother emission. I began to wonder whether the recording engineers had been attempting to help Lotric along a bit. If they were doing so, then I am afraid they have failed. This impression is reinforced on re-listening to Lotric's 1994 duet recital for Naxos. This disc gained quite a few plaudits and it seems to have been recorded in a rather more naturalistic, sympathetic manner. On the 1994 disc Lotric's voice has similar qualities (positive and negative) to this recording, but on the 1994 disc the sympathetic recording does not highlight the negative qualities the way this one does.

The final two items must be counted more successful than the Verdi items. Neither seems to highlight Lotric's lower register. His Andrea Chenier is a bit stolid, lacking that Italianate quality which is needed to render the poet sufficiently impetuous, but the performance is creditable. And the disk concludes with a fine performance of 'Nessun Dorma'.

Johannes Wildner, Kyiv Chamber Choir and the Ukrainian National Opera Symphony Orchestra give Lotric sterling support.

This is rather a mixed recital. There is so much to admire in Lotric's voice that I cannot help feel that he was badly advised when planning the repertoire. Surely we could have had fewer items from the standard tenor repertoire and more of the lesser known items which exploit Lotric's spectacular upper register.

Robert Hugill


 



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