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Operatic Duets for Baritone and Bass: Hampson and Ramey
Domenico CIMAROSA (1749-1801)

Il Matrimonio Segreto, ‘Se fiato in corpo avete’
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1868)

Don Pasquale, ‘Cheti, cheti immantinente’
Marino Faliero, ‘Israele, che vuoi?’
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)

I puritani, ‘Il rival salvar ti dei’…..’Suoni la tromba’
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Attila, ‘Uldino, a me dinanzi’…’Tardo per gli anni’
Don Carlos, ‘Restez!’
Simon Boccanegra, ‘Suona ogni labbro il mio nome’
Un Giorno di Regno, ‘Tutte l’armi’
Thomas Hampson, (bar) and Samuel Ramey, (bass)
Munchner Rundfunkorchester/Miguel Gómez-Martinez
Recorded Studio 1, Bayerischer Rundfunk. July 1997
WARNER ELATUS 2564 60815-2 [73.11]

 

This 1997 recording emerged in 1999, at full price on the ‘Teldec’ label, with the catchy title ‘No Tenors Allowed’. If not a first, although I cannot think of a predecessor, it made a welcome change from the more normal steady flow of tenor-soprano duets, be they husband and wife (EMI) or a shared wet nurse (Pavarotti and Freni on Decca).

There have been notable baritone-tenor discs, Björling-Merrill and Milnes-Domingo (both RCA). Universal recently capitalised on their contracted artists with a disc of bass-baritone Bryn Terfel and high mezzo-cum-soprano Cecilia Bartoli (Decca). Elsewhere the majority are compilations ‘pulled’ out of complete opera recordings with no generally unifying theme, a notably enjoyable exception being Pavarotti-Freni in Puccini love duets (Decca).

Here the artists appear to have put considerable thought into a varied and well-devised programme to give a generously filled disc. There is a stimulating mixture of the rare and the familiar. Of the rare, ‘Israele, che vuoi’ from Donizetti’s Marino Faliero (tr.3) gives insights into another of the composer’s neglected works and provides opportunity to hear some sonorous well-tuned duet singing. Each singer colours his tone and characterises well with cleanly articulated diction, skills in welcome evidence throughout. One also cannot but share the singers’ evident enjoyment in the ‘patter’ duet from ‘Don Pasquale (tr.2) and revel in the fine legato and long-breathed phrases to be heard in ‘Il rival’ from Bellini’s I Puritani. Not as rare as it once was is the Philippe-Rodrigues duet from Act 3 scene 2 of Don Carlos in that it is sung in the original French version. The singing and recording here is superior to that on either of the complete versions of the opera available in French featuring Hampson and Van Damm (EMI) and Nucci and Raimondi (DG). Ramey is a fuller-toned and more sonorous King than either rival and Hampson being infinitely superior in tone and command of the language to Nucci. That being said I personally find more bite and drama in the Italian version. As Attila Ramey’s tone is a little looser than on his complete 1989 recording under Muti (EMI) and Hampson hasn’t quite the élan of Zancanaro on that recording either (tr. 5).

The booklet is a straight re-print from the full price issue with brief descriptions of the duets but without putting them in act or scene context. The information is given in English, French and German. There is a full libretto but no translations.

Those who missed this enjoyable and well sung disc first time round should not do so again at its reduced price. Highly recommended.

Robert J Farr



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