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Roberto Alagna sings Luis Mariano: C’est magnifique!
Cole PORTER (1891-1964)
C’est magnifique!; Francis LOPEZ (1916-1995) Mexico; La Belle de Cadix; Zambra Gitana; L’Amour est un bouquet de violettes; Cole PORTER I love Paris (duet with Jean Reno); Noël ROUX – Armand CONFORS Salade de fruits; Francis LOPEZ Rossignol de mes amours; Colette MANSARD Aďe, pourquoi on s’aime? (duet with Arielle Dombasle); Francis LOPEZ Maria Luisa; Inez JAMES, Larry RUSSEL, Buddy PEPPER adapt. Henri CONTET Vaya con Dios; Francis LOPEZ Quand on est deux amis (duet with Elie Semoun)
Roberto Alagna (tenor), Paris Symphonic Orchestra and Musicians/Yvan Cassar
Recorded at the Studio Davout, Paris, 20–23 December 2004, 16–18 March 2005, 6-7 April 2005 and 9-10, 22-23 July 2005, except for “I Love Paris” recorded at the Studio du Palais, 22-23 March 2005 and “Aďe, pourquoi on s’aime?” recorded at the Studio Acousti on 17 June 2005.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 00289 477 5569 [39:46]

 

 


 

If I am not mistaken this is Roberto Alagna’s first album under his new exclusive contract with the prestigious DG label. It comes as something of a surprise to find that its aim is towards the more popular end of the market. Nothing wrong with that of course, as long as it is a quality product, and so it turns out to be.

I have to admit that the name Luis Mariano didn’t mean anything to me, and since I suspect that there might be one or two readers out there who are just as ignorant as I was, I had better give a thumbnail portrait of him. Born in 1914 he became a great favourite in France during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s and although he practically never appeared on an opera stage he was regarded by many as one of the great tenors. He performed popular songs and operettas or, should we say, musicals, often created especially for him, in most cases by Francis Lopez, whose compositions form the largest part of this recital. Most of the songs were written in the 1950s which was probably Mariano’s greatest period. He died in 1970.

Roberto Alagna’s earliest memory of Mariano was when he was about ten and his mother set up her tape-recorder in front of the TV set to record a film with Mariano, La Belle de Cadix, two songs from which are on this disc. Mariano then became a hero to him and having wanted for years to pay tribute he now felt that he was ready for it. However this was to be no pastiche album; he wanted to sing the  songs in his own way, not trying to imitate Mariano.

Alagna is in excellent voice and it is obvious from his first entrance that he enjoys this music. He digs into it wholeheartedly and there is a freshness and virility about his performances that silences every criticism, whether it be the creeping feeling that some of this is “kitsch” or that he once or twice can’t resist showing off his by now impressively heroic top notes. Otherwise he sings with such flair, elegance and rhythmic facility that everything is quite irresistible. His French is of course “the real thing”. When he ‘goes English’ in the two Cole Porter songs, he is fairly idiomatic there too.

I played the whole disc straight through twice, first together with my wife, who listened to the first two or three tracks without uttering a word and then said: “That’s a tenor! Who is he?”. Having satisfied her curiosity we listened till the end without further comment. After my second traversal I noticed that my note-pad was blank, which has never happened before when listening for reviewing purposes. But I know that whenever I want to listen again to this disc I can safely press the random button on my CD player and be sure that whatever comes out of the speakers will be to my liking, Mexico and Vaya con Dios maybe a notch above the rest, but C’est magnifique! is equally appealing and Maria Luisa and …

Alagna also invited some of his friends to join him in a couple of duets, which also sound fine. The problem is that since the friends don’t have the same vocal resources they are placed in different acoustics to achieve a believable balance; the effect is that they seem to be in separate rooms. This is a minor problem and one soon gets used to it.

The conductor Yvan Cassar has also made all the arrangements and besides the Paris Symphonic Orchestra, which presumably is a pick-up band, there are numerous individual musicians that I haven’t listed above. Suffice it to say that the contributions from all these excellent instrumentalists perfectly match Alagna’s singing. The sound is of course studio bound but vivid. All in all this is a high quality product that can be recommended with the strongest possible enthusiasm – provided you are hooked on this repertoire. I liked it enormously!

But apart from short playing time – there is a black mark, and a big one: the booklet. I can’t understand why Deutsche Grammophon of all record companies should produce something that is practically unreadable. OK, the credits on page 2 are acceptable, but the rest: the smallest imaginable print in white of course on black of course! Dear record producers, don’t you want music lovers who pay full-price for your products to be able to read the texts? Why on earth then engage good writers like Benoit Duteurtre and Olivier Miquel for liner-notes that are made illegible through the whims of some designer. This is something that also affects Mr Alagna’s own writings?. The information I have culled from the booklet I managed to decipher with the help of a magnifying glass! I think this is an insult to the record buying public – and to Roberto Alagna and the memory of Luis Mariano. Shame on you, DG!

Göran Forsling

 


 



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