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Hao Jiang Tian: Operatic Arias
Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901) Nabucco: Tu sul labbro dei veggenti; Les vêpres siciliennes: Et toi, Palerme; Jérusalem: Grâce mon Dieu!; Macbeth: ome dal ciel precipita; Simon Boccanegra: Il lacerato spirito; Don Carlo: Ella giammai m’amò;
Eugene Onegin: Lyubvi vse vozrasty pokorny (Gremin’s aria);
Gioacchino ROSSINI
Il barbiere di Siviglia: La calunnia;
Vincenzo BELLINI
La Sonnambula: Vi ravviso, o luoghi ameni;
Charles GOUNOD
Faust: Vous qui faites l’endormie (Sérénade);
Le Cid: Il a fait noblement ce que l’honneur conseille;
La Gioconda: Ombre di mia prosapia
Hao Jiang Tian (bass)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Rahbari
rec. Concert Hall, Slovak Radio, Bratislava, 28 June-2 July 2004. DDD
NAXOS 8.557442 [59:37]

Reading the booklet blurb one might be tempted to think this Beijing bass was a stalwart principal at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House, one of the world’s big four. Yes, he has sung there since the 1991 season and has appeared as Count Walther in Luisa Miller, Oroveso in Norma and Raimondi in Lucia. What the booklet does not say is whether he was the principal bass carded for the relative runs or got a sing as a lucky cover. My records indicate his roles at that house are more secondo or comprimario. I record these facts for clarity not to nit-pick. Ho Jiang Tian appears in principal roles at provincial Italian opera houses and elsewhere in Europe and America. This diverse selection of bass arias reflects something of both his stage experience in these theatres and also his studies with eminent teachers.
The first six tracks include some of Verdi’s all-time great writing for the basso cantante voice. Despite what it says in the track-listings for the Nabucco aria (tr. 1), it does in fact commence with the brief orchestral introduction followed by Zaccaria singing the standard opening phrases Vieni, o Levita, not with the start of the second verse. These opening phrases at once reveal Ho Jiang Tian as having a rock-steady sonorous bass voice with a good range of colour and clear diction. His range of vocal expression and characterisation is more limited. He fails to plumb the depths of the King’s despair in Ella giammai m’amo that starts act 4 of the Italian version of Don Carlos and normally referred to as Don Carlo (tr.6). Tian does essay Roger’s rarely heard Grace mon Dieu from Jérusalem, his role début in Genoa, and Procida’s patriotic aria from act 3 of Les Vêpres Siciliennes, both in the original French (trs. 2 and 3). He conveys the contrasting emotions well, and again with good diction, although in rather Italianate French as do many other highly eminent singers. He selects Fiesco’s Il lacerato spirito from Simon Boccanegra (tr. 5) and Count Rodolpho’s aria from Bellini’s La Sonnambula (tr. 9) in tribute to his teaching by Carlo Bergonzi and Gino Bechi. Even if these renditions do not delve into the emotional depths of the words and situations being conveyed, as one would hope to encounter in a staged portrayal, Tian’s strong and steady voiced singing, and clear enunciation, would be a welcome experience in the theatre.
Ho Jiang Tian does not shirk a shot at the Russian language and makes a good fist of it with enjoyable musical results in Gremin’s aria from Eugene Onegin (tr. 7). His La calunnia is relished (tr. 8) whilst Mephistopheles’ serenade is sung with brio (tr. 10). These represent his debut roles in Florence and Buenos Aires respectively. Don Diegue’s Il a fait noblement is a rarity per se let alone in a recital collection such as this. Tian sang the role in a nationally televised production from the Washington National Opera. Placido Domingo, no less, sang the son he laments with some feeling. No date is given for that televised production, but I suggest it would be worthwhile keeping an eye open for any DVD issue derived from it. Ho Jiang Tian looks a big man physically. If his histrionic skills match his vocal sonority and steadiness then seeing him in a staged production with such distinguished colleagues has potential for much pleasure.
The accompanying booklet gives all the words with English translation. The biographical essay on Tian’s upbringing and experiences in Cultural Revolution China are interesting but only allow a guess at the singer’s age. If time is on his side, Ho Jiang Tian could become a stalwart in the basso cantante fach at some of the best addresses. In the meantime, the diversity of repertoire on this 2004 recording makes it an excellent introduction to a singer from a nation and region that is both rapidly learning to love European opera and also providing singers who are making an impact on western stages. This singer and this collection are well worth hearing.
Robert J Farr

see also review by Göran Forsling 


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