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Roberto Alagna: Nessun dorma
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858–1924)
Turandot: Nessun dorma (Atto III)
Umberto GIORDANO (1867–1948)
Andrea Chenier: Colpito qui m’avete … Un di all’azzurro spazio (Improvviso)(Atto I); Come un bel di di maggio (Atto IV)
Alfredo CATALANI (1854–1893)
La Wally: Quando a Sölden (Atto IV)
Riccardo ZANDONAI (1883–1944)
Giulietta e Romeo: Giulietta, son io (Atto III)
Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO (1858–1919)
La Bohème: Non parlate cosi … Io non ho che una povera stanzetta (Atto II); Musetta! O gioia della mia dimora! … Testa adorata (Atto III)
Amilcare PONCHIELLI (1834–1886)
La Gioconda: Cielo e mar! (Atto II)
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863–1945)
Cavalleria rusticana: Comare Lola … Viva il vino spumeggiante (Brindisi)(Atto I); Mamma, quel vino è generoso (Atto II)
Francesco CILEA (1866–1950)
Adriana Lecouvreur: La dolcissima effigie sorridente (Atto I); L’anima ho stanca, e la meta è lontana (Atto II)
Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO
I zingari: Dammi un amore selvaggio e ribelle (Atto I); Chatterton: Che più mi resta! Tu sola a me rimani (Atto II); Zazà: È un riso genti qual’alba d’april (Atto I); Mai più, Zazà, raggiar vedrò (Atto III)
Umberto GIORDANO
La cena delle beffe: Tornato è maggio dopo lungo viaggio (Atto IV); Fedora: Amor ti vieta (Atto II)
Ermanno WOLF-FERRARI (1876–1948)
Sly: Un orso in musoliera innamorato (Atto I)
Giacomo PUCCINI
Turandot: Questa notte … Nessun dorma … O sole! Vita! Eternità! (Atto III)
Roberto Alagna (tenor)
London Voices, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden/Mark Elder
rec. April – June 2003, No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London. DDD
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 6276 [65:41]


On two consecutive days I listened to Alagna, first in bel canto repertoire by Bellini and Donizetti (see review) and then in this programme of verismo arias. The stylistic gap between them seems wide, but such is Alagna’s adaptability and vocal prowess that he seems equally at home in both camps. If I sometimes felt the last ounce of elegance missing in the bel canto arias, this is, on the other hand, exactly what he adds to the verismo arias, which have been screamed and bawled through the last century at full forte, even by notable singers. Alagna shows that this music deserves better; that nuances, light and shade, can also ennoble what looks plain on paper. Others have done this before Alagna, notably Björling and Bergonzi from the not so distant past, but not in a full recital of only verismo arias.
 
This disc starts and finishes with Nessun dorma – but in two different versions. The first is performed as it would be in an opera recital, but with chorus. The second starts a couple of pages earlier with the Heralds announcing that “Tonight let no-one sleep in Peking!”, then comes the chorus, repeating “Let no-one sleep”, whereupon Calaf enters, speaking inwardly, to himself it seems. Then the aria builds to the climactic end. But there, after Calaf’s All’alba vincerò! the final chorus of the opera, utilizing the same melodic material, is inserted and brings the whole disc to a monumental end – even though it feels odd to let the chorus have the last word in a recital starring the tenor. A clever idea it is, however, and the experienced Mark Elder brings out the last ounce of power and glory from the London Voices and the magnificent orchestra.
 
Looking through my listening notes I read “stylish”, “long lines”, “intensity”, “feeling and restraint”, “deeply felt” – not all of them comments that first come to mind when discussing verismo singing. As can be seen from the heading we are offered some of the real war-horses: Andrea Chenier, La Gioconda, Cavalleria rusticana and Fedora – the latter rarely heard complete. This aria appears every so often in recitals. Large parts of the programme also contain seldom performed arias from seldom performed operas. There is a Philips compilation from 1990, juxtaposing arias from two 1970s sessions with the still fairly fresh-voiced José Carreras. Here we find a number of the same arias. The same territory is explored on an even more recent BMG double-CD, collecting three solo recitals Placido Domingo made for RCA at the beginning of his career. There room was found for two arias that originally appeared on the fourth LP side of the complete I Pagliacci – one of them the aria from Chatterton, also recorded by Alagna. The young Domingo sported a voice in a million, but interpretatively Alagna is well on a par with his predecessor.
 
Fairly well-known are the two arias from Leoncavallo’s La bohème, of which Testa adorata was also recorded by Caruso. Alagna sings them lyrically with great feeling but avoids disfiguring sobs. In the aria from Sly he adopts a coarser style for this near danse macabre. All through the recital he shows fine sensitivity and intelligence. On the debit side he sometimes sings a fraction sharp, mainly when the dramatic temperature is at its highest, but I would rather accept that than the under-the-note singing of some of his less well-endowed colleagues.
 
With tremendous sonics, an ever-responsive conductor, good documentation and perceptive notes by John Steane plus complete texts and translations this is another highly recommendable recital. Villazon and Caleja may be challenging him in the future but so far Alagna holds his own against the runners-up.
 
Göran Forsling
 

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