Cogul was born in Reus in Spain, where he made his debut as
solo singer at the age of eight. He studied with baritone Pablo
Vidal and at Academia Marshall in Barcelona. The last ten years
he has been living in London, where he has sung in opera as
well as concert and recital.
so many baritones, live or on records, he makes his entrance
during the orchestral introduction to the aria, starting in
this case almost in his dressing-room but then advancing quickly,
landing almost on your lap, while the orchestra remain at a
safe distance. “Compagnia d’opera Italiana” was an unknown quantity
to me but a Google search gave 11,800 hits and they do have
a home page but it was unavailable, so pace, dear readers,
I can give no information apart from the fact that they are
reportedly quite busy recording opera. The orchestra seems well
rehearsed but the impression is a bit anonymous. Señor Cogul
in barber outfit seems to have a lively stage presence and this
Figaro takes many liberties vis-à-vis Rossini’s intentions,
very often slowing down to be able to cajole the text and the
music. The whole is a bit free-wheeling but in the midst of
it there is a Buster Keaton face – he doesn’t seem to smile.
The voice is on the dry side and not free from strain. Up on
high his tone is tenoral but the high notes don’t come without
effort and often seem unsupported and unsure. He is undoubtedly
a serious artist and he knows what he wants to express but too
often his vocal means is an impediment to reach his goal. He
phrases Eri tu with much insight into Renato’s (or Anckarström’s
in the ‘original’ version) character but he seems too weak,
both vocally and dramatically, to fulfil his intentions. Generally
speaking the temperature in a recital like this should be near
the boiling point but Señor Cogul’s is only simmering.
Puritani aria – I once heard it marvellously sung at
Covent Garden by the young Dmitri Hvorostovsky – is inward and
smooth but the voice production is uneven. The champagne aria
from Don Giovanni – or Don Juan as he is in Spanish –
is quite bumpy and rhythmically unsteady. This libertine is
more plebeian than nobleman. Poor Tonio in Pagliacci
may be hunchbacked but in this reading he is also geriatric.
What is Tonio saying? For sure he says: Scusatemi se da sol
mi presento … (Excuse me if I appear alone …), but later
on he says things like “[the author] wrote with real tears …”,
“you’ll see the melancholy fruits of hatred. Pangs of grief,
angry shouting …”, “we are men of flesh and blood…”. Carlos
Cogul understands all this but he seems more embarrassed than
eager. Un nido di memorie is certainly beautifully sung
but so lacking in temperament.
applaud his inclusion of a couple of not so frequently heard
arias: the Puritani already mentioned, the beautiful
Zazà aria and the one from La Favorita, neatly
sung but in the cabaletta of the latter he is out of sorts.
He adopts a darker tone for the recitative of the Trovatore
aria and the aria proper is sung inwardly as it should but
so seldom is, but this is music that requires a great voice.
Carlos Cogul for all his good intentions isn’t on that level.
It becomes even more evident in the concluding two arias, two
of the pinnacles of the baritone repertoire: Iago’s Credo
and Rigoletto’s Cortigiani. Again he knows what he wants
but his resources let him down. The Credo can be sung
without histrionics – listen to Gabriel Bacquier on the Solti
recording – but here it is only small-scale. Likewise his Rigoletto
is vulnerable but I don’t pity him. This is a role he has sung
on stage and possibly he would make more impact when seen as
well as heard.
bonus tracks save the day. Here, in ‘lighter’ music, he changes
voices and his pop voice is actually very attractive with beautiful
timbre and even his top notes are freer and ‘sit’ more comfortably.
Caruso feels over-long, however, and becomes monotonous
while the soupy arrangement of Schubert’s Ave Maria with
a crooning soloist and even a chorus spreading treacle in the
background made me get a half-pint of bitter to rinse the system.
But You Raise Me Up, that Irish sounding song, written
by a Norwegian, offered quite the best singing on the whole
disc: steady, confident and beautiful. The “Special UK Edition
Bonus Track” – how do they manage? – My Way is also excellently
sung, but here he is up against Frank Sinatra or, for the French
original; Comme d’habitude, Mireille Mathieu. These two
final tracks are, however, what I will be returning to.
may be harsh words about a debut recording but I must report
what I feel. As a final verdict I want to repeat my general
impression: Carlos Cogul knows what he wants to do with these
arias but he lacks the vocal means to fulfil his intentions.