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Erwin Schrott
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791)
Don Giovanni
Madamina, il catalogo è questo  [5:37]
Deh, vieni alla finestra [2:05]
Fin ch’han dal vino [1:29]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901)
Don Carlos
Elle ne m’aime pas!  [9:58]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Le nozze di Figaro
Bravo, signor padrone … Se vuol ballare [3:26]
Tutto è disposto … Aprite uin po’ quegl’occhi [4:38]
Non più andrai [3:53]
Giuseppe VERDI
Macbeth
Studia il passo, o mio figlio … Come dal ciel precipita [4:00]
Hector BERLIOZ (1803–1869)
La Damnation de Faust
Voici des roses [2:47]
Charles GOUNOD (1818–1893)
Faust
Vous qui faites l’endormie [2:37]
Giuseppe VERDI
Les Vêpres siciliennes
Palerme! Ô mon pays! … Et toi, Palerme [7:41]
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791–1864)
Robert le Diable
Voici donc les debris … Nonnes, qui reposez
Erwin Schrott (bass-baritone)
Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana/Riccardo Frizza
rec. Palau de les Arts “Reina Sifia”, Valencia, 28, 31 January, 1, 4, 6 February 2008
Texts and translations in German, English and Italian enclosed
DECCA 478 0473 [52:39]
Experience Classicsonline

This Uruguayan singer has hit the headlines lately as being the fiancé of soprano Anna Netrebko and, less flatteringly, for cancelling performances. Neither of these factors should influence a reviewer. In my case I had already experienced him in a very positive light as Figaro in the recent Le nozze di Figaro DVD from Covent Garden, conducted by Antonio Pappano – by all accounts a highly recommendable production (see review). The present recital is in fact his recording debut on CD and it is an impressive calling card that at once places him as one of the top contenders in the bass-baritone field. Of the eight operas represented on the disc Schrott has performed five so far and I would think that before long he will have taken on the remaining three as well.
 
If I have any grumble at all it is that it is difficult to find a clear line in the programming. The Mozart arias are sprinkled about, three Verdi scenes ditto and I suppose the aim was to attain as much variation as possible. Leaving this aside the singing and music-making is on an exalted level and no lover of the deepest male voice should hesitate to acquire this disc. ‘The deepest male voice’ isn’t quite true since he is no basso profundo but rather a basso cantante, who in many situations is able to manage baritone parts. Of the roles represented here only Banco in Macbeth and Procida in Les Vêpres siciliennes are roles for deep basses and even they require an easy top to make full effect.
 
The Mozart roles seem to have been Erwin Schrott’s main concern and besides Figaro’s three arias, which are as exquisitely sung here as on the DVD, he also excels as both Leporello and Don Giovanni. He has sung both roles on stage but nowadays it is primarily Don Giovanni who is his main concern. He has sung Masetto as well and hopes to sing Il Commendatore before he gets too old.
 
His catalogue aria is rather quick but not rushed and it is a flexible reading. His voice has clear baritone quality with brilliant and bright high notes. He characterizes well, more through discreet colouring of the tone rather than exaggerated word-painting: he doesn’t dot his ‘i’s and cross his ‘t’s, so if the type-setting of his name on the cover of the disc was supposed to characterize his singing the designer hadn’t heard him in action. It’s a youthful, virile voice – and who said that Leporello has to be middle-aged?
 
A beautifully played cello solo opens Philippe’s aria (it’s sung in the original French) from Don Carlos, and one wonders how he will be able to express the ageing monarch’s contrition. But I needn’t have worried. Elle ne m’aime pas! is sung with more gravelly tone and a more pronounced – but fully controlled – vibrato that lends age as well as wisdom to his reading. He also catches the inwardness of much of this scene, which is no bravura aria but a deeply moving personal utterance of a tortured ruler. The return of Elle ne m’aime pas! at the end of the scene is indeed very touchingly sung.
 
Back to Don Giovanni, but now as the protagonist, he is light-voiced and mellifluous in the serenade and there is a certain vibrancy in his voice that reveals sexual desire. The champagne aria, on the other hand, is virile and exuberant – truly spumante in fact. Figaro’s Se vuol ballare is sung with resolute energy and the preceding recitative is very detailed and articulated. He has the required blackness for Banco’s aria from Macbeth and as Mefistofélès in La Damnation de Faust he is rather heavy – as is Berlioz’s brass-laden accompaniment. Figaro’s agitated act 4 aria Aprite un po’ quegl’occhi is as dark and menacing as it should be and there is a jolly swagger in Non piu andrai.
 
As the other Mephistofélès, in Gounod’s Faust he is only the more horrid for sounding youthful and elegant and his laughter scary. He may not be the subtlest of Verdians in Procida’s aria from Les Vêspres siciliennes but he is expressive and intense and has impressive depth. Bertram’s aria from Robert le Diable is the relative rarity here and it is sung with great authority and feeling.
 
I hadn’t heard the orchestra from Valencia before but it is a classy ensemble – the musical director is Lorin Maazel – and the conductor Riccardo Frizza, also a new name to me, contributes eminent support to the singer. The recorded sound is state-of-the-art and the booklet has an essay in three languages on Erwin Schrott but none on the music. Full texts and translations but for some reason there are no translations into Italian when he sings in French.
 
This is indeed an auspicious recording debut and if Erwin Schrott plays his cards well he will be a bass-baritone in the top-flight for many years to come.
 
Göran Forsling
 

 


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