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
). 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.
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
are roles for deep basses and
even they require an easy top to make full effect.
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.
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?
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!
end of the scene is indeed very touchingly sung.
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
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
as Mefistofélès in La Damnation de Faust
rather heavy – as is Berlioz’s brass-laden accompaniment.
Figaro’s agitated act 4 aria Aprite un po’ quegl’occhi
as dark and menacing as it should be and there is a jolly
swagger in Non piu andrai.
the other Mephistofélès, in Gounod’s Faust
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
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.
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.
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.