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Baritone Arias
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Attila - Tregua è cogl'Unni... Dagli immortali vertici [6.04]
Ernani - Gran dio... Oh! de' verd'anni miei [4;36]
I vespri siciliani - In braccio alle dovizie [6:25]
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1791-1868)
Il barbiere di Siviglia - Largo al factotum [4.59]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Le nozze di Figaro, K. 492 - Hai già vinta la causa! Cosa sento!... Vedrò mentr'io sospiro [4.50]
Don Giovanni, K. 527 - Deh, vieni alla finestra [2-19]; Finch'han dal vino, 'Champagne Aria' 1.25
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
Lucia di Lammermoor - Cruda, funesta smania [3.48]
La Favorita - Ma de' malvagi invan..Vien, Leonora, a' piedi tuoi [5:23]
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1857-1919)
Zazà - Buona Zazà del mio buon tempo [2:04]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Hérodiade - Ce breuvage pourrait. [4:29]
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Carmen - Votre toast, 'Toreador Song' (Act II) [4:57]
Dimitri ARAKISHVILI (1878-1953)
Tkmuleba Shota Rustavelze (The Legend of Shota Rustaveli) - Madioba Gmerts (Thanks be to God) [3:56]
Lado Ataneli (baritone)
Württemburg Philharmonic Orchestra/Lodovico Zoche
rec. Studio of Württemburgische Philharmonie, Rutlingen, Germany, 9-12 July 2007
NAXOS 8.572438 [55.15]

Experience Classicsonline

The former Russian states of Eastern Europe have been responsible for many of the greatest bass voices of the twentieth century. Think the Russian Chaliapin (see review) and the Bulgarians Christoff (see review) and Ghiaurov. Of the current world-class bass voices Abdrazakov (see review) and Anastassov (see review) stand out. Baritones from that neck of the woods have been distinctly scarcer, with only Chernov and Leiferkus leaping to mind. The distinction between the bass voice and the baritone only became distinct in the repertoire with the compositions of Verdi. Before that the generic description was bass. A composer, whether it be Mozart or Donizetti would temper his compositions to suit the upper register ability of the cast for whom he was writing. Verdi and later composers put a whole new perspective on that division.

Nowadays the baritone is considered the middle category of male voice. Several sub-divisions exist in opera houses but are seldom denoted by composers. The voice range lies between G an octave and one half below middle C, to F, or even G, above. The middle of some baritone voices will be to the lower end of the range whilst for others the opposite will be true. In the Germanic repertoire sub-divisions are often made with Spielbariton (Don Giovanni) and Bass-Bariton (Wotan, Sachs, and The Dutchman) being common. However, outside that repertoire, particularly in Italian opera, no such divisions are generally made although opera house intendants might consider some baritone voices as being more suitable for Donizetti and the lyric Verdi roles (Germont pére in La Traviata and Rodrigo in Don Carlo) than for the composer’s heavier roles such as Rigoletto and Macbeth and those called for by Puccini and the verismo league. The arias on this discs focus on the mainstream Italian repertoire with notable exceptions. These include the Toreador’s aria Votre Toast from Bizet’s Carmen (tr.12). Sung in French this is often taken by a singer whose middle lies in the lower part of the baritone range and, occasionally, by a basso cantante with a good top. The same can be said of Mozart’s Don Giovanni (trs 4-5) and Figaro (tr.3).

Another contrast between the bass voice and the baritone is that of treatment by the recording industry. In the days of LP and early CD there was no shortage of recital discs of arias from the Bulgarians mentioned as well as the American Sam Ramey. Recital by baritones has been in much shorter supply. Yes, there are collections derived from complete opera recordings, but I can only recall a handful of bespoke baritone aria recitals recorded by the likes of Merrill, Warren and even Gobbi. So I approached this CD, and particularly its eclectic repertoire, with high expectations although these were to be disappointed by Ataneli in his performance as Iago (see review).

The Georgian baritone Lado Ataneli has worked with some of the world’s finest conductors and at the best operatic addresses. The recorded sound is clear with the voice slightly recessed. However, that slightly recessed sound cannot hide Ataneli’s vocal shortcomings, which, regrettably, are many. First and foremost is the dryness of his tone. It lacks much colour or cover and whilst being forceful and strong it becomes unsteady under even the slightest pressure. The lack of ring at the top of the voice is evident in the opening item from Verdi’s Attila (tr.1) when in the cabaletta his unsteadiness tends to a wobble at the climax and at the same point the cover to the tone thins. His Largo al factotum (tr.2) is better with well-articulated words and some softer singing, although to my ears his phrasing lacks grace. His quick patter as he addresses Figaro’s disparate whereabouts is good.

In the Mozart arias (trs.3-5) he manages some ring to the voice but fails to convey any sense of seductiveness as the licentious Don (tr.4). In Finch’han dal vino the voice spreads when it needs to be tight and he struggles to keep up with the tempo (tr.5). The extract from Donizetti’s Lucia (tr.6) reveals too many raw patches in his tone, lack of legato and the high note is unsteady.

I need not go on except to say that his singing of the last item, by his compatriot, is better than the rest. The measure at fifty-five minutes is short. The recital by the mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato (review shortly) is so much better vocally and also comes in at seventy-two minutes. This issue comes with a track-related synopsis for each excerpt and biographies of conductor, orchestra and singer. The libretto and English translations can be accessed at the Naxos website.

Robert J Farr



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