This recording was made in 1989 when Gimenez was 38. His Argentinean background and training meant that he came to European attention relatively late. He made his European debut in 1984 and Europe became career base in 1985. Gimenez didn't make his Covent Garden debut until 1990, in Don Pasquale
On this disc Gimenez is heard in arias which were central to his
repertory, with excerpts from operas by Bellini and Donizetti.
He had recorded a previous recital for Nimbus, a disc of Rossini
arias, in 1987, showing that the record company spotted his talent
relatively early in his European career (NI5107
When it comes to performance of the bel canto
repertoire, each generation tends to build on the previous one in terms of simple technical facility. We almost take it for granted that tenors like Juan Diego Florez, Colin Lee and Barry Banks sing this virtuosic repertoire without apparent pause. So the big question is, twenty years on is this recording worth going back to?
Gimenez's voice is not quite as directly beautiful as that of Florez. But if you turn to Una furtiva lagrima
on this disc, you will find that Gimenez sings the aria with an enchanting sense of line and a lilting simplicity. It is phrased with delicacy and you feel the singer is in character. The same goes for the two arias from Don Pasquale
When we move to the Lucia di Lammermoor
excerpts, Gimenez brings not only intelligence but a dramatic feel. By dramatic feel I don't just mean a feeling for the drama, but an element of steel in his voice. Though Gimenez sings the lyrical pieces well, it is in the more dramatic ones that he displays the full variety of his voice.
His instrument has a stronger, harder edged core to it than that of Florez. His tone is, generally, slightly more edgy which is an advantage in these dramatic moments when you appreciate the stronger tones that Gimenez brings to bear. This is combined with an enviable facility for fancy passage-work which reminds me, in a distant way, of Callas's ability to combine a large dramatic voice with an uncanny accuracy of fioriture.
Gimenez's accuracy is not quite uncanny, and there are one or two smudgy moments but none are really damaging. Also, Gimenez has another plus point over my experience of Florez. This is because Gimenez is able to bring far more variety and colour to the voice. He makes you remember that the word coloratura
is related to the English word ‘colour’. Also, in climactic moments he seems to go up to something like E. He uses two, if not three, varieties of upper voice, so that his top Cs are admirably not all of the same tone quality.
The excerpts are generous. We get near 15 minutes for the first excerpt from I Puritani
. Here, and on the La Sonnambula
excerpts we hear the soprano of Sally Copper Dyson whom I found to be rather too vibrato-laden for the roles she plays. In the final excerpt from Lucia
Frank Carroll provides strong baritone support.
Gimenez is well supported by Michelangelo Veltri and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, with the Scottish Philharmonic Singers appearing on a number of tracks. There is a thoughtful essay by Roland Vernon and full texts and translations.
Whilst Gimenez does not supercede Florez for beauty, facility and accuracy, the older tenor brings considerable vocal ability, variety and intelligence to these arias; even if you are a convinced Florez devotee I would suggest acquiring this disc as well.