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CD: Crotchet

Carlo Colombara Opera Arias
Carlo Colombara (bass), Alejandro Escobar (tenor)*, Orchestra della Svizzera italiana/György G. Ráth
rec. at the auditorium of RSI, Lugano, 5-8 May 2003
BONGIOVANNI OP CD 0106 [54:02]


Experience Classicsonline

Carlo Colombara Opera Arias
Giuseppe VERDI (1813 – 1901)
Don Carlo
1. Ella giammai m’amo [10:26]
2. Mentre gonfiarsi l’anima … Oltre quel limite* [7:09]
I Vespri Siciliani
3. O tu Palermo [7:43]
4. Come dal ciel precipita [4:40]
5. Infelice, e tuo credevi … Infin che un brando vindice [5:31]
6. Tu sul labbro de’ veggenti [5:44]
Charles GOUNOD (1818 – 1893)
7. Vous qui faites endormie [3:01]
Arrigo BOITO (1842 – 1918)
8. Ecco il mondo [2:43]
Sergej RACHMANINOV (1873 – 1943)
9. Cavatina di Aleko [7:00]

Bologna-born Carlo Colombara has been a leading bass on the international circuit for two decades, his breakthrough occurring in 1989 when he made his debut at La Scala as Procida in I Vespri Siciliani to great acclaim. It is thus a fitting tribute to him that O tu Palermo is included in this recital. For me, and I suspect for many other music lovers, he came to notice through his participation in the Naxos recording of Verdi’s Requiem, conducted by Pier Giorgio Morandi. In his review in Gramophone Alan Blyth wrote enthusiastically about Colombara’s ‘truly magisterial conjuring of the flames of hell at "Confutatis maledictis". Tempted by Blyth’s overwhelmingly positive review I hastened to the nearest record store – ten years ago they still existed – and purchased the only remaining copy, something I have never regretted. That a bass with such histrionic power would do well in Verdi’s many great operatic roles seemed obvious, and the present recital proves this emphatically.
It is Verdi that dominates the programme and looking back through the last forty years or so it seems that we have had few Italian basses in quite this class. Cesare Siepi was the towering gigant in the fifties and sixties, Ivo Vinco and Bonaldo Giaiotti were important names during the sixties and seventies and for some years Carlo Cava also joined their company. Then in the late sixties Ruggiero Raimondi appeared, and he is still, at 67, a force to reckon with – though in all honesty he is, and has always been, more bass-baritone than true bass. Where Colombara stands out from these illustrious predecessors is in his ability to ‘conjure the flames of hell’, as Alan Blyth put it, with the vehemence and rasping blackness of, say, Boris Christoff and Evgeny Nesterenko. In the aria from Attila he comes into direct comparison with the latter, whose complete recording of the opera for Hungaroton I am still very fond of (Let me make it clear at once that the supporting cast, apart from Sylvia Sass, is rather mediocre). Colombara comes close to the formidable Russian in intensity and there, as in all the excerpts, his theatrical presence is very tangible.
The greatest of the arias here, Philip II’s monologue from Don Carlo, very aptly demonstrates that he has many strings to his bow. This heart-rending settledown with his past requires fine nuances and a good legato to express all the king’s conflicting feelings, and Colombara fullfills the requirements admirably. He delivers a beautifully vocalised O tu Palermo and is a noble Banquo in the Macbeth scene. The cabaletta following the Ernani aria is a tour de force and Zaccaria’s Tu sul labbro from Nabucco is lyrical and noble. Having just listened to Carlo Cava on the classic Decca recording of the opera I have to admit that Colombara is just as good.
About a year ago I reviewed a recital with French songs with Carlo Colombara. I was deeply impressed by his ability to scale down his large voice to the intimate format but was a bit worried about his voice losing in quality. I used the metaphor ‘a Formula I car on a go-cart track’. (see review). What impressed greatly was his good French and his singing of the two Don Quichotte cycles by Ravel and Ibert, written for Chaliapin. Mephistopheles’ aria from Faust finds him in typical French mood and he lightens the voice accordingly to sound more French, while retaining the black intensity. This is of course Chaliapin repertoire, as is the concluding cavatina from Aleko, sung in excellent Russian and with fine sense for Rachmaninov’s typical melancholy. Between these two arias there is a brief reminder that Boito’s Mefistofele is one of his great roles. He appeared in the role at the Savonlinna festival this summer and I regret that I wasn’t able to hear him then. Ecco il mondo tells us that Boito’s devil is more earthbound and outgoing than Gounod’s – both are excellently devillish.
It should be noted that many of the excerpts presented on this disc are in fact longer than the tracklist says. There are rather long stretches of recitative preceeding the arias proper and the Macbeth aria continues until the end of the scene when Banquo is attacked and killed. There are no texts in the booklet but a long appreciation by Alan Blyth and biographical notes on singer, orchestra and conductor. Those last-named do a good job and the recording is fully worthy of the occasion.
Bass recitals are not too frequent. In recent time I have had two DG discs with René Pape and Erwin Schrott, but this is the first one with an Italian bass. It is certainly worth anyone’s attention.
Göran Forsling


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