The Argentinean tenor Raúl Giménez, born in 1951, made his operatic debut at Teatro Colón in 1980, when he sang Ernesto in Don Pasquale.
He came to Europe four years later and soon appeared in all the great opera houses, primarily in the bel canto
repertoire – Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti – and in Mozart roles. He made his American debut in Los Angeles in 1991 as Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia
and in 1995 he bowed at the Metropolitan in New York in the same role. I heard him as Ernesto at Covent Garden somewhere around 1990 and was really taken aback by his smooth delivery, his elegance and beauty of tone, combined with brilliant top notes and no mean acting ability. He seems to have been rather neglected by the record companies but he set down three Rossini operas for Teldec, Medea in Corinto
for Opera Rara and a very fine live recording of La sonnambula
for Naxos. Nimbus have two more recitals with him in their catalogue: one Rossini disc and one with Bellini and Donizetti arias. Both discs are among the best of their kind and worth anyone’s money. There is also a disc with duets that I haven’t heard.
To me his voice and technical accomplishment makes him an ideal Mozart singer. Since the war we have had some truly great Mozarteans: Anton Dermota, Ernst Haefliger, Leopold Simoneau, Cesare Valletti, Nicolai Gedda and Fritz Wunderlich, maybe also Luigi Alva, to mention a good handful from the 1950s and 1960s. Raúl Giménez is certainly in their league.
The two opening arias from Il Re Pastore
amply demonstrate his qualities: the mellifluous tone, the effortless runs, his fine legato and his flexibility. Together with the following aria from La Finta Giardiniera
they are rather rare birds in recital programmes and it is good to have them in such excellent readings. It is hard to imagine them better done.
But this impression remains also when we come to standard fare. The light and shade of Dalla sua pace,
for instance: so scaled down and beautiful. We have to go to Leopold Simoneau for something comparable. The complete Philips recording with him is again available. (See review
). And in Il mio tesoro
Giménez sings with a fluency and vitality that even Simoneau is hard pressed to challenge.
For the concert aria Misero! O sogno
it is again Simoneau who is my touchstone on a recital he recorded with his wife Pierrette Alarie for Concert Hall in 1960, now available in a boxed set (see review
), and here I think Simoneau scores through his greater intensity. The Canadian tenor is again the natural comparison when it comes to Così fan tutte
(the legendary Karajan recording), but Giménez runs him close, even though he may lack the last ounce of elegance. As Tamino even Simoneau must give way to Fritz Wunderlich’s stupendous recording, but Giménez is at arm’s length to both which is praise indeed.
The final number, Se all’ impero
from La clemenza di Tito
, is a winner in every respect, full of vitality and forward drive.
The Covent Garden Orchestra play to the manner born and the sound quality can’t be faulted. No one wanting an all-Mozart recital can possibly go wrong with this issue.