Carlo Colombara - The Art of the Bass
Flamenco Introduction [2.38]
Georges BIZET (1838-1870) Carmen - Votre toast (Song of the Toreador) [6.18]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Don Carlo - Ella giammai m'amň [10.00]; Nabucco - Tu sul labbro [5.52]; Simon Boccanegra - Il lacerato spirito [5.12]; Attila - Mentre gonfiarsi l'anima parea [7.30]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868) Il barbiere di Siviglia - La calunnia [4.17]
Arrigo BOITO (1842-1918) Mefistofele - Ecco il mondo [3.05]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943) Aleko - Aleko's Cavatina [7.04]
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881) Boris Godunov - Proschái moy syn (Farewell, my son) [10.58] Carlo Colombara (bass)
Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana/György G. Ráth; Bulgarian National Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Ghiaurov; Prague Tchaikovsky Orchestra/Fabrizio Milani
rec. Sofia, 28-31 January 2006; Prague, 2006; Lugano Besso, April 2003
Video Format: NTSC; Aspect ratio: 16:9; Sound format: PCM 2.0
Titles in English and sung languages
Sleeve-notes and biographies in English only
NAXOS DVD 2110612 [68.28]
The life of a reviewer, and particularly an opera-lover, is full of surprises and questions. This issue presented me with plenty of both. First I have scarcely ever seen or reviewed a recital DVD of a singer that was fully staged and costumed. I think of those by Christoff at Lugano (see review) or Alfredo Krauss (Dynamic) as examples, albeit that some films-cum-recitals by Cecilia Bartoli may make the exception that proves the point. More surprises came with the fact that the content does not derive from one concert, but from three recording sessions spread over three years in different venues and with different orchestras and conductors. Some of the questions then start to emerge. First as to which was recorded where and with whom. There are details on the back of case but these make a puzzle all on their own. They leave a cryptic crossword at the starting line when it comes to clarity. The second question was to wonder why the recital started with a staged Flamenco. Was this perhaps related to the Flamenco dancers who surround this Escamillio as he sings Votre toast from Bizet’s Carmen? This he does with plenty of brio and pleasing tone and without any strain at the top of the voice (CH. 2). I was also interested to know when the singer was born and where. This is not mentioned in the biography although it seems that he won the prize for the best Italian singer at the 1986 G B Viotti prize and now lives in Barcelona. In fact he was born in Bologna and his voice is very typical of the smooth high bass or basso cantante that emanate from that region of Italy. As to his date of birth that seems clouded in mystery. Whatever the answer he is now getting plenty of work and has done so over the past decade and a half and at some of the best operatic addresses. To conclude the questions I would have liked to know about the choruses involved as well as the supporting singers of Uldino in the extract from Verdi’s Attila (CH. 9), Fyodor in the death of Boris (CH. 11) and even the singer of the brief L’amors at the end of Votre Toast. None of these choral contributions are attributed.
As to the staging, whilst the opening of Philip’s lonely soliloquy Ella giammai m'amň (CH. 3) looks at first as if it is in black and white, the colour of his bedspread belies that. The overall tinta of the pictures reflects the King’s mood and lonely desperation. The characterisation is well expressed by Colombara if without erasing memories of the likes of Christoff in the Lugano recital referred to above. Therein lies the dilemma I have in assessing this diverse collection. Colombara’s voice is perhaps too smooth and even in production. It requires a touch of the great Bulgarian’s grittiness as well as his lower-toned sonority to bring out the character of some of the roles heard. I can certainly hear the agony of his King Philip, and also in the introduction and aria Il lacerato spirito from Simon Boccanegra, as Fiesco carries his dead daughter and lays her body on a bier (CH. 5). I do not however relate to his Attila or his Zaccaria (CH. 7). I find the latter lacking in vocal gravitas. Strangely, perhaps, I found Colombara’s singing in the two extracts from Russian opera (CHs. 10 and 11) the most beautiful, expressive and dramatically convincing; this despite the lack of Slavic grit in his tone.
Generally speaking the staging is convincing, even if, as Philip, Colombara’s hair shows none of the white he sings about. For Basilio’s La calunnia from Il barbiere di Siviglia the setting is just plain silly and merely shows up the dubbing and the singer’s too often encountered lack of sonority in the lowest notes.
I have Colombara’s playing and singing of Roger in the recently re-issue of Verdi’s rarely performed twelfth opera, Jérusalem (see review). Incidentally, there, as with King Philip here, the producer failed to whiten the singer’s hair making a somewhat stark incongruity with the sung words. Likewise I found him sonorous without being lugubrious in Bellini’s La Sonnambula (see review). His well tuned voice is heard to good effect in the famous bass aria Vi ravviso.
Robert J Farr
A varied issue but well worth investigating.