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Support us financially by purchasing this disc from
Love Duets
Ailyn Perez (soprano) and Stephen Costello (tenor)
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Patrick Summers
rec. 9-11 December 2013, BBC Maida Vale
Contents list at end of review
WARNER CLASSICS 2564 633485 [65.44]

Every once in a while a disc arrives that takes my fancy on first hearing. This is not necessarily a sound base for a review, being a subjective response, perhaps influenced by mood or a good glass of wine. Aware of the danger I wait a while and then repeat the playing, in the case of this collection by a husband and wife duo, several times.

The rear of the case tells me that the disc is dedicated to the memory of Richard Tucker, well-known tenor in the early post-Second World War era at New York’s Metropolitan Opera and on recordings. Both singers have benefited from having been recipients of the award named in memory of the tenor, he in 2009 and she in 2012. The only Hispanic to have won the Tucker Award Ailyn Pérez also won the fifteenth annual Plácido Domingo Award.

Stephen Costello made his Met debut in 2007 aged twenty-six; his wife is scheduled to make hers in February 2015 as Micaëla in a starrily cast revival of Carmen. The two together have sung at many leading operatic addresses and came onto my radar when they sang the tenor and soprano leads in Verdi’s demanding La Traviata at London’s Royal Opera House in the spring of 2014. It is an opera in which they have starred at several other major opera houses.

The first thing that appealed to me is the fact that the excerpts chosen are not brief. The first five tracks each exceed eight minutes. The sound is clear, the voices set in an atmospheric but natural acoustic. Yes, I could and did find criticisms, but these were far outweighed by the pleasure of their graceful singing and phrasing in these diverse items. It is not often I hear a nice mezza voce ending to the Cherry Duet, or a diminuendo with which Costello finishes the first verse of the Rigoletto excerpt during which his tonal brio and clear tone and enunciation is particularly welcome along with his wife’s vocal decorations. The extract from L’Elisir D’Amore is even more of a delight where Pérez’s singing is particularly pure with good articulation, phrasing and sparkling characterisation. Meanwhile, Costello really comes into his own in the extract from Faust where he caresses the words and phrases as to the manner born, as well as in good French language inflection and vocal style. The duo are particularly well suited to this music. Despite their stage experience in La Traviata, the act one duet Un di felice left me a little cold. Yes it is joyous, but he brings a shade too much edge to his voice whilst her singing is warm-toned and beautiful without touching the heart. I am surprised the choice was not the act three Parigi o cara, which would have given them the opportunity to caress the Verdian lines and tug at my heartstrings as Bergonzi and Caballé do in their recording (see review). When it comes to Puccini’s O soave fanciulla I have no qualms. Their voices soar together, she sings softly and gently, he responds and at the end as she goes up the scale there is no tenorial competition from him as he drops volume. I really could feel the moonlight shining. Her Mimi scheduled at Hamburg in December 2014 and La Scala in the following August will be worth hearing, I do not know if he is partnering her in either of these runs. I would happily pay good money to hear them.

As to what might be snobbishly considered as trifles from their American heritage, both Ailyn Pérez and her husband give the music its due. My notes simply say they are Mercedes voices in a Ford Fiesta, but that is cruel to the music and their heritage.

For me a thoroughly enjoyable collection that shows great promise for the future. I look forward to seeing either of them, or preferable both together, in a staged performance.

Robert J Farr

Contents List
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Toi! Vous!…N’est-ce plus ma main [8.03]
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)
L’amico Fritz
Suzel, buon dě (Cherry Duet) [8.41]
Giuseppe Verdi
Signor né principe – E il sol … Addio! speranza [7.13]
La traviata
Un dě felice, eterea [3.18]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
L’elisir d’amore
Caro elisir … Esulti pur la Barbara [8.46]
Georges Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Il se fait tard [9.54[
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
La bohčme
O soave fanciulla [4.08]
West Side Story
One hand, one heart [4.16]
Richard RODGERS (1902-1979) and Oscar HAMMERSTEIN II (1895-1960)
If I loved you [3.00]
Frank LOESSER (1910-1969)
Guys and Dolls
I’ll know [3.34]
Robert WRIGHT (1914-2005) and George FORREST (1915-1999)
And this is my beloved [3.58]