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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792–1868)
Giovin fiamma
Levy Sekgapane (tenor)
Münchner Rundfunkorchester/Giacomo Sagripanti
rec. 2018, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Studio 1, Munich
Booklet including lyrics available online

The young South African tenor Levy Sekgapane was winner of the 1st prize in Plácido Domingo’s OPERALIA competition in 2017 – an award that has turned out to be a springboard to an illustrious career for many a promising singer in the past. Moreover he has won several other prizes, including the Belvedere competition and the Montserrat Caballé competition – prestigious prizes indeed! And the successes have not been long in presenting themselves: Deutsche Oper Berlin, Hamburg State Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Copenhagen, Liceu Barcelona, Opéra National de Paris, Glyndebourne, Oslo and Riga have invited him and more is surely to come. The exceptional fluency of his coloratura, the bright but at the same time full and rounded tone and his ability to nuance are all features that bode well for the future. Add to this his strong easy low notes down in the baritone register and he is certainly as well-equipped as can be imagined for a career in the bel canto repertoire. Tackling some of Rossini’s most challenging roles may seem a dangerous start to a recording career, but he carries them through with flying colours, which this thrilling CD testifies.

As his starting-point he has chosen roles that three legendary Rossini tenors excelled in: Giovanni Davide, Andrea Nozzari and Manuel Garcia – the latter probably the most famous, not least as a successful teacher. His daughter Maria Malibran became one of the most famous singers of her time. Two of the tenors – Garcia and Nozzari – were so called baritenors, indicating that their voices had an extension downwards into the baritone register, which also Levy Sekgapane has. Davide’s forte was his easy extension upwards and the arias written for him have a higher-lying tessitura than the others. All three mastered the coloratura technique to perfection, and the arias included here are real tours de force. Maybe the weakness of a recital of this kind is that one can feel surfeited with coloratura fireworks after a good hour of listening. But when it is executed with such skill and elegance as here the reviewer’s task is certainly no chore.

It opens with Il barbiere di Siviglia, but not the opening Ecco ridente. Instead we are treated to Cessa di più resistere from the second act, just before the finale. Here all Levy Sekgapane’s best qualities are exposed, and he crowns it with a glorious final note. Languir per una bella from L’italiana in Algeri follows, and it is a fine piece with beautiful French horn intro – excellently played. The singing is virile with forward-moving enthusiasm and he applies those little grace notes with taste and elegance. The aria from La Cenerentola is fresh and energetic with those glowing top notes effortlessly hit. All three arias are long time favourites in Luigi Alva’s various readings – I have at least five versions of the Barbiere aria – and Sekgapane holds his own in such elevated company. The fourth Carcía opera is Semiramide, which Alva never essayed. The aria requires a wide range and stunning vocalism to make an impact, and Sekgapane delivers accordingly.

Moving over to the repertoire of Giovanni Davide, we first hear an excerpt from Otello. It is Rodrigo’s cavatina Ah, come mai non senti, and those who know the Cat Duet, ascribed to Rossini but actually a compilation by Pearsall of themes by Rossini and Weyse, will recognise one of the themes here. The extended aria from La donna del lago, one of many operas of the early 18th century based on Sir Walter Scott, has a long intro with horn solo, and when Sekgapane enters he demonstrates good legato singing. His soft pianissimo singing is also very attractive. The Zelmira aria is a vehicle for technical fireworks that are truly stunning, and so is the aria from Il Turco in Italia. As an encore – certainly a long one – he offers the only example of Andrea Nozzari’s repertoire: Elisabetta regina d’Inghilterra. It is a strong and dramatic piece and Levy Sekgapane sings it gloriously.

If this excellent calling card is something to reckon with, this young South African should be able to elbow his way to the forefront in the lyric tenor trade. Lovers of Rossini and/or lovers of good tenor singing should have their fill here. The playing of the Munich Radio Orchestra is fully worthy of the occasion and the recording is excellent. Place your orders, music lovers!

Göran Forsling

Written for Manuel García (1775 – 1832)
Il barbiere di Siviglia:
1. Cessa di più resistere [7:13]
L’italiana in Algeri:
2. Languir per una bella [6:50]
La Cenerentola:
3. Si, ritrovarla io giuro [6:13]
4. Ah dov’è, dov’è il cimento? [7:39]
Written for Giovanni Davide (1790 – 1864)
5. Che ascolto? ... Ah, come mai non senti [6:39]
La donna del lago:
6. Oh fiamma soave [7:59]
7. Terra amica, ove respira [7:51]
Il Turco in Italia:
8. Intesi: ah! Tutto intesi ... Tu seconda il mio disegno [5:38]
Written for Andrea Nozzari (1776 – 1832)
Elisabetta regina d’Inghilterra:
9. Deh! Troncate i ceppi suoi ... Vendicar saprò l’offesa [7:52]

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