with Angela Gheorghiu, soprano
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Evelino Pidò, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon, 2002
This recording reminds us of how Roberto Alagna excelled in the bel canto repertoire little more than a decade ago. Now he does not raise my enthusiasm as before, but that does not mean that I can recognize his merits and continue to love this album.
It includes bel canto roles from operas by Bellini and Donizetti, passing quite naturally from the repertoire of the tenore di grazia to that of the lirico-spinto. To give an idea of the contrast, I remember at least that Bel canto opens with a rare piece from Poliuto, with recitative Veleno è l’aria ch’io spiro and aria Sfolgorò divino raggio, where the tenor sung with great impetus and not without emotion, recognizable in the phrase «Dio quest’anima mi diede», but immediately after you pass to La sonnambula, where the tenor sings a delicate Prendi, l’anel ti dono, in which not only the atmosphere is changed, but also the timbre of the voice, that here becomes lighter, ideal for characterizing a young (very young) Elvino.
Beyond this setting, in Bel canto Alagna shows a soft and delicate vocal line, a careful expressiveness, excellent legato, as well as a solid high register, that the tenor do not spare, showing off a handful of C, C sharp and natural D that embellish the execution. In the first aria from La Favorite, Ange si pur, Alagna makes also use of falsetto, that I found less annoying than in other, even authoritative, singers, because here it is not detached from the rest of the voice, but continues the line.
The aria that has less convinced me is Meco all’altar di Venere, especially in the cabaletta Me protegge, me difende, not because Alagna is vocally less suitable, but because he is less elegant than in other arias, especially in the end, although he remains enthralling. In other respects I was not entirely convinced also by A te, o cara from I Puritani (where, as in La sonnambula, Angela Gheorghiu sings remarkably but briefly), where self-congratulation spoils a little the interpretation.
I found much better Sogno soave e casto from Don Pasquale, which is sung in a deep and sincere way, and the two arias from La fille du régiment, Pur me rapprocher de Marie and Ah, mes amis, so different in character and yet complementary to each other. As for L’elisir d’amore, Nemorino’s two arias are among the best of the album and I am not referring in particular to Una furtiva lagrima, which is also sung with great emotion, but to Quanto è bella, quanto è cara, which Alagna makes a real gem (perhaps because it is usually neglected in favour of its “sister”?): although here Nemorino is sad is not silly as usual, Alagna implies with extreme refinement his dull and funny character, managing to mock him “from the inside” of the aria.