Amilcare Ponchielli: “Cielo e mar” (La Gioconda) – “Il padre!…Il padre mio!” (Il Figliuol prodigo)
Francesco Cilea:“La dolcissima effige” & “L’anima ho stanca” (Adriana Lecouvreur)
Saverio Mercadante: “La dea di tutti i cor” & “Compita è omai” (Il Giuramento)
Arrigo Boito: “Dai campi, dai prati” & “Giunto sul passo estremo” (Mefistofele)
Giuseppe Pietri: “Io conosco un giardino” (Maristella)
Antônio Carlos Gomes: “Intenditi con Dio!” (Fosca)
Giuseppe Verdi: “Sento avvampar nell’anima” (Simon Boccanegra) – “Quando le sere al placido…L’ara o l’avello” (Luisa Miller)
Gaetano Donizetti: “Veleno è l’aura” (Poliuto)
Rolando Villazòn (Tenor), Coro ed Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, Daniele Callegari (Conductor)
Recording: Rainer Maillard, Milan Auditorium, 03/2007 – Recording time: 56’41 –
Deutsche Grammophon 80010871-02 – Booklet in English with original Italian texts and English translations
Mexican tenor Rolando Villazòn’s debut recital disc for Deutsche Grammophon consists, with the exception of the title cut, of operatic rarities and a few less-familiar items from the standard repertory, which he calls “a string of forgotten pearls.” Mr. Villazon’s performance is stylish, passionate, and musically tasteful. He is given excellent and energetic support from the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi under the sound authority of Maestro Daniele Callegari.
Although certainly not a leggiero tenor, Mr. Villazòn’s voice is decidedly a lyric tenor on the lighter side, but deceivingly colored by a dark and somewhat baritonal quality typical of Latin tenors. This fact, coupled with some artificial ambience added by the DG sound engineers, makes his voice sound larger on disc than it actually is in the opera house. Nonetheless, his voice has plenty of heft and the required “ring.” One of the reasons he has eschewed more famous arias in this first recital album may be to escape comparisons with noted tenors of the past. The first aria, “Cielo e mar” from Ponchielli’s La Gioconda, is beautifully sung, but can hardly be compared to recordings by Franco Corelli or Luciano Pavarotti. He scores much higher marks in the less surveyed territory.
He is brilliantly triumphant and displayed to his best advantage in the wonderful aria and cabaletta from Act II of Donizetti’s Poliuto, “Veleno e l’aura.” This is a most demanding aria. It is long, strenuous, and has a very high tessitura. The French tenor for whom it was written, Adolphe Nourrit, committed suicide shortly before the premiere. Nourrit was depressed, among many things, by the fact that he could not manage the vocal demands of this role. Interestingly enough, most tenors cannot manage the role either. Franco Corelli cut this aria entirely and skipped to the cabaletta in his famous 1960 La Scala performances with Maria Callas. Jose Carreras also deletes this aria and cuts to the cabaletta in his complete recording for CBS with Katia Ricciarelli. Mr. Villazòn not only sings the aria but also does so with verve and panache and culminates the cabaletta with a thrilling interpoled high C. It is his best singing on this disc.
Of the other documents in this recording, I was most persuaded by the arias from Gomes’ Fosca and Mercadante’s Il giuramento. The music is first-rate and Mr. Villazòn conveys them with heart-felt intensity. Also worthy of note is the performance of “Io conosco un giardino” from Pietri’s Maristella. It is liltingly sung with lots of charm and the aria is perfect for Mr. Villazòn’s voice.
I would recommend this recital disc for purchase. The listening is enjoyable and it contains a good deal of interesting and unfamiliar music in which Mr. Villazòn makes an artistically positive impression.