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Giuseppe Verdi: Arias from Aida, Un Ballo in Maschera, Luisa Miller, La Forza del Destino, Il Trovatore, I Lombardi, Ernani, Don Carlo, Macbeth, Otello
Marcelo Álvarez (tenor), Arturo Chacón-Cruz (tenor), Annalisa Raspagliosi (soprano), Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, Daniel Oren (conductor)
Recorded in Milano (August 4-11, 2008) – 64’10
Decca reference #: B0012568-02 – Booklet: In English, with Italian texts provided

The titular misnomer of Marcelo Álvarez’s latest CD lies in the fact that there is, of course, no singular definition of what makes a Verdi tenor. Manrico in Trovatorerequires a different approach from Don Carlo, a distinction even clearer in roles such as Otello or Radamès in Aida. Nevertheless, the Argentinian tenor puts forth a valiant effort in this compilation, corroborating his house record of excelling in many Verdi roles while showing admirable artistry in others not always associated with his voice. Having carved his career out of lyric repertoire (Verdi and otherwise), these arias show both Álvarez’s present successes and those that might lie ahead in his future.

Álvarez’s best showing on this CD comes in the selections that allow him to express unbridled emotion. The second aria from Ballo in Maschera, “Ma se m’è forza perderti” is easily the strongest track of the album. His “Ah, sì ben mio … Di quella pira” is equally convincing: during the cabaletta, Álvarez demonstrates remarkable ability to act with his voice while not sacrificing the integrity of the piece. Álvarez’s instrument has remained so clear over the years that he has the luxury of showing a wide range of emotions with very little vocal effort. The Ballo and Trovatore arias show that Álvarez is at his best when he holds nothing back and lets his top ring unchecked. The tenor seems (appropriately) more reserved in the selections from I Lombardi, Macbeth, Don Carlo, and Ernani, but still shows a Verdian line often taken for granted among tenors on stage today.

The two arias from Aida and Otello indicate that Álvarez’s future in heavier repertoire could be very successful. Known best for his lyric roles (Werther, Edgardo, etc), Álvarez will make his stage debut as Radamès in 2010 and has plans for an Otello a few years later. He makes some interesting choices in “Celeste Aida,” utilizing pianissimo that would never be heard in the house, but has no problem with the tessitura. The Otello selection, “Niun mi tema,” shows a surprising, almost baritonal darkness Álvarez apparently keeps in his back pocket and the promising ability the tenor has to add heft to his voice without sacrificing any of its innate clarity and beauty. Whether this will translate to a house success as Otello remains to be seen, but it looks promising.

Daniel Oren leads the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi and generally plays it safe with the tempi. One or two arias show some tempo-bickering between tenor and conductor, but most of the time Oren defers to Álvarez. Rising Mexican tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz makes an appearance in the Trovatore selection, as does Italian soprano Annalisa Raspagliosi. The enclosed booklet contains the text to all arias with English translation. This is, above all, a high-quality recording showing the variety Marcelo Álvarez has shown in the past and the prospects awaiting him in the future.

Paul Wooley




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