Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Placido Domingo's 'Verdi' Album

Placido Domingo: Verdi

01 - Perfidi! All'anglo contro me v'unite! ... Pieta, rispetto, amore

02 - Pari siamo! ... Io la lingua
03 - Cortigiani, vil razza dannata

Un ballo in maschera
04 - Alzati; la tuo figlio ... Eri tu che macchiavi quell' anima

La Traviata
05 - Di Provenza il mar, il suol

Simon Boccanegra
06 - Abbasso le spade! ... Plebe! Patrizi! ... Popolo dalla feroce storia!
07 - Ecco la spade

08 - E questo il loco
09 - Oh, de' verd'anni miei

Il Trovatore
10 - Tutto e deserto ...
11 - Il balen del suo sorriso
12 - Qual suono!...Oh ciel!....Per me, ora fatale

Don Carlo
13 - Son io, mio Carlo
14 - Per me giunto e il dì supremo
15 - Che parli tu di morte?

La forza del destino
16 - Morir! Tremenda cosa
17 - Urna fatale del mio destino
18 - E s'altra prova rinvenir potessi?

In the year of Verdi's 200th birthday celebration comes this CD of arias from the great Placido Domingo. although the 'B' word doesn't appear anywhere on the cover, what it is is a programme of the composer's greatest baritone arias.

In all appearances, for whatever anyone says about his having sung baritone a century ago as a teenager, this is decidedly a tenor singing in his lower and middle range. The colour is significantly lighter than what we are used to hear in these arias; low notes tend to thin out, while some high notes lack the resonance and high-wire thrill factor that one would expect. Even more discerning is the sense that the singer is making do with whatever voice that is left: certain lines grate with hoarseness, breaths hurriedly snatched in between syllables of a word, and he has a tendency to scoop unmusically from below the pitch. The sound can also become overtly nasal at times.

All these detriments are most obvious in the great aria from Macbeth, which makes it a wonder why the producers chose it as the opening track. I would think that the aria, where the protagonist despairs at an old age faced with hatred from his people, seems in theory a great fit for this aging singer at the top of the operatic world. But it was a musical letdown. If he does attempt to essay the complete role I hope that the conductor in charge will be strong enough to 'discipline' these faults out of him.

Elsewhere, once the listeners ears adjust to his unusual sound, there is much to enjoy, particularly his dramatic characterisation and grasp of Verdi's musical style. The arias of Rigoletto, already a lived-in portrayal, displayed his declamatory prowess especially in his desperate plea (Cortigianni...). The famous aria of Papa Germont is also a fine portrayal, a fine fit musically and dramatically.

Another highlight is the wonderful fugal Council Chamber scene from Simon Boccanegra, his most experienced baritone role to date. He is joined by younger tenor Aquiles Machado and two unnamed singers in the other parts (believe me, the info can't be found on his official website, nor were programme notes available on the iTunes download). Machado's bright lyric vocals contrasted nicely with the darker timbre of his senior's. Each voice weaves and blends in such a wonderful way, one wonders why this opera isn't more performed than it is.

In the Trovatore scene, the tenor clearly relished the opportunity to play the young lusty villain, his voice carrying a sense of fun in the proceedings. This joy is also apparent in Rodrigo's great death scene. One wonders if the once great tenor would be content to play supporting actor to a younger counterpart in complete performances of these operas, but he has done a great job with these roles here in the studio anyway.

These arias are probably better heard in the recordings of numerous great baritones, many of which have performed with Domingo before. This CD then is mostly for the curious, an example of how to sing out-of-fach, and how to sing well into old age. The Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana and conductor Pablo Heras-Casado play with an idiomatic warmth and offered fine support to the singer.

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