Ramon Vargas - Opera Arias
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Music can do much, much more than politics, religion or sport. Where they separate, music unites; music encourages harmony in every respect. - Ramon Vargas
A reviewer once wrote that his voice was like two elements flowing into each other: the elegance and the technical sovereignty of a 'Tenore di grazia' like Alfredo Kraus and the silver core and the 'tears' of a Fritz Wunderlich.
Having sung more than 40 roles, Ramon Vargas is recognized as one of the leading lyrical tenors of the present. His interpretations of Mozart, Bellini and Donizetti are celebrated throughout the world.
In recent years, he has turned to the French repertoire with success: e.g. Werther, Manon, Romeo and La damnation de Faust. He has also devoted himself to Puccini and new Verdi operas such as La Boheme, Un Ballo in maschera, Simone Boccanegra, I due Foscari, La traviata, Rigoletto, Ernani etc., some of which he presents the first time on this new album!
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Vargas, for one, was NOT underrated, thank God.
He sung at top houses for more than 1.5 decades, in big houses for almost 3. That he did not actually attain 'stardom' to bring lucrative incomes to those houses owes largely to changed (and somewhat depraved) tastes of the audiences.
Vargas is a true artist; he sings elegantly, acts impeccably in the best possible dramatic taste.
I hate an operatic fan of mine who refuses to 'listen' to Vargas simply because he's not as good looking as Vittorio. This is sheer insanity that confused hearing with watching.
And even if you watch, Sr. Vargas is always dramatically alert on stage and acts true to the characters he portrays.
I am listening to his first Donizetti album together with this most recent solo release. The time gap is well-nigh two decades, yet I hear very little, if at all, vocal 'decline' in this latter output.
What can this be if this man is not a living vocal miracle?
In this latter album, Vargas sings Verdi as Verdi is seldom being sung - in true bel canto style.
I would in no circumstances belittle the great Italian Verdian tenors like Corelli, del Monaco, Bonisolli...but if you give me each of them a solo album I'd bet that I cannot listen to the entire CD at one go. Not so for Vargas. There is some thing so purely musical and moving in his singing that you simply do not want him to stop.
Buy Vargas' outputs - they are all value for money, for sure. You will not be disappointed, whether it be Mozart, Verdi, Gounod, Massenet, Bizet, Donizetti, Bellini, Rossini, Puccini...
In short, the most versatile 'all round' tenor, following the footsteps of a Nicolai Gedda and a Francisco Araiza.
The last week of April when this disc was released, Ramon Vargas became the new artistic director of Mexico's Bellas Artes Opera. I take the latter event as an indication that he is seriously considering retirement. His singing on this disc shows he is still at the top of his profession. I hope this is not his last recorded singing. If it is, what a fitting and stunning valediction from such a truly great artist!
All twelve selections on this disc are superbly performed by the Mexican tenor, orchestra and director. Caruso died at 48, Bjoerling at 49,and most tenors at 53 just hang around in various degrees of diminished capacity.Vargas here sounds amazingly youthful with hardly any wear and tear from 30 years of singing opera,about 20 years of which in heavy works by Verdi and others.The purity,richness,warmth,sweetness,luminosity,clarity,evenness and uncommon beauty of tone are all intact - thanks to his formidable technique,discipline and musical intelligence to know his strong assets and limits. All of these qualities and attributes are lavished on every aria from the verismo,Verdi and French operas on this disc with an unerring sense of style and pacing,hardly existent in most of today's singers.He used mezza voce and rubato sparingly without ever compromising the musical line,and deployed a wealth of tonal colors,nuances and intensity to meet the emotional and dramatic demands of these pieces of music. His lower, middle and upper ranges are well balanced,all solid and even throughout- vintage Vargas.All his high notes(including high C in Gonoud) are solid chest tones,ringing and luminous.His singing of the nine Italian numbers can only be matched by Bergonzi at his absolute best.
Vargas' singing here distinguishes the French style from the Italian, and clearly demonstrates that both styles of singing can be ravishing and uplifting; and,with the right singer, can be dramatic,visceral and gripping.He conveys intense passion, rage and pathos in Boccanegra,fear and horrifying thoughts in Due Foscari, with vibrant, dark tones, incandescent intensity and melting lyricism.In Berlioz,he used his remarkable breath control;rich,dark tones for the lower and middle;steely top, and unfailing sense for the drama -all delivered with sustained eloquence for a dramatic build-up and Armageddon.With the equally awesome orchestral support, I was left stupefied at the edge of my seat conjuring up images of Orson Welles delivering his oratory at the brink of Hell. From there, Nessun Dorma brings one back to relax and relish the beauty of Puccini's music and Vargas' mellifluous tones, and that solid, shimmering high B. Just WOW!
Excellent recorded sound and balance between singer and orchestra. A MUST HAVE for any music lover, voice students, young singers or even older singers with already set ways. Someone has to pass on this tradition and art of singing for opera to survive.