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Internationally renowned tenor Piotr Beczala celebrates the 200th anniversary of Verdi's birth with a collection of highlights that include the roles in which he has for years been acclaimed on the world's great operatic stages. This new CD with the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra offers rarities and arias that were ground-breaking at the time.
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The first disappointment is the Rigoletto aria -- no cabaletta so no high D so Luciano remains king. Similarly, the Vepres aria is the one without the high notes. Total disaster comes with the Trovatore excerpts -- I heard Podles sing Azucena at Caramoor but she left out the C. Here she takes the C but leaves out most of the notes leading up to it, making a caricature of Verdi's cadenza. One would think a lyric tenor could do Ah si ben
mio but Beczala has at best a rudimentary trill - and I doubt the second one would qualify as a trill. Even del Monaco had better trills -- not to mention Domingo, Tucker, Jadlowker or Dalmores. Then we get to Celeste Aida -- one would think a lyric tenor could take the Bb softly -- but no here it is blasted. Probably the best track is the Traviata aria
with its cabaletta and high C -- it is decent but hardly overwhelming. I never really thought Beczala could develop into a dramatic or even spinto tenor. This CD demonstrates that he can't and shouldn't try. Rosa Ponselle once tried to buy up all the NY times
issues in which Olin Downes wrote a scathing review of her Carmen. It might be more feasible for Beczala to buy up all these CDs before too many people hear it. Maybe it can be tactfully withdrawn --no more, please. We need lyric tenors --we don't need
spinto tenors who force.
Beczala met with harsh demands when he recorded this album in the 200th centenary year of Verdi.
The excerpts in this collection are demanding ones - it is a very substantial programme, and Beczala never took any chance to 'back down' on the programme's demands. The cabaletta's contain ALL the top notes that singers like Calleja chose to shy away from.
In terms of characterisation, Beczala is a very seasoned interpretor, way different from Joseph Calleja's melodious but often monochromatic outputs in this genre. And even if pushing his voice, Beczala has more in stock to 'push from' than Rolando Villazon's heavily bleached timbre.
So, the choice is - for a mellifluously characterless reading, a emotive but unfocused reading, or a less than refined but cogent interpretation?
Not even Jonas Kaufmann is a perfect Verdian tenor. Some how, we do not have a Carlo Bergonzi or a Luciano Pavarotti in our operatic era, nor even a Jose Carreras, for this matter.
So Beczala is about the one operaphiles look up to. And they are by and large correct, and this album offers a cogent reason why this tenor has become one of th e opera houses' top choice these days.
So they say, Zurich is a cradle of best tenors...
Beczala's voice in the opera house ambience has a glorious, rich, space filling sound and his stage presence is imposing. On this particular recording, fine as it is, there are moments when he seems to push too hard, a sign that hopefully is due more to miking than to vocal production. But given his occasional near shouting tones, this recording is rich in moments from some of Verdi's greatest arias for tenor. He is accompanied by Łukasz Borowicz conducting the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra.
The arias included in this recital are as follows:
Rigoletto: Ella Mi Fu Rapita... Parmi Veder Le Lagrime
Les Vêpres Siciliennes: C'est Guy De Montfort. Ô Jour De Peine
Il Trovatore: Soli Or Siamo... Condotta Ell'era In Ceppi
Il Trovatore: Non Son Tuo Figlio... Mal Reggendo All'aspro Assalto... Inoltra Il Piè
Il Trovatore: Ah Sì, Ben Mio
I Lombardi Alla Prima Crociata: La Mia Letizia Infondere
Aida: Se Quel Guerrier Io Fossi... Celeste Aida
La Traviata: Lunge Da Lei... De' Miei Bollenti Spiriti... O Mio Rimorso
Macbeth: O Figli, O Figli Miei! ... Ah, La Paterno Mano
Messa Da Requiem: Ingemisco
Un Ballo In Maschera: Forse La Soglia Attinse... Ma Se M'è Forza
Don Carlo: E Lui! Desso, L'infante! ... Dio Che Nell'alma Infondere
joined by luminous baritone Marius Kwiencien
Piotr Beczala is a substantial talent who can be thrilling in live performance. His career seems assured as he is booked with all the major opera companies in the upcoming season. This is a most satisfying tribute to the Verdi year! Grady Harp, June 13