ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Roberto Alagna
WORKS: Opera arias by Donizetti, Rossini, Verdi, Bizet, Puccini, Massenet,
PERFORMER: Roberto Alagna (tenor); London Philharmonic/Richard Armstrong
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 55540 2 DDD
Everyone loves a tenor – and none more so than the record companies. In responding to the ‘fourth tenor’, as Roberto Alagna has inevitably been tagged, EMI has really been commendably restrained. The first fruits of the company’s new solo contract with the 32-year-old lyric tenor did not appear with indecent haste, and this is a shrewdly programmed recital.
Born in Paris of Sicilian parents, Alagna is just the man to return to the French their own neglected 19th-century repertoire, and he sets about the task with zeal. So, in among the singalongs like ‘La donna è mobile’, ‘La fleur que tu m’avais jetée’ and ‘Che gelida manina’ (each one, incidentally, trimmed lean of histrionic cliché, and superbly shaped rhythmically and dynamically), come rarities like the enigmatic ‘Source délicieuse’ from Polyeucte and ‘A travers le désert’ from Henri Rabaud’s only surviving opera, Marouf, a real caravanserai of a tale based on The Arabian Nights.
Rossini’s William Tell could have been written for Alagna: his ‘Asile héréditaire’ fuses Italian bel canto refinement and Gallic declamatory immediacy to perfection. Each style is heard, separately, in vividly accompanied arias from Lucia di Lammermoor and Werther, which reveal the unselfconscious directness and meticulous musical sculpting with which Alagna has already made his mark. Hilary Finch