Allegro Io Son: Bel canto arias with Lawrence Brownlee

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bellini,Bellini and Donizetti
LABELS: Delos
ALBUM TITLE: Allegro Io Son: Bel canto arias
WORKS: Bellini: I Puritani – arias; Donizetti: Arias from Rita, Don Pasquale, La Favorite, La fille du régiment, Dom Sébastien & L’elisir d’amore
PERFORMER: Lawrence Brownlee (tenor); Kaunas State Choir; Kaunas City Symphony/Constantine Orbelian
CATALOGUE NO: DE 3515

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Lawrence Brownlee is the real thing; a genuine bel canto tenor whose new recording amply fulfils the promise of his earlier Rossini recital. Indeed, you may feel that the fearsome sustained top note that ends ‘Ah! Mes amis, quel jour de fête’ from Donizetti’s La fille du régiment is all the proof you need, and the single best reason for adding this disc to your collection.

But there is much else besides: admirable diction in a pair of Donizetti rarities from Rita and Dom Sébastien, even if there’s a tad too much vibrato in the middle register. Then there’s a sinuous legato that would surely have brought Donizetti to his feet. And Bellini too. Brownlee has sung the role of Arturo in I Puritani, and he claims both ‘A te, o cara’ and ‘Son salvo’ as his own. He clearly inhabits a role that he’s created on stage with a more exact sense of vocal character than in music that has been prepared for the recording studio. So his Nemorino in ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ celebrates as well as laments, and the crescendo on the phrase ‘m’ama’ is thrilling.

For the most part the Kaunas City Symphony conducted by Constantine Orbelian is supportive, although the woodwinds seem flustered at the beginning of ‘Quanto e bella’ and there’s some strident brass in Ernesto’s ‘Cerchero lontana Terra’ from Don Pasquale. But these are modest blemishes.

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Christopher Cook