Bellini, Verdi, Mascagni, Giordano, Panizza, Meyerbeer, Boito & Ponchielli

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Bellini,Boito & Ponchielli,Giordano,Mascagni,Meyerbeer,Panizza,Verdi
LABELS: Avie
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Aurora
WORKS: Arias by Bellini, Verdi, Mascagni, Giordano, Panizza, Meyerbeer, Boito & Ponchielli
PERFORMER: Sinfonia Varsovia/José Cura (tenor)
CATALOGUE NO: AV 0010
Here is a disc that smacks of hubris. Having parted company with Warner, the aspiring supertenor has founded his own label, Cuibar (marketed under the Avie umbrella), and cast himself as soloist, conductor and producer of its debut recital issue. The booklet concedes that ‘No stylistic association co-ordinates the choice of arias’ – but it is a nonetheless gratifyingly adventurous selection by Verdi (from Il corsaro and Luisa Miller), Meyerbeer (L’africana), Bellini (Norma), Mascagni (L’amico Fritz), Giordano (Siberia), Boito (Mefistofele), Ponchielli (Gioconda) and the Argentine composer Hector Panizza (the eponymous Aurora). More bizarre, however, is the ‘bonus track’, a narcissistic five-minute fly-on-the-wall recording of the multi-tasking maestro at work.

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Still, his is a phenomenal and distinctive voice that he can use to sensational effect. But without a conductor or producer to temper his exaggerated vibrato, which he plays on so recklessly it can threaten his pitch, or to mitigate the harshness of his attack, the effect is unsubtle and unlovely.

The Warsaw Sinfonia sounds unfocused and plodding – as a conductor Cura favours laboured speeds and a homogenised, unrefined though admittedly powerful sound. Perhaps inevitably, given the nature of the enterprise, orchestra and voice seem to exist discretely.

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No texts are included in the booklet, which names only the operas, not the arias. But you do get a brooding fold-out poster. Claire Wrathall