Bizet, Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi & Puccini

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bizet,Donizetti,Rossini,Verdi & Puccini
ALBUM TITLE: Ramón Vargas Ð Between Friends
WORKS: Duets & ensembles by Bizet, Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi & Puccini
PERFORMER: Ramón Vargas, Roberto Frontali, Miriam Gauci, Vassily Gerello, Vesselina Kasarova, Manuel Lanza, Barbara Lavarian, Leo Nucci; Milan Giuseppe Verdi SO/Vjekoslav Sutej
CATALOGUE NO: 82876 54343 2
The ‘concept’ seems to have got a little skewed in Ramón Vargas’s new album. Are Figaro and Almaviva really best buddies as they negotiate a deal in ‘All’idea di quel metallo’; and Elizabeth and Carlo just ‘good friends’ as Charles V prepares to rescue his grandson for the hereafter? It’s probably best to ignore the essay on operatic friendship in the booklet that introduces this collection of seven duets and one trio. That way you will also be spared the irritation that it doesn’t contain a line of biography about Vargas or any of his musical friends and collaborators. However, the singing, which means Vargas, is top-notch. There’s a proper Italianate sound with ripe tone and well-judged vibrato in his Verdi, and something of a revelation in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore – a sweet-voiced Nemorino in the extended duet with Dulcamara and sung in the head as much as the chest as it should be. Leo Nucci as the mountebank ‘doctor’ is a natural foil to such vocal innocence. Only that old crowd-pleaser ‘Au fond du temple saint’ fails to please. Too slow, too solemn to pay a proper debt to genuine male bonding at the opera. Christopher Cook