LABELS: Eurostar Sine Qua Non
WORKS: Arias by Verdi, Puccini, Giordano, Ponchielli & Leoncavallo
PERFORMER: Deng (tenor); Württemberg Philharmonic/Roberto Paternostro
CATALOGUE NO: 39820222 DDD
Sine Qua Non records packaged this young Chinese tenor’s solo debut album so lavishly – a maroon plush-covered, gold embossed box capacious enough to house comfortably a reissued Götterdämmerung – that alarm bells started ringing in a hardbitten old cynic like me.
Deng makes his first appearance in Britain this autumn as Jacopo in Verdi’s opera I due Foscari at the Edinburgh Festival, and that performance may make a stronger impression than he does on record here. No complaints about the voice itself, for Deng has a dark, resonant, dramatic Italianate tenor with ringing, if not exactly beautiful, high notes. In other words, he is a true tenore di forza, a Manrico, a Don Alvaro, potentially an Otello.
That is the good news. The rest, frankly, is grim. The booklet note states that Deng has studied with Carlo Bergonzi, but he must have been taking lessons in Tuscan cuisine from that supreme Verdian stylist (and proprietor of the Besseto restaurant, I due Foscari), so little of Bergonzi’s vocal artistry – the wonderful legato, the shapely phrasing, the savour of the Italian texts – does he display in this collection of 14 of the most popular tenor arias in the repertoire.
He is not helped by the shoddy accompaniment of the Württemberg Philharmonic and a conductor who either does not notice Deng losing all sense of rhythm – most noticeably in the tricky recitative-arioso of Andrea Chénier’s ‘Improvviso’ – or does not care. His pitch and rhythm often go wildly awry and initial admiration for the fundamental sound of his voice soon fades with the onslaught of relentless forte to fff singing.
With such a shortage of dramatic Italianate tenors emerging from the post-Pavarotti/Domingo generation, one would like to welcome Deng as a white hope for the future. He may well develop into a fine artist but this CD, I’m afraid, is a waste of space in more than one sense. Hugh Canning