WORKS: Arias from Luisa Miller, I lombardi, Aida, Ernani, Otello, Macbeth, Il trovatore, La forza del destino,
PERFORMER: Roberto Alagna (tenor) Berlin PO/Claudio Abbado
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 56567 2
Perhaps the most striking thing about this disc is its cover, with what looks like a beefy body-double standing in for Alagna. Well, there’s no law against that and there’s nothing to stop the French-Sicilian tenor performing what he wants. But whether or not this selection of arias from ten Verdi operas suits him is another matter: he sings some of the heavier numbers in unremarkable voice, without the distinctive timbre that great interpreters bring to these roles. He is stretched uncomfortably by ‘Di quella pira’; indeed, a voice-double here might have been more to the point.
With considerate accompaniments from Claudio Abbado, he is at his finest in the earlier operas – singing gracefully in arias from I lombardi, Ernani and Luisa Miller – although he does evoke the anguish of Otello’s tragic figure and, as a lightweight Radames, manages a telling decrescendo at the end of ‘Celeste Aida’. Alagna’s idiomatic French and the lyrical cut of the music in the Jérusalem excerpts are a reminder of what suits him best – and of what he should be singing if he is not further to erode the sweetness of tone that first marked him out as a name to watch. John Allison