WORKS: I puritani – Act III: opening scene. Add more
PERFORMER: Marcelo Álvarez (tenor); Welsh National Opera Orchestra & Chorus/Carlo Rizzi
CATALOGUE NO: SK 60721
Since he stepped in for Roberto Alagna after that Met Traviata débâcle, young Marcelo Álvarez has been well in line for the albeit dubious accolade of fifth (or is it sixth or seventh?) tenor. But don’t be blinded by the hype: this debut disc, glowing as it is with archetypes of Italian operatic glory, reveals a singer of thoughtful individuality and distinctive presence.
While Álvarez’s tenor is as lithe and athletic as you could wish for (ringing high Cs at the end of ‘Se tanto in ira’ and ‘De miei bollenti spiriti’) its character is revealed in a suppleness of timbre which augurs well for vocal health and greater bel canto sophistication in the future. Even now it can create compelling moments of both intimacy and whimsy.
In ‘Questa o quella’ and a springing ‘La donna è mobile’ words are worked vividly and imaginatively enough to cleanse the arias of cliché. Spacious yet immediate recording acoustics give the excellent orchestra and chorus of Welsh National Opera real dramatic presence, notably in Rigoletto’s ‘Parmi veder le lagrime’. Here, and particularly in the 15-minute opening scene from Act III of Bellini’s I puritani, Álvarez’s powers of physical stamina and imaginative sustaining power are challenged, and that challenge splendidly met. Hilary Finch