Rolando Villazón: Treasures of Bel Canto

Songs by Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini and Verdi

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COMPOSERS: Bellini,Donizetti,Rossini and Verdi
LABELS: Deutsche Grammophon
ALBUM TITLE: Rolando Villazón: Treasures of Bel Canto
WORKS: Songs by Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini and Verdi
PERFORMER: Rolando Villazón (tenor), Ceclia Bartoli (mezzo-soprano); Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Marco Armiliato


Why quarrel when intimate songs intended for the keyboard are orchestrated? Composers and singers have always looked beyond the drawing room and the recital room to the concert hall. But these intimate songs sometimes drown in these new orchestral depths. And then there’s also the question of the orchestrator, or arrangers as they are described on Rolando Villazón’s new recording of songs by Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi.

Robert Sadin has a sharp ear for Bellini’s orchestra in ‘Torna, vezzosa Fillide’, notably the woodwind, and there are no tears when he ventriloquises early Verdi. But the four songs by Donizetti are disappointing, particularly ‘Il Sospiro’ as reconceived by Carlo Guaita which sounds as if it had fox-trotted into a 1950s Palais de Danse, and Villazón coarsens his voice to match.

Elsewhere, this most mercurial of tenors is in good voice. There’s elegant tone and line in Verdi’s ‘Il mistero’ and the vocal flamboyance you expect from an Italian-style tenor in ‘Torna, vezzosa Fillide’. For many the appearance of Cecilia Bartoli as a duetting guest in Rossini’s seductive ‘Les amants de Séville’ will be a welcome bonus, if a tad mean at one song only.


Marco Armiliato and the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Orchestra are supportive partners, but it’s not an entirely successful trip to the concert hall. Christopher Cook