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Alagna and Gheorghiu in Recital
by Joel Kasow

Operanet reviews two new recital discs by Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna

PARIS - French tenor Roberto Alagna and Roumanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu, an on and offstage couple, sing duets on a new recital disc from EMI , his record company. The duets, interspersed with arias, get off to a strong start with the best-known item from a little-known work, the "Cherry Duet" from Mascagni's L'Amico Fritz, here given with the requisite charm. Exerpts from Manon - including an aria for him - and Faust demonstrate their affinity for the French repertoire. The duet from Boheme is satisfactory as is the great duet from Les Troyens, which nonetheless - especially in her case - requires a different type of voice, however well the music is negotiated. Alagna's performance of Des Grieux's aria shows that he is not afraid to sing pianissimo when required and can still be singularly impassioned. His excerpt from La Belle Hélène shows a nice sense of humor. But why a four-minute extract from Anna Bolena for Gheorghiu, meaningless out of context other than as a pretext for some pretty singing of music she will never sing on stage. "Depuis le jour", on the other hand, is given a reading in the light lyric tradition. The duet from Don Pasquale is sung with charm, but are they contemplating the opera onstage: it requires a different vocalitá than Elisir d'Amore which they do quite well and is scheduled for recording by Decca, her record company. Bernstein's "Tonight" is perhaps the greatest curiosity and while it is sung with passion lacks authenticity.

Gheorghiu's solo disc for Decca (452 417-2) can also be regarded as a consecration as solo recitals of arias are, sadly, no longer a priority of the record companies. (This is perhaps one of the disadvantages of the ever longer playing time that has accompanied each technological advance.

In the 78 era, a singer only needed two arias, preferably sung many times on stage, later four in the days of 45, a minimum of eight at the start of the 33 era and now eleven or twelve, and this disc is only 57 minutes.) Gheorghiu displays a pretty lyric voice which does not stand up to the pressure of fortissimo high notes, but the range of tone and color she commands within her palette is unusual. Arias which work particularly well with such an approach are those from Falstaff, Chérubin, I Capuletti e i montecchi and Boheme. When extra intensity is required, the voice has difficulty withstanding the pressure. This is nonetheless a fascinating memento of a young artist, one who it will be a pleasure to observe for many years.

Nor should we forget Alagna's recent debut recital (EMI 7243 5 55477 2 9) in which a selection of French and Italian arias shows him at his appreciable best in the French selections, excellent as well in the Italian repertoire other than a heavy-handed approach to Ernesto's aria from Don Pasquale. He does, however, succeed in making a musical experience of Federico's Lament from Cilea's Arlesiana.

Click here for Operanet's interview with Roberto Alagna.

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