London Orchestra conducted by Yvan Cassar

DGG 4811352, September 2014

This CD was a welcome surprise and comes in handy for the holiday season as not only is Alagna in remarkably good voice but he also sings repertoire new to him. Moreover some of the arias haven’t been recorded since the golden age of French tenors, an era which ended with the death of Alain Vanzo. Since then only Alagna continued this tradition and it is too bad he doesn’t sing his national patrimony even more because that’s where his real strength lies and that’s where he is still without any competition. At least judging from this CD.

Some of the arias don’t really fit into his vocal armour but it’s obvious he wanted to sing them –and why not? – and Alagna gives everything he has to make them sound believable. Some politically correct reviewers will object to some of his choices but I quite liked the whole thing and it is a disc to treasure. I for one cannot think of one recording of Lenski’s aria in French since Caruso’s and I welcome Mr. Alagna’s choice of singing it in his own mother tongue. He should have done the same for some other pieces. I’m sure he would have been more convincing singing “Me grimer”  instead of  “Vesti la giubba”.

Welcome too is his singing of the hackneyed Caruso/Schipa/Onofre Vidal Oltra/Tagliavini hit “A la luz della luna” in which he’s partnered by his present girl Aleksandra Kurzak. Alagna’s singing shines with happiness and he brings some personal touches to the music. Also vocally they make a good pair.

The last tenor who recorded Goldmark’s “Magische tone” was the German tenor Herbert Lippert in 1997 but Alagna’s less rushed version is more impressive with also exceptionally good German enunciation and providing the mandatory falsetto tones. Though the Vezzani-like aria from Sigurd is obviously too heavy for Alagna he nevertheless sings an admirable rendition without sounding strained. Alagna also supersedes both Villazon (2005) in Gounod’s “Faiblesse de race humaine” and Carreras (1985) in Massenet’s “Ne pouvant réprimer”. While nevertheless these versions have to take a seat back to the Vezzani, Thill or Luccioni renditions, I can think of no other tenor today capable of singing this repertoire as well as the Frenchman.

The voice is fresh, in pretty –though not entirely flawless - good shape and he undeniable shows he prepared this recital meticulously. In other words the characters come easily to life whether as  Des Grieux  in “Ah! Manon mi tradisce” which opens the CD or as Roberto Devereux. The orchestral playing is elegant, stylish and refined and Yvan Cassar provides inspired conducting.

The accompanying booklet contains some charming photos and an article describing the ups and downs of a singer’s operatic life yet one name in the ‘downs’ is untraceable.  Guess whose…

Rudi van den Bulck