Roberto Alagna
“Je ne suis pas le fruit du hasard”

Editions Grasset 2007-03-04
ISBN 978-2-246-68541-8

This is not the kind of biography or autobiography that delves deep. For most of his career Alagna was just another opera tenor until someone hit on the idea (maybe even the tenor himself) to record an album with Luis Mariano-songs. Alagna hit upon a wave of nostalgia though honesty compels us to admit that he sings a lot of these numbers as well as the late Basque tenor. Alagna appeared in a lot of TV-shows and became a household name. He showed a lot of humour on one of these occasions. Confronted with an example of outrageous prima donna behaviour, he correctly replied: Maria Callas. Given another even more blatant example of capricious soprano behaviour, he answered without a blink of an eye: my wife. That is the way to get attention and thus the inevitable happened: a book of memoirs by the star (told to whatever ghost he used as in France it is not common to name these people by name). Anyway the tenor’s life story is told and it is told well though the book surely is not meant for operatic study. His roles are barely mentioned and not too many other singer names figure in it. But if you like to know his whole family (all Sicilians who came to France after an American detour), his poor though happy youth (he only learned to speak French in primary school) and his singing in bars and pizza-houses, this is one for you. Moreover, if you want to know which women he courted, this is definitely one to read. After living with a lady called M. he moves in with a married lady who divorces her husband and gives him his only child: a daughter. Somewhat later he gets to know a Rumanian soprano married to a certain Mr. Gheorgiu and she too is already a mother. Alagna tells us that something explosive happened though it was never consummated and he ordered his manager not to accept other engagements with the soprano as he was not sure they could dominate their passion. Maybe it’s true though in this reviewer’s opinion it smacks a little too much in trying to clear some stories that abound in the operatic world that  consist in the gossip that ‘the love couple’ already existed before that horrible fatal tumour took away Mrs.Alagna at a horrible early age. Anyway, though several operatic forums are always telling us that Alagna and his second wife are separated, are already divorced, well are almost on the brink of divorcing etc. Alagna still (in this book anyway) sticks with Gheorgiu. Well, guys, that’s it. You won’t read a paragraph on his vocal production. He doesn’t give the impression that the voice nowadays often sounds tired, overstretched while the high notes are often blowsy. In this book everything is well perfect and he is the tenor of the day. Don’t think for a moment Alagna will discuss the problems from nature and nurture: the tenor being 100% Sicilian and still sounding better and more at ease in French roles (witness other people with Italian heritage like Vezzani, Luccioni, Micheletti, Vanzo; not exactly Parisians as their names make clear). The publisher will probably regret that the manuscript was ready when Alagna’s latest peccadillo (the La Scala walk out) hit the show business pages but maybe a second print will remedy this omission.

Jan Neckers, OperaNostalgia