DiGiacomo, de Young; Grigolo, D'Arcangelo; Los Angeles Master Chorale, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Dudamel.
C Major 714708
This August 2013 Hollywood Bowl performance of the Verdi Requiem — filmed for release on PBS "Great Performances" — represents Gustavo Dudamel's first attempt at one of the great works of the classical vocal literature since tryouts in Sweden and the Walt Disney Center in 2009 brought mixed notices. Under the bright lights and pressure of television recording, his current reading shapes up quite cogently, with excellent playing.
C Major's packaging mentions bringing "together three superstars from the world of music" — naming Dudamel, Vittorio Grigolo and bass Ildebrando d'Arcangelo. The tenor, as always, discloses underlying vocal quality, but a tight, buzzy vibrato obtrudes, alternating with pop-like crooning. His sometimes jerky phrasing and self-conscious hand and facial gestures are further distractions. Like Grigolo, d'Arcangelo is a highly camera-ready artist, singing leads at major houses quite capably. But a superstar? Occasionally hard-pressed at range extremes, he does fine, straightforward work here within the limits of a good voice that is more Diaz/Raimondi than Pinza/Ghiaurov in impact.
One wonders what the two ladies singing here — whose presence and efforts, after all, have a good deal to do with any performance of this particular Verdi score — make of the male-dominated packaging hype. They are Julianna DiGiacomo, soprano, and Michelle de Young, mezzo, who both enjoy healthy international careers. DiGiacomo, if not 100% flawless, proves quite remarkable here, her superb dynamic control, ability to soar over the assembled forces and deep commitment to the text very persuasive. The vocally ample DeYoung is a true "Zwischenfach" singer, taking the occasional soprano role (for example, Sieglinde for Hamburg last year), and her bright tone on top sometimes sounds odd in this particular assignment. Sometimes — as with Leontyne Price and Rosalind Elias on Reiner's classic Requiem— the soprano line emerges with darker timbre than that of the mezzo, but DeYoung and DiGiacomo blend quite well. From the work's hushed start, the conductor — often seen mouthing the text — works well in shaping the finely tuned Los Angeles Master Chorale.
While the camerawork provides some remarkable close-ups (the trumpeters, solo oboe and certain choristers show up a lot), there's too much rock-video cross-cutting and altogethertoo many establishing helicopter "stadium" shots of the 18,000-person venue, including its newish video screens, as if branding the performance "Hollywood Bowl" every five minutes. In the amiable bonus footage from rehearsals, Dudamel explains why he opted to use no baton: in this heavily choral piece, he prefers the expressivity of hands. Is this a "Great Performance" by the standards of its best DVD competition, including Karajan's 1967 Vatican reading and Abbado in Edinburgh (1982)? Not really. But it's a very good one; one hopes millions will tune in to hear this miraculous score excitingly performed on PBS.
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