Massimo Giordano: "Amore e Tormento"
Arias by Cilèa, U. Giordano, Ponchielli, Puccini and Verdi. Ensemble del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Goldsmith. Notes, no text. BMG 53800781 2
In Federico's lament from L'Arlesiana, Massimo Giordano sings with the voice of a young man barely out of adolescence, overwhelmed by the pangs of youthful passion. He inhabits this emotional range vividly and rigorously: he never steps out of character to take on the guise of star tenor, belting out an old favorite. This is singing with a "face."
Unfortunately, this recital finds the tenor presenting the same "face" in selection after selection. Cavaradossi, Gabriele Adorno, Enzo Grimaldi, Pinkerton, Don Carlo, Fedora's Loris — all emerge as versions of the sincere, lovestruck youth. This may be partly a technical problem: if Giordano commands the vocal resources to push his portrayals into darker territory, he hasn't presented the evidence on this disc. The virtues of his singing are mainly negative ones: he doesn't push; he doesn't holler; he doesn't hold high notes past their effective span. It's a relief to hear the final phrases of "E lucevan le stelle" sung without shouting or grunting. But one misses the extra measure of refulgence that a more prodigiously endowed singer can bring to the very climactic moment of the role of Cavaradossi. It's hard to escape the sense that the scale of the piece has been calibrated downward.
So it is throughout the disc. Carlo Goldstein, the accommodating conductor, hurries through the big phrases of Adorno's outburst "Sento avvampar," as if to prevent the tenor from attempting a grand effect beyond his capabilities. Giordano and Goldstein pick their way gingerly through "Recondita armonia," avoiding vocal mishaps but also thwarting any sense of passionate exclamation. The engineering, meanwhile, seems to place singer and orchestra in two unrelated acoustic spaces. Giordano apparently has the mic inches from his mouth; the orchestra is a phantom behind him. (Was he performing to prerecorded tracks?) The setup allows singing that is often little more than a croon. This is definitely studio work, with little of the imprint of the opera house.
The CD package includes a haphazardly assembled gallery of costume designs from the Ricordi library but no texts, even for the aria from Umberto Giordano's Marcella that's included as a "bonus." (Intrepid listeners will be able to locate this opera's libretto online, but no translation.) As for the disc's title: is it possible to assemble a collection of Italian tenor arias that don't express "amore e tormento"?
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