Vittorio Grigolo: "Arrivederci"
Arias, duet and songs by Cannio, Cardillo, Cilèa, Dalla, d'Annibale, d'Anzi, de Curtis, di Lazzaro, Donizetti, Flotow, Giordano, Leoncavallo, Mozart, Puccini, Rascel, Rossini and Verdi. With Giannattasio; Marandi, cond. Texts and translations. Sony 88697911342
Vittorio Grigolo's first "adult" album, The Italian Tenor, showcased his promise but also the limits of his talent and his — or his record label's — judgment, what with arias from heavy vehicles such as Manon Lescaut and Trovatore rubbing shoulders with lyrical fare that is more apt for his instrument. This second solo release also raises some questions but is much more recommendable and enjoyable on its own curious but clearly deliberate terms. It's obvious from the thoughtful booklet essay that the gifted Grigolo knows what he's up to here — an amalgam of Italianate tenor material of several genres, not an old-style collection of arias. Only the first eight cuts are "operatic," and — as has become increasingly evident in recent years — the producers seem to assume that listeners will be downloading individual cuts and so make no attempt to program arias in a perceptibly logical fashion, as witness "Libiamo" following "Un'aura amorosa" following "La donna è mobile."
Next we move to popular songs by classical composers (including "La danza," "Mattinata" and the usual Ernesto de Curtis favorites, all orchestrated within an inch of their lives); then numbers associated with the Italian cinema and pop traditions, many written for and performed by great voices ranging from Schipa and Gigli through Lanza and Pavarotti and later ventured by pop tenors such as Claudio Villa and Andrea Bocelli. The final selection, Lucio Dalla's "Caruso," to me inhabits its own genre with the likes of "Starry, Starry Night" — material too pretentious and mawkish to deserve performance. But many singers have covered it, so someone must enjoy it. The only other song I found completely trivial is Vincenzo d'Annibale's "O paese d' 'o sole," complete with mandolin and not-too- well-prepared chorus; it's the kind of upbeat sub-operetta junk familiar from American and Soviet musicals.
Grigolo has a genuine gift for the "Neapolitan" songs and their Roman equivalents: his chief virtues — a basically sunny timbre, precise phrasing and an ability to float some lines while driving home others — are all well deployed here. Some pop-derived touches, such as the soft beginnings of several verses of "Torna a Surriento," prove quite enchanting, and he channels his inner Claudio Villa compellingly in the disarming "Chitarra romana." The dozen non-operatic selections may well appeal to different audiences than the arias, but all do belong to the history of Italianate tenorizing.
One question is how much Grigolo's experience and impulses color his approach to classical material. Though his musicianship on this disc is good for the most part, with sobs kept to a minimum and generally (though not universally) equalized registers, one doubts that in the opera house Grigolo could or should pull off some of the effects the microphone allows him here. Cavaradossi's first aria starts with something mighty close to pop crooning — an interesting choice if one considers the aria's interior dramatic situation, but if Grigolo tried this in the house, not even the prompter would be able to hear him. A very few sustained loud high notes, such as the Duke of Mantua's final B-flat, emerge worryingly open and blaring; usually Grigolo can taper final phrases effectively.
Carmen Giannattasio, Grigolo's Violetta in the inevitable Traviata brindisi, has an odd, resiny tang to her voice that contrasts with the tenor's clear sound — but he should coach her in putting across the consonants of their joint native language more clearly. This positive aspect of Grigolo's art does indeed recall Pavarotti. He offers one comparative rarity associated with his great Modenese predecessor — the tender "Angelo casto e bel," from Donizetti's unfinished Il Duca d'Alba, sensitively turned. The "Lamento di Federico," from L'Arlesiana — with no final interpolation — also proves highly attractive. Along with Giuseppe Filianoti, Grigolo must be the top choice for such Italian lyric assignments today. The most striking operatic cut here is CosìFan Tutte's "Un'aura amorosa," its limpid beauty reminding us how rarely we hear an Italian sound (and a lovely one) in this aria. Perhaps we might hope for Ferrando's other arias — plus those of Ottavio, Idamante and Tito — on a future Grigolo recording project.
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