Plácido Domingo: Encanto del Mar
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Plácido Domingo: “Encanto del Mar: Mediterranean Songs”

spacer By Serrat, Martino, Moustaki, Rodrigo, Merlandi, de Curtis, Rachel, Lama, Zeira, Obradors, Martini. With Ćirić; Barbara Furtuna. Small instrumental ensemble, Sadin. Texts and translations. Sony 88875006852

The Sound of a Legend

Plácido Domingo conjures up the magic of the Mediterranean Sea in his new song-recital program.

DomingoEncantoCD

The liner notes for Plácido Domingo’s latest CD conjure up the magic of the Mediterranean Sea and the artists, explorers and philosophers who contributed to our conception of this legendary place. The singer, now as legendary as the civilizations that sprang up there, turns his distinctive timbre and captivating phrasing to music that evokes a smoky café in Izmir or Algiers, where languages mix and sensuous rhythms hypnotize the listener.

The songs, arranged for small ensemble by Robert Sadin, are well chosen and thoughtfully assembled, ranging through Spain, Italy, France, Corsica, Sardinia, Israel, Cyprus and North Africa. Harp and guitar provide the instrumental backbone, with fine solo contributions from violin and clarinet. The first track, Joan Manuel Serrat’s 1971 “Mediterráneo,” with its elusive, parlando verses, sets up the intimate and relaxed appeal that characterizes the disc . Soft percussion and unhurried rhythms keep the heat at a simmer, and only in “Torna a Surriento” do the attempts at understatement fall flat .

Domingo sounds comfortable and expressive in his baritone persona, although long notes tend to wobble slightly and there’s an overreliance on raw musical instinct. He still often phrases like a tenor, an endearing quality that enlivens the traditional Ladino “Adio Kerida” , but his charismatic sound is on display in the open vowels of the Catalan song “El Cant dels Ocells,” as well as the murmurs of the traditional Cypriot tune “To Yasemi.”

Although Jelena Ćirić’s bland soprano doesn’t add much to the Sardinian song “No Potho Reposare,” the a cappella quartet version of “Anghjulina” provides nice sonic variety, with Domingo’s robust sound joining the folksier timbres of the male voices of the small Corsican polyphonic ensemble Barbara Furtuna . The ten-beat phrases of the Andalusian–Arabic “Lamma Bada” are attractive and catchy , and Domingo brings a surprisingly ardent voicing to Obradors’s “Del Cabello Más Sutil” . Bruno Martino’s jazz standard “Estate” (Summer) exploits the soft graininess of Domingo’s low voice and the easy sensuality of his Italian, while Gaetano Lama’s Sicilian song “Reginella” sounds like it was written for Domingo, whose singing makes up for some mistakes in the instrumental interludes . In contrast, Georges Moustaki’s “En Méditerranée” finds Domingo uncomfortable in French and at a loss in this unfocused arrangement, with its wandering saxophone and plucked accompaniment.

The disc closes with the eighteenth-century chestnut “Plaisir d’amour,” a seemingly odd choice given the artificial quality of this period piece. Yet Domingo’s heartfelt repetitions of the second line, “Chagrin d’amour dure toute la vie” (The heartache of love lasts a lifetime) , bring an unexpected poignancy to the track and to the entire recital. spacer 

JUDITH MALAFRONTE

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