Marcelo Alvarez: 20 Years on the Opera Stage
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Marcelo Álvarez: “20 Years on the Opera Stage” 

spacer Arias by Giordano, Leoncavallo, Mascagni, Puccini, Gomes, Halévy, Cilèa, Zandonai and Massenet. St. Petersburg State Symphony, Orbelian. Texts and translations. Delos DE 3472

AlvarezCD

There is much to admire and enjoy in this new disc by Argentine tenor Marcelo Álvarez, celebrating his two decades on the world’s opera stages. Many of the arias here are from the verismo repertory, signaling the shift in Álvarez’s career from his early bel canto work to mid-career Romeos and Fausts to his current move into the dramatic-tenor repertoire. Álvarez is now singing Radamès, Andrea Chénier, Manrico and Don Alvaro in Forza, to mixed reviews, some critics asserting that he is forcing his essentially lyric instrument into roles for which the necessary vocal heft and power are lacking. Still, in the essay accompanying the disc (written by Bruce Zemsky and Alan Green, Álvarez’s managers), much is made of how carefully and slowly he has moved into heavier roles.

On this disc, with only a few missteps, Álvarez sings beautifully, with pure tone, ravishing pianissimos and a romantic ardor that perfectly suits these arias. The entire disc is infused with elegance and nobility of phrasing, as well as an intelligence and musicality that make the approach to each aria subtly but distinctly different. His soft singing is particularly lovely. The missteps occur when Álvarez uses too much volume in an effort to sound powerful, particularly in the heavier selections, such as Chénier’s “Un dì all’azzurro spazio.” Here, he seems to be forcing his voice in order to find the requisite political/personal passion. He is not helped by the absolutely turgid tempo set for this piece by conductor Constantine Orbelian (who does splendid work on most of the disc), which prevents the aria from “snowballing” toward its magnificent ending.

It is in the more romantic, less heroic arias that Álvarez shines. In the aria from Leoncavallo’s Chatterton, a deeply felt outcry from a despairing poet, and in Marcello’s Act III aria lamenting the loss of Musetta, from the Leoncavallo Bohème, Álvarez sings with exquisite beauty and much emotion in the tone. Romeo’s lament at the tomb of the Capulets, from Zandonai’s Giulietta e Romeo, is heartbreakingly rendered, particularly in Romeo’s cries of “Oh! Morta! Morta! Dannato me!” Álvarez also brings golden tone and haunting lyricism to Loris’s “Amor ti vieta,” from Fedora, “L’anima ho stanca,” from Adriana Lecouvreur, and a plaintive “O souverain,” from Le Cid.

The arias from the more standard dramatic roles — “Vesti la giubba” and “Nessun dorma” particularly — are well sung and superbly phrased, but Álvarez does not possess the dramatic bite to make his interpretations unique. He does better with arias from roles that he is soon to add to his repertoire — a gutsy and desperate rendition of Turiddù’s “Mamma, quel vino è generoso” and a surprisingly passionate performance of Dick Johnson’s “Ch’ella mi creda,” from La Fanciulla del West. 

Except for the peculiar conducting of the Chénier aria, Orbelian provides an excellent sense of romanticism, and the St. Petersburg State Symphony plays with precision and verve. Marcelo Álvarez gives us much glorious vocalism and a maturity of interpretation that has deepened with time and experience. spacer 

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