For the classical music lover on your holiday gift list, Part 2
If you holiday gift list includes an opera fan, might as well jump on the Vittorio bandwagon. Vittorio Grigolo, that is, the young, handsome singer who has the potential to move into the fast track for superstardom. His new Sony Classical release, "Vittorio Grigolo -- The Italian Tenor" -- is a winner.
I remember well Grigolo's 2007 Washington National Opera debut in "La Boheme" and return in 2008 for "Lucrezia Borgia." In both cases, he proved an exciting performer, with abundant personality onstage and a voice that had considerable presence.
I noted both times a tendency to strain on top notes and to maintain a mostly loud volume, signs that the tenor could end up shortening his time in the spotlight.
But the recording, devoted to arias by Donizetti, Verdi and Puccini, finds Grigolo sounding very comfortable (the microphone loves his voice). The vocal production is natural, the dynamic inflections numerous.
Anyone who can pass my favorite tenor test, at least on recording (I rarely hear anyone come close in live performance), is OK by me. That test comes in this line from
the "Tosca" aria "E luceven le stelle": "O dolci baci, o languide carezze, mentr'io fremente le belle forme disciogliea dai veli." When the melodic lines reaches its peak, a tenor who takes his time, softens his tone and makes this description of gently lifting the veil of his beloved truly beautiful is a tenor I'll cherish. (My all-time champion here is Franco Corelli.) Grigolo handles that passage very, very nicely, as you can judge for yourself right here:
He delivers the rest of that aria with plenty of style, too. For that matter, the tenor is really quite affecting and involving throughout the disc. He has a distinctive gift for communicating directly and intimately; he loves the language and, like Pavarotti, seems to relish every syllable of it. At full volume, some high notes turn harsh, but that's a minor matter here. What wins you over is the character of the singing; his way with arias from "Gianni Schicchi" and "Manon Lescaut" proves particularly disarming.
One small warning -- a truly horrid-sounding soprano turns up for a few measures in "Di quelle pira" from "Il Trovatore." It's quite a shock, but not severe enough to make you forget how admirably nuanced Grigolo's performance of the rousing aria is -- he doesn't just blast his way through it, but finds subtle ways of coloring it.
Decent support throughout from conductor Pier Giorgio Morandi and the Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Regio in Parma completes the attractions of this showcase for a most engaging Italian tenor.