When I hear Roberto Algana on broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera, I am usually impressed. I have also been impressed when I have seen him perform in full length operas, especially when he is paired with his wife, soprano Angela Gheorghui. I am also impressed with his complete recordings of operas, but when I hear albums where he is the solo performer, I am often disappointed. His voice is pleasant enough, but somehow it does not always compare with other great tenors, particularly Pavarotti, Corelli, Domingo, or Bergonzi. The great tenors have so established themselves, that at times Alagna seems to pale in comparison. I have often found that when Alagna performs less familiar works, he is usually on more solid ground. For this reason, I approached this recording with some hope. Since so many of the pieces are unfamiliar to modern listeners, I thought he would have a better chance at producing a superior recording.
Well, I was certainly pleased with his performance of the less familiar works and appreciate his taking the time to record them. Some of these works can be found on compilations of older recordings, but since we seldom hear performances of ZAZA, Leoncavallo's version of LA BOHEME, LA WALLY, I ZINGARI, or CHATTERTON, we are fortunate to have contemporary interpretations of these works. Alagna seems to have the passion necessary to sing these verismo works and often exudes power and beauty in his renditions. The surprise for me would be his renditions of the more well known pieces. His "Ceilo E Mar" has the beauty we often associate with tenors of the past who have recorded this work. His rendition of "Viva Il Vino Spumeggiante" may be one of the best available. Alagna really stands on his own in this recording.
Alagna fans will certainly love this recording, but all opera buff will probably want this CD in their collection, not just for its sheer beauty, but also its array of lesser known pieces we would not otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy.