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I first heard the name of Rolando Villazón this morning, on National Public Radio in the US, when he was interviewed and a few clips of his singing were played. It was, for me, a visceral reaction, like an electric shock. I had not had this kind of reaction to a new (to me) tenor since I first heard Luciano Pavarotti sing in 1968.
I rushed to buy a copy of his only solo CD - this one - and I've been playing it more or less non-stop since then. I'm certainly no expert, but try as I might I cannot find anything about the voice, the technique, the musicianship to quarrel with. And the voice retains for me that visceral quality I mentioned. The voice is most similar to that of Plácido Domingo, with something of baritonal quality, but there is also the brightness of Pavarotti. Add to that the musicianship and elegance of Bergonzi.
For me the high point of the CD is Federico's Lament from Cilea's 'L'Arlesiana.' The thing that comes through, in addition to the exquisite control of this difficult aria, is the utter conviction with which he sings without resorting to any of the more vulgar conventions of Italian tenors.
But in fact there isn't a weak selection there. 'Una furtiva lagrima' is simply gorgeous, sung with a meatier voice that Pavarotti's but still with Nemorino's innocence. The two Puccini arias ('E lucevan le stelle' and 'Che gelida manina') are sung with ardor, long line, a free ringing top. Oh my. And the list goes on: 'Parmi veder' and 'La donna mobile' can stand comparison with any I've ever heard. In the two Mascagni arias Villazón musters the requisite heft without forcing. The accompaniment by Marcel Viotti and the Munich Radio Orchestra is sensitive and nuanced.
We've been waiting a long time for The Next Real Tenor and if he marshals his resources wisely I think young Señor Villazón just might be The One.
Urgently recommended.
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on 21 February 2004
I don't usually write reviews, but after listening to this recital by Rolando Villazon I felt I had to.
This is the most exciting Operatic Tenor recital I have heard in about 25 years! Not since the early recordings of Pavarotti and Domingo have I heard singing of such quality. I realise that Villazon doesn't have the ease in the top register that the young Pavarotti had, although his high notes are good; and he may not have the roundness and richness of tone of Domingo, although his tone is warm. What he does have in spades however is a voice that is instantly recogniseable, a voice full of passion backed up by obvious intelligence and first rate musicality. This is glorious tenor singing by anyones standards. Just listen to the first track from Cilea's 'L'Arlesiana.' He is equally good in the aria from Verdi's 'I Lombardi' and Donizetti's 'Il Duca D'Alba.' There are a few forced notes but nothing to worry about. Move over Alagna this guy is going to show you how these things should be sung.
If you love tenor singing, do yourself a favour and buy this recital. This man is going places. This isn't the next Pavarotti or Domingo, this IS Villazon!
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on 24 August 2010
This Belart CD features two albums originally issued independently - one by Virginia Zeani and the other by Graziella Sciutti. I bought it for the former as it is the only CD release of Zeani's second of only two aria recitals that she made for Decca early in career. Fortunately, this release contains all the original material. Zeani's interpretations of classic Puccini arias are exquisitely sung with a ravishingly beautiful voice and great characterization. The first Decca album, now available on the Preiser Label, is aslo a wonderful recording and I would recommend both to those who love great singing.
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on 4 September 2013
This cd fulfilled all my requirements. What a voice. Such passion. A new take on all the favourites. Wonderful music.
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on 17 March 2013
value for money.fast service.it gets no better.i hpe that we deal agian soon.i am over the moon with your company
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on 22 January 2006
This album is okay, Villazón isn’t that bad a tenor really, but I was left with slight disappointment as to the whole package – I felt that it could have somehow been much better than it was. Maybe the repertoire could have been a bit more suited to his voice. He sings arias from Donizetti, Verdi and Puccini, with two obscure Mascagni arias and one from Cilea’s L’arlesiana. The repertoire is in the main obvious, stock-tenor stuff. Any number of tenor albums feature Federico’s lament, Che gelida manina, etc etc. I had the distinct impression that he could have done much better with a different set.

His voice is quite large, in the same manner of Jose Cura. In fact, the two have a very similar tone, possibly due to their shared Latin-American roots. While Cura has a very distinctive tone, however, Villazón is an interesting blend of Domingo with a hint of Pavarotti. There is definitely the space-filling capacity of Domingo, but without his baritonal qualities. Pavarotti’s very strong top is in evidence in many of the Verdi arias on the disc, but without Pavarotti’s power to move. But this is a debut disc, he has plenty of time to persuade us all otherwise.

To start with, Federico’s lament. Its sung very idiomatically, although Villazón’s diction is excellent. The aria is no different to many other middle-of-the-road recordings of it. Pavarotti's recording just will not be beaten. Then there are four Donizetti arias that he just doesn’t really have the voice for. His Nemorino is too heavy, and there is the curious matter of his Edgardo. The orchestra seems to be very strange, as if its trying not to swamp the voice. Don’t get me wrong, Villazón’s is a big voice, but it’s a very thin sound from the orchestra that distracts – the horn arpeggios that are meant to be virtually inaudible are very much present, the strings sound too thin, etc etc. And the whole thing is sung completely dispassionately.

His Verdi is passable but, again, he seems to have sacrificed emotion for verbal accuracy. It’s a problem sometimes even with native singers that you can’t always make out what they’re singing, but here we have total clarity. But while native Italian singers can inject so much passion and emotion into their singing, Villazón doesn’t. His Macduff is just a tenor singing an aria, not a father who has had his whole family murdered. And the same is true of his Don Carlo (although I’d accept this guy over Andrea Bocelli) and Alfredo. And another thing about Alfredo. Villazón sings both De’ miei bollenti spiriti and the caballeta, O mio rimorso. But not the intervening recitativo with Annina. There are plenty of mezzo-sopranos out there who wouldn’t have objected to that job! For the sake of maybe two more minutes of music (the CD itself is barely over an hour, so they weren’t pushed for time) we have this disjointed number where, having just said he feels like he’s almost in heaven, he suddenly wants to “wash this stain from his honour” etc. To someone unfamiliar with La traviata (apparently some people are…) it would seem Alfredo has some sort of bipolar disorder. His Duca di Mantova is a little dull, too. Parmi veder le lagrime is shorn of any emotional content, and La donna è mobile is too static. The singer should really sing it with something of a wry smile in the voice, a little swagger and a lot of character. Instead, Villazón sounds like the tenors of old, standing spread-eagled on stage with arms flung wide for his big showpiece. And he sings the cadenza which is not by Verdi. Tut tut.

Villazón’s voice, as I’ve said, can be big. Which is often what Puccini tenors need. It’s a shame then that in his two Puccini arias, he needed to be a bit softer. Rodolfo is a romantic poet in his aria Che gelida manina, with the voice swelling only periodically at climaxes. Villazón seems to be teetering on the edge of this – he’s not quite as soft as some tenors have sung it – but when the time comes, he’s slightly off and doesn’t rise to the occasion. As such, both “l’anima ho millionaria” and “la speranza” are not as hair-raising as, say, Carreras or Alagna have sung them. E lucevan le stelle, sadly, is also devoid of emotion, which, frankly, ruins it.

Finally we have the Mascagni arias. These, I must admit, are the main reason I bought this CD. I’d heard and read that the guy had a good voice, but he’s also possibly the only modern tenor to have sung these arias. They are from L’amico Fritz, a sentimental-lovelorn style number, and from Nerone, a wonderfully italianate serenade-type aria. The last one really vindicates Villazón in my opinion. Its always the same with debut discs, we compare the singer to all the hundreds that have come before because they sing largely the same pieces, but when they branch out for even just one or two rarities, we really see their worth, and the same is true here. Villazón has shown he has a big voice before, and it is in the works of the giovane scuola that he really belongs, in my opinion. Hopefully he will sing a disc of more of this repertoire, like Alagna and Cura have done before him, and he will shine, possibly obliterating those two as he does so.
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on 18 February 2015
Bought this to replace a damaged CD
My wife and I are big fans of Rolando Villazon and this CD is an excellent example why !!
Wonderful voice-great CD-highly recommended
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