La Passione CD
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A seductive slice of popular Neopolitan music from the singer who, until a year ago, was the best kept secret in the classical world. The album conjures up the raw beauty and passion of the Mediterranean. Think sun drenched olive groves, the wild beauty of the Italian coast, 50's vintage and you get close to the evocative force behind La Passione.
The album features some of the most famous examples of Neopolitan songs, "O Sole Mio", "Funiculi Funicula", "Santa Lucia" and "Torna a Surriento" but also visits some lesser known but equally valued songs, the wistful "Feneste Ca Lucive", the intense and beautiful "Passione" and the playful "A Vuchella." "Caruso" was written in recent years by Lucio Dalle and, though not strictly speaking Neapolitan, it tells the story of one of Naples' most famous sons and the haunting lyrics and soaring melody are reminiscent of a Neapolitan classic "Dicitancell vuje".
It has been quite a year for Alfie Boe. He has performed in a sell-out run of the English National Opera's production of Kismet, and had his Onward album nominated for a Classical Brit Award. Not bad, considering that until recently no one had even heard of him. La Passione, his third album, is a collection of Neapolitan songs.
Boe's aim is to bring classical music to a wider audience, and to prove that you don't have to be a musical genius to enjoy it. Neapolitan music is certainly a good vehicle in which to attempt this. All the old favourites are here; "O Sole Mio" (or Just One Cornetto!.), "Santa Lucia", and "Funiculi Funicula". Even if you don't recognise the names, you'll know them when you hear them. With a programme of music like this, one does have to suspend a certain amount of natural cynicism. Neapolitan music is unashamedly cheesy, and you just have to go with it and enjoy yourself. If you're a cool type and finding this tricky, it may help to remember that this is essentially classical Italian folk music, sung over the centuries everywhere from the streets to the music houses, and folk music is always heart-on-sleeve; even the British discard their stiff upper lip when writing folk songs. The cheese-o-meter does go into the red on the opening track, the recently composed "Caruso", but it is all great fun and women all over the country will swoon as he belts out the chorus. And what a voice with which to belt. As we're on a Neapolitan theme, if his vocal chords were an ice-cream they would be super creamy and double-whipped.
If I had one quibble it would be that I was left curiously unmoved for such passionate music, probably because the album is all quite samey in tone. Perhaps I just had Neapolitan overload. However, this is still a great fun and accessible way into classical music. For that reason, it gets my vote. --Charlotte Gardner
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