Erwin Schrott has a fine bass-baritone voice, but he is still young and it is not yet a great voice. He has a huge range which is amply demonstrated on this album, particularly in the first item, `Scintille diamant' from Offenbach's `Tales of Hoffmann'. He also manages to produce a good round tone for his lowest notes. But there is not as yet a wide range of colour in the voice and the dynamics seem to be either forte or fortissimo.
He begins with two lollipops, the Offenbach and the Toreador's song from `Carmen'. Both are well-delivered, although the diction is not always of the best - the `tt' in `Attire-la' in the Offenbach is particularly noticeable by its absence.
Later, however, he ventures on to less familiar ground, with the final scene of Massenet's `Don Quichotte' and an aria from Verdi's `I Lombardi'. This is commendably adventurous but it does invite comparison with other, more mature, performers. In the hands of José van Dam, the scene from `Don Quichotte' is deeply moving; here it is merely tedious, sung without colour or conviction. The `tiger' in this performer does not sit comfortably within the tilter at windmills. With the 'Lombardi' and the better known `Attila' he invites comparison with Samuel Ramey, and here he comes off rather better. Once again he demonstrates the security of his upper register and achieves an appropriately magisterial quality.
The three items from Boito's `Mefistofele' are again from ground which Ramey has covered and here Schrott does less well. The characterization is thin and there is little in the depiction to terrify. No doubt he looks the part perfectly, but he doesn't yet quite sound it. The same is true of his Scarpia, which sounds too youthful, and will not bear comparison with either Gobbi or, more recently, Raimondi.
Nevertheless, it would be a mistake not to point out the strengths of the album. Here is a young man who, in his first album, covered the comfortable ground of Mozart and some of the better known bass arias of Verdi and who, for his second, has ventured into quite different material and, for the most part, has acquitted himself well. To be not quite as good as the other singers I have mentioned is still, nevertheless, to be very good indeed. When the voice is more carefully husbanded and the characterization more judiciously honed, this will be a great singer. In the meantime, this album makes extremely pleasant listening.