Heart-Wrenching Verismo Arias
On April 24, 2020, NativeDSD teamed up with Pentatone to release a DSD Single of ‘Nessun Dorma’ the world-famous tenor aria from Puccini’s last opera Turandot with star tenor Piotr Beczala. It provided our listeners with a tasty sneak preview of Beczala’s upcoming album on Pentatone. Now we are proud to bring you the full album in Stereo DSD (up to DSD 512), Multichannel DSD (up to DSD 256), and Stereo and Multichannel DXD.
Global star tenor Piotr Beczala presents Vincerò!, the first fruit of his exclusive collaboration with Pentatone. Vincerò! is a collection of heart-wrenching opera arias by Puccini, Mascagni, Leoncavallo, Giordano and Cilea.
For Beczala, this recording documents his vocal transition from the lyrical tenor repertoire to the more dramatic roles of Verismo. It marks a significant new chapter in his stage career. Beczala is accompanied by the Cor de la Generalitat Valenciana and the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana, led by maestro Marco Boemi; an extraordinary singer’s conductor who has worked with the greatest vocalists of our age.
Piotr Beczala has the kind of voice you want to hang medals on. Its luminosity makes many of his fellow lyric tenors, past, and present, sound by comparison like flickering candlewicks. Beczalas clarity and cleanliness of tone are the essences of his appeal. (Opera News Awards, 2015)
Total time: 00:51:47
|Original Recording Format|
Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, Valencia, Spain, in October 2019
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|Release Date||May 5, 2020|
Becza?a’s new album comprises of eighteen tenor arias written by five of the most celebrated verismo composers, namely, Mascagni, Cilea, Leoncavallo, Giordano and Puccini, with the latter taking the lion’s share with nine. Vincerò!, like most Verismo collections, is compiled, perhaps understandably, to focus on the best-known repertoire. To provoke additional interest in this type of album, it would have been efficacious to have included two or three rare arias from, for instance, Leoncavallo’s Zazà and La bohème, Mascagni’s Iris and Amica or Giordano’s Siberia and Mala vita.
Becza?a delivers his trademark warm, attractive tone which, thankfully, is not given to edgy over-brightness. It comes as no real surprise that, given the weightier nature and dramatic character of these verismo arias, when he pushes hard, one senses some strain in his voice production. There are other tenors who have recorded some of the individual arias here and demonstrate the level of Italianate style that I prefer. Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable, well-performed album which shows Becza?a tackling new, challenging repertoire head on. (…)
In an album containing numerous heart-breaking arias, Piotr Becza?a braves the challenge of the heavier verismo repertoire.
Readers may recall reports of an amusing incident at the Wiener Staatsoper back in 2016 when Jonas Kaufmann was ‘stood up’ by his Tosca, Angela Gheorghiu, allegedly to teach him a lesson after he dared to sing an encore of ‘E lucevan le stelle’. A big fuss was made about the rights and wrongs of encores, but the truth is that the Viennese public usually demands one at this point. During the Covid 19 pandemic lockdown, the Staatsoper has been offering free nightly streams, trying to replicate its scheduled program. I watched Margarethe Wallmann’s classic production (1958!) of Tosca three times, where Piotr Becza?a twice sang Cavaradossi, once making his role debut (February 2019) and another four months later, after which he was awarded the coveted title of Kammersänger by Dominique Meyer. Both times, he encored ‘E lucevan’, rapturously received. The Viennese audience has impeccable taste.
Just listen to the luminous ring to Becza?a’s tenor in the open-hearted ‘Recondita armonia’ (minus the Sacristan) that opens his disc, which is entitled ‘Vincerò!’. His voice sounds crisp and supple and there’s a definite smile in there too – let’s not forget that Cavaradossi is a carefree artist at this point, daydreaming about his lover in Sant’Andrea della Valle.
Becza?a has taken his time moving into this repertoire – he was 52 when he sang that first Cavaradossi – and in the booklet introduction he writes that his long experience singing lyric roles has meant he is now able to approach verismo ‘with my own style and expression’. In an age when many singers are persuaded to take on heavier repertoire far too soon, it’s refreshing to read of an artist armed with patience. And it’s refreshing to hear a tenor tackle this repertoire with such apparent ease, for this is a simply wonderful disc, sensitively supported by conductor Marco Boemi and the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana.
The obvious comparison is Jonas Kaufmann, whose ‘The Age of Puccini’ compilation was, rather provocatively, released by Decca just days ahead of Sony’s ‘Nessun dorma – The Puccini Album’ (A/15). Becza?a has the brighter tenor, with elasticity to his phrases, while Kaufmann’s is more bronzed, more baritonal. Becza?a never needs to force unduly, yet there’s plenty of emotion to these readings, even if he’s yet to sing most of these characters on stage. Only Cavaradossi, Rinuccio and Maurizio are in his repertoire at present, but that’s bound to change.
Becza?a’s tone is scrupulously clean, whereas Kaufmann is inclined to over-emote and add sobs. Becza?a’s way with ‘E lucevan le stelle’ – which starts with the eloquent cello solo before the clarinet soliloquy – is very beautiful, in fuller voice than Kaufmann, who resorts to crooning ‘Oh, dolci baci, o languide carezze’, a frustrating feature of his singing in recent years. Perhaps Kaufmann’s darker tone is a better fit for Dick Johnson in La fanciulla del West but the Pole’s Pinkerton and Des Grieux need fear no comparison, including a charming ‘Donna non vidi mai’ that should make Manon – and audiences – swoon. Bonus points for including the tenor aria from Edgar and Rinuccio’s paean to Florence from Gianni Schicchi.
Canio’s pain as the clown’s world falls apart in Pagliacci seems very real, yet without the hysterical sobs that are often appended. The Brindisi from Cavalleria rusticana has bags of braggadocio (more so than the rather polite Cor de la Generalitat Valenciana) and Turiddu’s farewell to Mamma Lucia is truly heartfelt. The two arias from Andrea Chénier are ardently sung, the phrasing – appropriately, given the character – poetic, with lots of freedom on top notes. ‘Amor ti vieta’, from Giordano’s less-performed Fedora, is an intense declaration of love, phrases long breathed, even if there’s just a hint of strain on the high A.
In an age where there are no longer that many studio recordings of complete operas, there’s perhaps more of a need for operatic recital discs like this; an opportunity for singers to document their artistry or to set out their stall for roles to come. This has been the most satisfying one to come my way since Anna Netrebko’s remarkable ‘Verismo’ four years ago (DG, 10/16), which included that game-changing ‘In questa reggia’. Netrebko has just performed her first Turandot, albeit at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich which excises Alfano’s completion and its taxing final duet. Whether Becza?a will want to tackle the complete role of Calaf is another matter, but he closes with the tenor anthem that is ‘Nessun dorma’, where his final B on ‘vincerò’ is resoundingly sung. A winner of an album, indeed.
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