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Tales Of Opera: Simon Keenlyside Aria (CD) Sony 2006

Tales of Opera:
Simon Keenlyside aria (CD)

Gramophone Award 2007: Best Recital

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Awarded the Diapason d’Or, December 2006
Echo Klassik Award 2007
Chosen as one of the Best 20 Classical Albums of 2006, Sunday Telegraph, 10 Dec
Recording of the month: Musicweb (Nov); Gramophone (Nov); Opera (Dec)
Without hesitation I declare this to be best opera recital I have heard in years.” Opera mag
Opera recitals of this quality and intelligence are rare things.” BBC Radio 3
“…the greatest lyric baritone of our time, indeed one of the greatest of any time” BBC Music Magazine
Operatic singing at its best” Opernglas

Composer Mozart, Rossini, Verdi, Leoncavallo, Massenet, Thomas, Bellini, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Cilea
Conductor Ulf Schirmer
Performer
Simon Keenlyside
Münchner Rundfunkorchester
Label Sony Classical
Code Sony/BMG 82876 88482-2
Released 16 September 2006 (Germany, Austria, Switzerland); 9th October 2006 (UK).

Number of discs 1

ASIN B000HEVAL2

Click here for more information http://www.sonybmgclassical.de/artists2.php?iA=7&artist=328456&product=82876884822

Track Listing

Il barbiere di Siviglia: Rossini
01: Figaro’s Act 1 cavatina “  Largo al factotum della città

Guillaume Tell: Rossini
02: Tell’s Act 3 aria “ Mon fils, que je t’embrasse? Sois immobile

Hérodiade: Massenet
03: Herodes Act 2 aria “ Vision fugitive

Don Carlo: Verdi
04: The death of Posa “ Per me giunto è il dì supreme

Un ballo in maschera: Verdi
05: Renato’s aria “ Alzati… Eri tu che macchiavi quell’anima

La traviata: Verdi
06: Germont’s Act 2 aria “ Di provenza il mar, il suol chi dal cor ti cancellò

Hamlet: Thomas
07: Hamlet’s Act 2 drinking song “ O vin, dissipe la tristesse

I puritani: Bellini
08: Riccardo’s Act 1 aria “ Ah! Per sempre io ti perdei

Die Zauberflöte: Mozart
09: Papageno’s Act 2 aria “ Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen

I, Pagliacci: Leoncavallo
10: Prologue, Tonio “ Si può, si può

L’Arlesiana: Francesco Cilea
11: Metifio’s Act 1 aria “ Come due tizzi accesi

Pique Dame: Tchaikovsky
12: Yeletsky’s Act 2 aria “ Ya vas lyublyu

Don Giovanni: Mozart
13: Act 2 serenade “ Deh vieni alla finestra

Zaide: Mozart
14: Allazim’s Act 1 aria “ Nur mutig, mein Herze, versuche dein Glück

Tannhäuser: Wagner
15: Wolfram’s Act 3 song of the evening star “ Wie Todesahnung Dämmrung deckt die Lande … O, du mein holder Abendstern

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The Amazon website (Germany) carries a “Brief description” of this CD, which has kindly been translated by Ursula Turecek.

Since his operatic debut at the Hamburg State Opera in 1987 where he sang Count Almaviva in Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” Simon Keenlyside has performed not only at all leading opera houses. The English baritone has at his disposal a diversified reptertoire reaching from baroque to contemporary operas and from dramatic Mozart-parts to Rossini’s belcanto. With his aria recital “Tales of Opera” which he calls a “diary of my life and work” Keenlyside now proves this versatility. Together with the Münchner Rundfunkorchester conducted by Ulf Schirmer he has recorded excerpts from those operas that were decisive in his worldwide career. Among them is Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” of course that Keenlyside performed for the first time for Glyndeboune in 1993. Together with the parts of Figaro, Posa, Hamlet and Wolfram from Wagner’s “Tannhäuser”, arias from other operas where Keenlyside performs as a guest star on international stages or that he will sing in near future are furthermore to be found on this album. But in addition there are also arias from Verdi’s “La Traviata” and Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci” for instance with which Keenlyside pays homage to famous singers.

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What the critics say

Opernglas 9/2006 (M. Lehnert)

Translated by Ursula Turecek

How much the individual personalities of singers regain ground in the recording market, compared to young voices that are low-maintenance regarding sheer microphone technic, can be observed by means of some solo-albums at the moment. Thus it is a special treat for the opera lover who knows every figure, every character, every aria of a part to listen to the 15 titles that Simon Keenlyside, accompanied very perceptively by the Münchner Rundfunkorchester conducted by Ulf Schirmer, presents on his solo-album. Its broad range of roles reaching from Verdi’s Posa and Renato, Rossini’s Barbiere and Guillaume Tell, Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci” prologue, Mozart’s Papageno and Don Giovanni, Wagner’s Wolfram, Tchaikovsky’s Prince Yeletzky to Thomas’s Hamlet, is surprising. In Sherrill Milnes’s footsteps, you’d think when you experience colouring and height control of this baritone who is fully developed regarding his vocal technique, his extraordinary artistry in vocal nuances that immediately make you feel a large empathy with the role, the aria, the sung word. “Tales of Opera“ is exactly the right title for this vocal charmer who narrates, suffers, jests or languishes with his voice, and whose singing has such an interesting effect not least because of the fragility and introverted nature always inherent in it and because of the fact that you experience a character. Operatic singing at its best and made for the diary of every aficionado of voices: The CD is due to appear on the 15th September.

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Oswald Beaujean, from the Bayern 4 Klassik (radio) website

Translated by Ursula Turecek

CD tip of the day ( 28 September 2006)

A beautiful aria-CD and an intelligent and personal compilation. It conveys an impression of this likeable singer and forms a harmonious musical portrait. Keenlyside’s timbre may not be perfectly beautiful, but his singing is enormously accomplished and never plain, always expressive and always touching. Much expression and much feeling, you could say.

The Münchner Rundfunkorchester conducted by its new art director Ulf Schirmer accompanies this in an extremely committed and attentive way.

Nigel Fisher, The Times 7 October 2006

The big CD

“Why choose these arias? Why do a disc at all?” Having impishly posed the question in the booklet for his new CD, out on Sony Classical, none of Simon Keenlyside’s answers seems quite satisfactory. So let’s try our own: Keenlyside is Britain’s best baritone (Terfel, surely, errs closer to bass), and his under-representation on record is one of the great oversights of the classical music industry.

Maybe Keenlyside himself is partly to blame. He is unlikely to play the record companies’ usual games of moody photoshoots and mushy Mozart. And even the repertoire that he unearths for this collection has some surprises: Massenet’s Hérodiade pops up next to The Barber of Seville, while a slice of Cilea’s obscure L’Arlesiana comes sandwiched between showpieces from Pagliacci and The Queen of Spades.

But these are all good yarns, and Keenlyside’s biggest gift is for telling a story and creating a character. His King Herod smoulders with passion for the teenage Salome in the Massenet and his William Tell is noble and stirring in Sois Immobile, a Rossini aria that couldn’t be more different from the Barber’s Largo al Factotum, which Keenlyside expertly dispatches with unusual virility and bravado.

His Verdi, though, is more controversial. “Verdi too demands a restraint,” Keenlyside argues in his CD notes — and he has a point. But if his soft-grained, lyrical baritone still seems a shade too small for Verdi’s mighty dramas, he phrases so stylishly that he can almost be forgiven.

In any case, there are better tales to be told. The prologue from Pagliacci eschews any dubious verismo grandstanding, even as Keenlyside honours the great baritones of the past by tackling it, and the full- blooded accompaniment from Ulf Schirmer and the Münchner Rundfunkorchester is shown off to best effect in this barnstormer.

Yet it’s the Mozart that takes us straight to the heart of Keenlyside’s skill. On one side, the seductive Don Giovanni, suave and silky in his Act II serenade, and on the other, Keenlyside’s greatest creation, Papageno from The Magic Flute — a funny man, yes, but also a real one.

Andreas Schubert, Klassik.com Magazine, 9 October 2006

Translated by Ursula Turecek

Interpretation: 4/5
Sound quality: 4/5
Repertoire value: 3/5
Booklet: 3/5

Musical diary
The title reads “Tales of Opera” but Simon Keenlyside’s operatic recital primarily is about a profile of his own history, a reminiscence of the stops along the way in his stage career so far. The British singer calls it a sort of musical “diary” in the (self-)critically reflecting foreword he wrote himself, thus delivering a simple reason that can hardly be challenged for this epoch-, style- and language-spanning compilation of baritone-arias bristling with many popular pieces. Although Keenlyside is identified particularly with his Mozart-interpretations in this country, the Count from Figaro, Papageno, Guglielmo and Don Giovanni are not at all exposed in the centre of his diversified repertoire. Thus one is almost inclined to interpret the opening “Largo al factotum” from Rossini’s “Barbiere” as a little allusion to a versatility of voice and acting that tends to be eclipsed by the success of single outstanding first nights (like recently as Giovanni in Zurich).

Yet Keenlyside ranks among those singers to whom it is granted – with regard to the size of his voice as well as to the technical equipment – to nibble from nearly every pot. The arias by Mozart or Rossini are accomplished competently with a slim sound, precision and agility, while a free but never uncontrolled flourishing of his warm timbre’d material in grave and lyric passages complies optimally to Verdi’s and Bellini’s requirements. The depth sounds sonorous and full of substance, the height has penetrating power and virility (except for top notes around g’ that are covered too much and therefore sometimes lose their brilliance).

Add to this that Keenlyside does justice to all the roles as an interpreter too. Even though his Figaro for example lacks the last pinch of liveliness, even though one has heard many of the arias ultimately more convincingly, his role-portraits move on a constantly convincing level. Germont’s “Di Provenza il mar” bristles with pathos and melancholy in the best sense, he even draws some hitherto never heard nuances from Papageno’s rather elementary and pleasing and therefore never easy to perform “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen”. But it’s a lesser known aria from Cilea’s “L’Arlesiana” that marks the highlight. Ranging dangerously between emphasis and kitsch in its allegorical glorification of the bodily weak but mentally strong, it is sung so adorably by Keenlyside that you cannot help feeling a certain amount of emotion.

The accompaniment by the Münchner Rundfunkorchester proves experienced, sensitive and utterly reliable. But given the variegated programme Ulf Schirmer’s conducting can score more by stylistic universality than by individuality. In operatic recitals the orchestra simply furnishes, is in fact “only”, the accompaniment and has the task to support the respective soloist as far as possible and to show him in the most favorable light. A fact that is fulfilled implicitly in this case.

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BBC Music Magazine November 2006

Music Choice

Michael Tanner is impressed by the excellent Keenlyside

Simon Keenlyside releases a superb debut recital disc

Performance *****
Sound ****

Wondrous voice
This is the first operatic recital disc of the greatest lyric baritone of our time, indeed one of the greatest of any time. He submerges his personality in the roles he portrays, and does it with virtually unique insight and completeness. Everything is built, however, on superb breath control and a remarkable capacity for colouring the voice, combined with flawless legato, the principles underlying all great singing. Keenlyside becomes 15 widely differing characters on this disc, giving them more individuality than almost any other singer would. We move from Rossini’s Figaro to his Guillaume Tell, exuberance to tender grief, and the effect is spellbinding. But that is the way the whole recital, with the competent accompaniment of the Munich Radio Orchestra under Ulf Schirmer, continues. The unctuous pomposity of Germont pere in La traviata is as convincing as Posa’s heartbreaking farewell in Don Carlo, and whether in French, Italian, German or (slightly less idiomatically) Russian, Keenlyside creates each figure within a few seconds. I have heard very few operatic recitals that could compare with this.

CD of the Month

Gramophone November 2006

‘This isn’t mere vocal showing-off, these are stories’

The reason why a bits-and-bobs arias recital becomes CD of the month is simply the artistry of its soloist, Simon Keenlyside. The many fans of this intelligent, lithe-voiced baritone will need no reminding of his prowess in, say, Mozart or Britten. But here he also takes on Verdi, Wagner, Leoncavallo – beefy roles that his type of voice just isn’t supposed to be able to handle.

While he might not be able to boom his way through this repertoire in an opera house, the intimacy of the recording studio allows him to adapt thrillingly. He never blusters but finds the through-thought in even the most hackneyed warhorse. His “Eri tu” from Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, for instance, is less a furious tirade than an agonised traversal of a cuckolded husband’s pain. Elsewhere, he provides an object lesson in legato as Tchaikovsky’s Yeletsky, and brings the right elegant touch to French roles. But throughout, his approach remains the same. As the disc’s title suggests, this isn’t mere vocal showing-off, these are stories. Keenlyside is a most eloquent narrator.

CD of the Month

Patrick O’Connor for Gramophone November 2006

The amazing Simon Keenlyside embarks on a wonderful musical adventure.

“Pyrotechnical Difficulties”: Simon Keenlyside fights fire – and wins

Is there anything Simon Keenlyside can’t do? In addition to displaying his dramatic and vocal flair in characters ranging from Papageno to Hamlet, he has also written a thoughtful essay in the booklet, and illustrated it with humorous drawings. The reason behind the choice of arias is “to make a record of my little life, my short turn in this wonderful musical adventure”.

He starts with a fizzing account of Figaro’s entrance from II barbiere; as he reminds us, “its pyrotechnical difficulties can never be taken for granted”. This and Papageno’s “Ein Mädchen” are the two light-hearted moments; for the rest it is a question of balancing moods between yearning, anger and despair. On the quieter side are lovely accounts of “Vision fugitive” from Massenet’s Herodiade and Wolfram’s song to the evening star from Tannhäuser.

Comparitive rarities include the aria for Allazim from Mozart’s Zaide, and an extract from Cilea’s L’arlesiana, recorded as a tribute to Tito Gobbi. The biggest surprise comes in the three Verdi extracts, with Keenlyside finding darker colours in his tone. “Eri tu” from Ballo in maschera has a tortured grandeur, and even “Di provenza” from La traviata – both verses – emerges as freshly thought-through. Ulf Schirmer and the Munich Radio Orchestra provide fine support throughout.

A black mark for proof-reading, though; the booklet misspells Serafin as “Seraphim”. And why nothing in English? Anyone who has heard Keenlyside in recital knows what magic he can weave in his native tongue, so a follow-up CD, please, of English songs.

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Sunday Telegraph, 29 October 2006

4 out of 5 stars ****

In a fascinating essay with this disc, Keenlyside explains why he  It has chosen these 15 arias, ranging from Mozart (Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute) to Verdi (including Posa in Don Carlo and Germont in La Traviata, among others), Wagner and Massenet. His reasons explain the thoughtfulness that governs all this outstanding baritone’s work, and his choices display not only the splendour of his voice but also his ability to enter into a character’s musical world. Enjoy the sensuous grace in Massenet’s Vision fugitive, the dignity of Posa’s death scene, the ecstasy of Wagner’s ‘Abendstern’ aria from Tannhäuser and of course his inimitable Papageno from The Magic Flute. Ulf Schirmer conducts the accompaniments in this delectable recital.

From the website of the Bavarian State Opera, 18 October 2006

Translated by Ursula Turecek

Simon Keenlyside sings «Tales of Opera»

Munich (dpa) – He was never interested in merely beautiful singing, says Simon Keenlyside. And so the baritone from London has created for himself, in the course of the last years, an outstanding position as a character actor with corners and edges at the world’s operatic stages.

Today Keenlyside is regarded as one of Great Britain’s most popular and charismatic singers. On stage he mainly performs strong roles – in the “Barber of Seville” or as Papageno in the “Magic Flute”. The Briton always looks for the real life behind the characters as he also shows in his CD “Tales of Opera” with famous arias.

No matter if in “Figaro” or “Tannhäuser” – Keenlyside particulary manages to form their mental abysses. Even when he intones as Papageno’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” it sounds less like a cheerful melody than like a cry for help.

Warwick Thompson for Classic FM Magazine, November 2006

Baritone Simon Keenlyside has recorded a selection of arias that has great personal significance for him, and he brings his customary flair, intelligence and insight to the performance. He’s cheekily audacious as Figaro (‘Largo al factotum’), sweetly vulnerable as Papageno (‘Ein Mädchen’), and full of passionate longing in ‘Vision Fugative’ from Massenet’s Héroidade. With Schirmer’s vivid conducting, it all makes for a very satisfying listen. If only someone had taken more flattering pictures of the singer, and curbed a tendency to navel-gazing in his long sleeve-note, it would have been perfect.

Musicweb recording of the month (November). Göran Forsling

Simon Keenlyside has been around for quite some time now and for the last decade or so has been firmly established as one of the leading lyrical baritones of his generation. He has appeared on a substantial number of complete sets and has also made some excellent Lieder recordings. This is, as far as I know, his first operatic recital. It is a testing programme with (mostly) standard arias sung throughout the history of the phonograph by all the greats – and he stands up well against comparison.

He opens, as so many before him, with Figaro’s Factotum-aria from Il barbiere di Siviglia, where we first hear the excellent orchestra impressively recorded in a generous but finely detailed acoustic. Keenlyside’s first phrases are distanced and I reached for my pen to make a note about recording balance until I realised that he wasn’t on stage yet. When he was I had no complaints. His voice sounds in mint condition, no tear and wear in spite of the years gone by: a manly sound with brilliant top and easy access to a mellifluous pianissimo – so important for a Lieder artist. His Figaro sparkles with joy and he executes the patter singing with elegance and tongue-in-cheek. A fine cello solo opens the William Tell aria, sung in the original French. There he adopts a softer timbre, more French if you like but also in character. Vision fugitive is wonderfully nuanced and the Don Carlo scene, sung a bit inconsistently in Italian, is deeply felt. The excerpt encompasses both the aria and the following death scene. This is one of the best items on the disc. The Ballo aria shows Renato’s dual feelings towards Riccardo: sorrow and then intense fury. He sings O dolcezze perdute! With a soft and inward quality. The Traviata aria is warm and conversational, directed to Alfredo and not to the audience as is so often the case. The concluding Dio mi guidò is scaled down to a marvellously beautiful pianissimo.

The Drinking song from Hamlet is ebullient and joyous and the orchestral prelude and postlude are bucolic dances. In the Puritani aria, with its fair share of florid singing I would have liked more light and shade. As it is it becomes unnecessarily monotonous. True, this isn’t one of Bellini’s best creations and he still sings it with admirably steady and beautiful tone, reminiscent of Ingvar Wixell in his heyday with that quickly fluttering vibrato. He actually sings the recitative before the aria proper, though the text is omitted in the booklet.

Papageno’s second aria from Die Zauberflöte is on the other hand as varied in tone and as full of word-pointing as anyone could wish. This is certainly a role that Keenlyside relishes. Tonio’s prologue from Pagliacci is strong and confident, with Schirmer’s conducting a positive factor; as it is throughout. He sings un nido di memorie in a soft half-voice, gradually growing to an impressive Il tempo gli battevano.

Cilea’s L’Arlesiana is today almost exclusively remembered for the tenor aria É la solita storia but this wide-ranging baritone aria is atmospheric in an impressionistic manner. He sings the wonderful melody of the Pique Dame aria with all the requisite heart-on-sleeve passion and judging from this he must be a splendid Eugene Onegin as well. Don Giovanni’s serenade is hushed and honeyed, the second stanza close to a whisper with the voice shivering with suppressed lust. The other rarity, Allazim’s first act aria from Zaide, which I just recently came across in Harnoncourt’s complete recording (see review), is gloriously sung and the aria is a little gem that should be heard more often.

Wolfram’s song to the Evening Star from Tannhäuser brings the recital to a wonderful end, sung initially with grave dignity, inward and nuanced and with a both warm and glowing O du mein holder Abendstern.

A quality product from all points of view and the only criticism relates to my usual hang-up: Why do they have to print the notes in white, yellow and even light brown against a darkish background? Thank God the texts and translations are readable.

A splendid well-filled, well-sung and well recorded recital with some of the finest baritone arias and with two rarities as an extra bonus. Not to be missed!

Hugh Canning, Sunday Times, 12 November 2006

Classical CD of the week
Four stars ****

The British baritone displays his versatility in what is – astonishingly – his first opera recital on disc. First, a few cavils: the programme is the now ubiquitous mishmash of composers and periods, with no sense of a progression or theme (and Tales of Opera must be one of the feeblest catch-all titles ever conceived for any album of this type). The proofreading of the booklet is shocking: the printed texts don’t always correspond to what you hear, either. That said, Keenlyside’s singing is magnificent, especially in his beloved Mozart – we get a glimpse of his celebrated Papageno, his suave Don Giovanni and Allazim, in the unfinished Singspiel known as Zaide – and in the lyric French baritone repertoire. Perhaps some of the heavier Italian repertory isn’t ideally suited to his virile, lyric baritone: the prologue from Pagliacci needs a robuster, more Italianate sound, although Keenlyside sings it more musically than any Italian baritone I have heard. Still, the highlights far outweigh the relative failures – it’s hard to think of a baritone today who could sing Yeletsky’s scene from The Queen of Spades, Wolfram’s Evening Star solo, from Tannhauser, and Figaro’s Largo al factotum so idiomatically.

Anthony Holden, Observer Review Arts pages, 15 Oct 2006

Anything Bryn can do, Simon can do. . . well, if not better, just as well, with interesting differences of weight and interpretation. Following Terfel’s recent Tutto Mozart! and other such anthologies, Keenlyside makes his elegant debut on Sony in a versatile programme ranging from Rossini’s Figaro to Mozart’s Don Giovanni via Massenet, Verdi, Bellini, Tchaikovsky, Wagner and others. Here, too, is the Ambroise Thomas Hamlet he created at Covent Garden. Warm, rich, witty and stylish, this is a memorable collection from an outstanding singer.

Karl Dietrich Gräwe for Rondo magazine, 13 October 2006

Translated by Ursula Turecek

The paragraph marked in purple was added to the review in their 5/2006 issue (page 51, Karl Dietrich Gräwe)

Rating:  üüüüü  (5 ticks = “masterpiece”)

Keenlyside is able to handle every occasion and situation, brilliant bravura as well as internalized melancholy, the tenor’s brightness as well as the dark and luscious timbre. The transitions from one colouring to the next mix without any rupture, the control of breath is perfect, the reserves of air are inexhaustible. One understands why Keenlyside also sang Debussy’s Pelléas who switches over to the tenor “fach”, and one would not put high bass parts past him at all.

What more may be asked for? Actually nothing. The arias that are sung with their original texts in Italian, French, German, Russian sound idiomatically authentic too.

Some may possibly wish that Keenlyside, in his imperturbable discipline of vocal technique, style and articulation, would run riot with it or allow the devil to ride him for once, after all he exposes himself (from a dramaturgic point of view) to mortal danger with one role or the other. No, his inner compass is seduction-resistent – but can you really chalk up this against him as a “flaw”?

His confident personality apparently does not allow him impulsive extravagation. An individuality protected by irony and scepticism indicates itself more frankly in a commentary he added to the CD. His father, his grandfather were notable violinists, he is aware of being on secure musical ground. He could also earn his money as a zoologist, and as a graphic artist of witty cartoons he could have had a chance with the print media. Some cartoons liven up the booklet, Keenlyside does not have any problems reinterpreting the duel scene Commendatore/Giovanni as a comical “Moritat” – with the pencil. The CD’s 15 arias are a programme we like to hear and have heard often enough. Keenlyside turns this into a self-portrait of its own kind, counterpointed by a text that is a humourous reflection on his own career as a singer and on singing colleagues that have inspired him. The aria from Cilea’s „L’Arlesiana“ is an important part of his own repertoire and also a tribute to the great Tito Gobbi.

In most of the cases the listener knows without doubt who is singing which aria in which role. But even if the sung lines are all printed in the booklet, it may possibly be revealing to learn some more, for example that it’s Herodes who sings in Massenet, the name part himself in Thomas’ “Hamlet”, the fiancé manqué Riccardo in Bellini, old Baldassare in Cilea, Prince Yeletzky in Tchaikovsky, the gardener Allazim in Mozart’s “Zaide”. Objections that have no relation to Keenlyside; he is entitled to the highest score.

Alan Blyth, Opera, December 2006

Disc of the month

Without hesitation I declare this to be best opera recital I have heard in years. At last our leading baritone – and I use the term advisedly – gets his due in as wide-ranging a recital as can be imagined. Were there any chink in his vocal or interpretative armoury it would surely be revealed, but, no, he accepts every challenge and meets it conclusively from the brilliantly characterized ‘ Largo al factotum’ at the start to the most mellifluous and atmospheric ‘0 du mein holder Abendstern’ at its close. The latter is symptomatic of the virtues displayed throughout – a seamless legato, firm but flexible tone and a welcome advocacy of nuance. Battistini will surely nod in praise from wherever he may be.

His ‘Vision fugitive’ is in the category of the legendary Maurice Renaud’s version – so intense, even-toned, impassioned, with impeccable French. ‘Di Provenza’ is for once presented with an amazing variety of dynamics and feeling for the text. As such it sounds new-minted. Still better is Posa’s aria and death: again all the verities are obeyed in a supreme display of Verdian singing. Renato might be beyond the baritone in the theatre, but here ‘Eri tu’ sounds well within his capabilities and – as throughout – a real character is portrayed.

For the rest, his familiar Papageno (second aria) and Giovanni (Serenade) remind us of his special skills in Mozart, as does the rarely heard ‘Nur mutig’ from Zaide. At the other end of the vocal scale, in the Pagliacci Prologue, he really tells a story. In seemingly good Russian, he is the lovelorn Yeletsky to the life, and listening to this noble aria I just wallowed in the mellow tone and impeccable line. A nice touch is the inclusion of the Cilea aria, which, the singer tells us in a well-informed note, is a tribute to Tito Gobbi.

Excellent orchestral support and spacious, well-balanced recording confirm this as a ‘must-have’ issue.

Abendzeitung 7. 10. 2006 (RBR)

Translated by Ursula Turecek

Brilliantly done
“Tales of Opera”: The excellent recital of baritone Simon Keenlyside

During the last years the English baritone Simon Keenlyside has been the inevitable nervous, modern Don Giovanni and Papageno at many [opera] houses. At the Nationaltheater he sang the Count from “Figaro” and recently Wolfram in Wagner’s “Tannhäuser”.

On Keenlyside’s first recital-CD you can find other strong points of the 46 year-old. With “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen”, Don Giovanni’s serenade and an aria from “Zaide” he does not deny his justified fame as a Mozart-singer at all. The surprises are the Italian and French arias of his varied album “Tales of Opera” (Sony). Here a notable, completely convincing change to the more dramatic “fach” is in the offing. Keenlyside has the vocal reserves and the musical intelligence for it.

With verve and tempo but without superfluous hokum he plunges into Rossini’s “ Largo al factotum”. This is followed surprisingly by a rather contrasting piece by the same composer: In “Sois immobile” from “Guillaume Tell” Keenlyside excels with baritonal warmth. But it is even more notable how Keenlyside hits the French music’s bitter-sweet tone with a pithy and velvety voice. Massenet’s “Vision fugitive” manages without eccentric Italianisms as does the brilliantly done drinking song from Ambroise Thomas’s “Hamlet”. In contrast he sings arias from Verdi’s “Don Carlos” and “Un Ballo in Maschera” with energetic power. The agile Munich Rundfunkorchester under Ulf Schirmer proves equally familiar with all styles. You’ll rarely hear a recital as perfect as this one !

Die Welt, 4 December 2006

Translated by Ursula Turecek

CDs recommended by Klaus Geitel

For sportsmen
A vocal relay race only with the voice instead of the baton. Keenlyside dashes vocally through the world of opera where it presents itself baritonally: funny, dramatic, raving, dangerous, forgiving. You’ll enjoy opera’s versatility, the various masters’ signatures in the baritone’s dark colour: from Mozart to Wagner – and back again, of course.

Andrew McGregor, BBC Radio 3 CD Review, 4 November 2006

“…It’s about time baritone Simon Keenlyside made a recital disc and my expectations of his “Tales of Opera” for Sony were high. Some of his signature roles are represented here from Papageno and Giovanni to Figaro, and some roles I’ve never had the chance to hear Keenlyside perform in the UK. And I’m delighted to say that my expectations have been exceeded!

It’s a remarkable recital in which Keenlyside parades 15 very different characters in front of us and invests each of them with such a purpose that’s utterly their own and with such superb command of colour and breath control that you would know[?] every single one of them. Take Posa, for example, in Verdi’s Don Carlo. Here he’s bidding a final, fatal farewell to his great friend Carlos. Rodrigo has decided that he will die so that his friend can continue with their noble cause. This supreme sacrifice can rarely have sounded so noble and so lyrically beautiful.

Track 4

Don Carlo: Verdi

The death of Posa “Per me giunto è il dì supreme

Rodrigo’s farewell, sacrificing himself for his friend Carlos in Verdi’s Don Carlo, invested with such noble beauty and theatrical resonance by Simon Keenlyside with the Munich Radio Orchestra conducted by Ulf Schirmer. It’s from Keenlyside’s debut operatic recital “Tales from the Opera [sic]”, 15 arias from Rossini’s Barber to Wagner’s Tannhäuser.

You have to hear it. Operatic recitals of this quality and intelligence are rare things and Keenlyside’s musings on his art and his own drawings are nice touches as well. New from Sony Classical, and it’s coming home with me after the programme.

BBC Radio 3 CD Review, 9 December 2006. Alexandra Wilson reviews “Tales of Opera” with Radio 3’s Andrew McGregor

AMcG: Now Alexandra Wilson, I’ve been looking forward to your last new operatic recital because, well, it’s one I’ve already had a quiet rave about on CD Review, and I think it a long overdue solo recital…

AW: It is. This is Simon Keenlyside in a huge range of operas ranging from Monteverdi to Thomas Adés, and he demonstrates that adaptability on this disc. Erm, we’ve got more variety here I think than on any of the discs we’re hearing today, with the possible exception of Fleming. So we’ve got Mozart, Bellini, Rossini, that sort of end of things, we’ve also got some Wagner, Massenet, Leoncavallo, Cilea, so a real mixed bag. But let’s stay with Russian music for the moment and hear him singing an aria from Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades, an opera he’s performed at the Paris Bastille. The text here is “I love you. My love for you knows no bounds. I cannot imagine living a day without you”.

Track 12 (excerpt)

Pique Dame: Tchaikovsky

Yeletsky’s Act 2 aria “Ya vas lyublyu

AMcG: Simon Keenlyside in an aria from Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame, just one of 15 arias on his Tales of Opera recital on Sony Classical. And, well, actually Alexandra, one of the things I was most impressed by on this recital is the sheer number of characters, I don’t think he repeats a single one and so we have 15 characters that Keenlyside inhabits, and inhabits very convincingly in a very short space of time.

AW: Yes, I think that’s really quite an achievement on one of these sort of, you know, rag-bag collections of different arias albums. You really believe in these characters, I mean we’ve just heard him there in ardent, sentimental mood, but he’s equally adept at the dramatic roles and at the comic roles.

AMcG: But why has he gone down this route? Because he’s set himself a very difficult task. But does it work? Why do you think he’s taken this approach?

AW: I think he’s trying to make a sort of personal statement really. Erm, these are roles that are very important to him personally, they’re either roles that he sings in the theatre today or plans to sing very soon.

AMcG: A sort of opposite to the René Fleming disc in a way…

AW: Yes, absolutely, absolutely, that’s right, and it must be said that the repertory on this disc is in general quite a bit more familiar. But they’re roles that he’s sung or roles that informed his development as a singer, and so the title “Tales of Opera” it’s as if he’s trying to tell the tale of his own life if you like, through these arias.

AMcG: He does tell his own tale very well in the notes as well doesn’t he, because you get a real feeling, I don’t know, of the essential humility of Keenlyside, you know, that one of the reasons he inhabits these roles so successfully is because he’d rather it was all about them than about him.

AW: Yes, this is absolutely not the world of the Diva! [laughter] He’s written this wonderful essay in the sleeve notes, in which he’s very modest actually about his motives for making a recording at all. Erm, he says that he hasn’t made this disc for posterity because he’s very realistic about the fact that wonderful baritones from the past have made recordings that nobody hears now. Erm, but I’m sure that his fans will be listening to it for quite some time to come because it’s a wonderful collection. It’s a serious album by a serious artist.

AMcG: It’s quite hard to choose highlights but what do you come up with?

AW: Well I like hearing the comic roles, and so I’d like to play his rendition of Largo al factotum from Rossini’s Barber of Seville. Now we’ve heard this so many times, but listen most carefully as to how he puts character into each of the different voices, because in this aria we’ve got ladies, children, old men, all calling out for a wig or a hair cut or a shave, in the case of the gents, and in a nice way this use of different voices sort of sums up the album itself. So Keenlyside takes on all these different operatic guises and is utterly convincing in all of them.

Track 1 (excerpt):

Il barbiere di Siviglia: Rossini

Figaro’s Act 1 cavatina “Largoal factotum della città

AMcG: Simon Keenlyside as Figaro in Rossini’s Barber of Seville, one of 15 operatic guises he takes on his debut operatic recital “Tales of Opera”. The pick of the bunch for Alexandra Wilson, who also very much admires the playing of the munich Radio Orchestra conducted by Ulf Schirmer.

Der Neue Merker (DZ)

Translated by Ursula Turecek

“Tales of Opera” is the name given by the 47-year old British baritone to his first (!) aria-recital, his quite personal selection – and wins hymnal reviews with it throughout. Now it’s not that Keenlyside’s baritone stands out for extraordinary beauty or “noble baritonal warmth” but what Keenlyside produces expresses an absolutely virile “lyrical character-baritone” and eventually well and truly captivates. When his distinctive stage disposition – alongside his appealing appearance – and his completely natural performance are added to this at the opera, the result is overall a work of art of high quality – recently experienced in his Marquis Posa at the Munich “Don Carlo” on the 1. 11., and who is represented on this CD alongside other Verdis too. Particular attention is deserved by Germont’s “Di provenza” that Keenlyside with his pithy tone and Ulf Schirmer (with the Munich Rundfunkorchester) with a speedy tempo, impressively manage to “de-schmaltz”. I am particularly thrilled by the French arias by Massenet, Thomas and from Rossini’s Tell in French. Other pieces by Tchaikovsky (P.D.), Cilèa, Mozart and Wagner (Wolfram’s Evening star).

To mention quite personally in passing: As Keenlyside is well moving the in the repertory-territory of his American rival Hampson here, be it noted that the Briton with his pithy, stupendously expressive interpretation that is free of mannerisms beats the pants off the American.

Only exception: With Mozart’s Papageno of all things his naturalness has abandoned him a little…

Chosen as one of the Best 20 Classical Albums 2006

Michael Kennedy, Sunday Telegraph, Dec 10, 2006 (Seven Magazine)

‘In a fascinating essay with this disc, Simon Keenlyside explains why he has chosen these 15 arias, ranging from Mozart (Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute) to Verdi (including Posa in Don Carlo and Germont in La Traviata, among others), Wagner and Massenet. His reasons explain the thoughtfulness that governs all this outstanding baritone’s work, and his choices display not only the splendour of his voice but also his ability to enter into a character’s musical world.’

George Hall for Opera Now, January/February 2007

3  out of 3 stars
The British baritone continues to have one of the most successful and acclaimed careers of any of today’s leading singers, praised for the insight and depth – both musical and dramatic – he brings to his stage assumptions as he does to his song recitals. That’s all highly audible on this disc. So, perhaps not so regularly commented on, is the sheer quality of his voice. It’s not a vast instrument, but it has plenty of power when required. It also has a subtle range of colours that can, seemingly, adapt to any context. One might not think of him as a natural Figaro, for instance, but the sheer exuberance of his opening

‘Largo al factotum’ is as obvious in the incisive energy of his Italianate vocalism as it is in his vivid textual delivery (with no corners cut). This is a wide-ranging selection, including extracts from some of Keenlyside’s justly famous stage roles (notably Hamlet, Papageno, Yeletsky, Posa, Wolfram, and Don Giovanni) and others outside his current stage repertoire sampled in extracts from Ballo, Traviata, Pagliacci, Guillaume Tell and Herodiade.

It’s a marvellously varied disc, stuffed with great singing, all finely accompanied by the Munich Radio Orchestra under Ulf Schirmer. Keenlyside contributes a characteristically thoughtful note and some witty drawings.

Classical CD of the Week

Richard Wigmore for the Telegraph, 20 January 2007

Few, if any, contemporary baritones could match Simon Keenlyside’s versatility and panache in this, his belated CD opera recital debut. An aria such as the Prologue from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci may seem an ambitious choice for an essentially lyric voice. But Keenlyside more than compensates for any lack of Italianate heft with the amour of his phrasing and subtlety of his colouring.

Elsewhere, he ranges effortlessly from the virile exuberance of Rossini’s Figaro to the mingled anguish and tenderness of “Eri tu”, from Un ballo in maschera. Keenlyside’s characterisation is always vivid and true, while his aristocratic elegance of style should satisfy the most demanding connoisseur.

Singing in French, Keenlyside is equally idiomatic in “Sois immobile” from Rossini’s Guillaume Tell and the despairing bravado of Hamlet’s drinking song in Ambroise Thomas’s opera. In Yeletsky’s love song (Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades), the Russian language taps a new, darker spectrum of colours, while his Mozart encompasses an unusually thoughtful Papageno in Die Zauberflöte and the most sensuously honeyed accounts of Don Giovanni’s serenade you will hear today.

Financial Times Germany, 13 October 2006

Translated by Ursula Turecek

This singer with the distinctive voice is not to be pressed into any cliché. Because he is able to sing nearly everything that has been written for his register, baritone. With him the “Song to the Evening Star” has a sound you could melt away with, nobody “dies” as beautifully as his Don Carlos [sic] and as Don Giovanni he is probably world class at the moment. The English baritone Simon Keenlyside shows on his new CD that he not only possesses a voice with an endless range of sound but really is at home with all stylistics [sic]. It’s not only his Mozart-singing that is well phrased, he also sings the arias from Verdi’s and Bellini’s belcanto-operas “in line” and “suffers” at the highest level in Tchaikovsky’s “Pique Dame” or as “Pagliaccio” [sic] with Leoncavallo.

Fred Cohn, Opera News, March  2008 , vol 72 , no.9

Comparing the singer encountered here with that of a decade ago — for instance, as Mercutio on the 1998 EMI Alagna– Gheorghiu Roméo et Juliette — one discovers quite a different Keenlyside. The smooth surface of the baritone’s younger voice has given way to something grittier: a pretty voice has become a handsome one. One can mourn the loss of sheen while celebrating the expressive possibilities that his mature powers bring him. A few years back, he might have spelled out the bel canto lines of “Ah! per sempre” from I Puritani more evenly. But one certainly can’t imagine the Keenlyside of the ’90s tackling quite the range of material found here. From the evidence of this disc, Keenlyside is now a more than plausible Posa and Germont. Still, even with the change in color, this is not a dramatic baritone and may never be one. The lyrical passages of “Eri tu” work well, the declamatory ones less so, and when he applies too much pressure, the voice begins to shudder. In Pagliacci, he has previously been cast as Silvio; here, in Tonio’s Prologue, he can’t expand his sound to wring the pathos out of its climactic passage — this clown doesn’t quite make the transition from sardonic to confessional mode.

Even in these less successful selections, though, many of the qualities that make Keenlyside a valuable singer come through. A motley collection such as this (fifteen arias, ten composers, four languages) runs the risk of turning into so many nods in opposing directions, but he attacks each assignment as intriguing territory to be explored. The shift in mood between the two opening selections — Figaro’s ebullient entrance aria and William Tell’s pensive “Sois immobile” — demonstrates the singer’s expressive range as well as Rossini’s. “Di Provenza” can easily be treated as just an old chestnut; by putting special urgency to the phrase “E che pace colà son” Keenlyside suggests just how passionately Germont wants to draw Alfredo back into the family. He offers pleasing mementos of two of his Mozart signature roles — Don Giovanni (“Deh vieni alla finestra“) and Papageno (“Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen,” sung zestfully but without mugging). “Nur mutig, mein Herz,” from the same composer’s Zaide, could turn into an exercise in musical archaeology, but Keenlyside’s freshness of approach brings it to vivid life. In another rarity, “Come due tizzi accesi,” from L’Arlesiana, he uses tone, language and phrasing to create a pastoral idyll. The best comes last — a rendition of Wolfram’s hymn to the evening star remarkable for its mood of rapt contemplation.

Leading the excellent Münchner Rundfunkorchester, Ulf Schirmer remains ideally attuned to his soloist throughout — a testament to the care with which this recital has been prepared. The accompanying booklet includes an essay by Keenlyside, longer on charm than on information, but no texts or translations — forgivable for “Di Provenza” or “Largo al factotum,” perhaps, but one wonders how many listeners will have a libretto of L’Arlesiana, Zaide or Hérodiade close at hand.

www.gopera.com

Translation below

Voor een zanger van het kaliber van Simon Keenlyside is het verrassend dat hij maar relatief weinig opnames gemaakt heeft.

Hij heeft met Graham Johnson wel een aantal Lieder-opnames gemaakt in de Schubert- en Schumann-edities bij Hyperion. Hij heeft ook een handvol opera’s opgenomen, waaronder de alom gelauwerde Le nozze di Figaro. Verder zijn er nog een paar live opera-DVD’s: Hamlet, Toverfluit, … onlangs verscheen ook L’Orfeo in de Trisha Brown-productie van de Munt. Maar dat is het zo ongeveer. Een CD-visitekaartje met opera-aria’s ontbrak echter nog volledig.

Eerder dit jaar tekende hij een contract met Sony en het eerste resultaat daarvan is zo’n CD met een collectie baritonaria’s. Deze opname bestrijkt zo ongeveer het hele baritonrepertoire. Keenlyside zingt Franse, Duitse, Italiaanse en zelfs een Russische aria gaande van het lyrische tot het dramatische vak. In het CD-boekje geeft Keenlyside uitgebreid toelichting bij de keuze van de aria’s. Het zijn ofwel aria’s die hij momenteel in zijn repertoire heeft, of die hij binnenkort voor de eerste keer gaat zingen. In dat opzicht is het verrassend dat hij uit het Russische repertoire Yeletski’s aria uit Pique Dame gekozen heeft en niet een van Onegins aria’s.

Daarnaast zingt hij ook een aantal aria’s die niet echt bij zijn natuurlijk stemtype passen. Renato’s Eri tu uit Un ballo in maschera of de Prologo van Pagliacci horen daar zeker bij. Het zijn aria’s die ik hem nog niet meteen in een operahuis hoor zingen, maar in een studio kan natuurlijk veel. In deze aria’s herken ik zelfs nauwelijks zijn stem. Net zoals de foto’s in het CD-boekje een zwaar gePhotoShopte Keenlyside tonen, heb ik het gevoel dat hij zijn stem soms ook wat oppompt.

Maar dat neemt niet weg dat hij op zich in deze aria’s redelijk overtuigend overkomt. Neem bijvoorbeeld die Verdi-aria. Hij kleurt zijn stem donkerder waardoor hij haast de indruk geeft een dramatische Verdi-bariton te zijn. Maar op bepaalde momenten moet hij toch passen. Een van de kenmerken van een Verdi-bariton is een stevige hoogte. Men kan niet zeggen dat Keenlyside problemen met hoge noten heeft, maar het is eerder een Pelléas-hoogte. Als hij bijvoorbeeld moet opbouwen tot de forte-climax in “e d’un tratto esecrabile” blijft hij op hetzelfde niveau hangen en komt er geen echte forte. Anderzijds is de cantabile “O dolcezzze perdute” die daarop volgt wel heel mooi met veel aandacht voor legato en mét al de kleine nootjes zoals het moet.

Even verrassend als deze dramatische aria’s is de selectie van een paar typische belcanto-aria’s… een genre waarmee ik Keenlyside ook niet echt associeer. Maar Figaro’s Largo al factotum of Bellini’s Ah! Per sempre io ti perdei uit I Puritani zijn natuurlijk typische nummers op dit soort CD’s.

In het lyrische repertoire schittert hij uiteraard in de Mozart-aria’s. In Don Giovanni’s Deh, vieni alla finestra koppelt hij viriliteit aan zoetgevooisdheid om tot een perfect verleidelijke serenade te komen. Al zijn Paganeno-vertolkingen zorgen er verder voor dat hij Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen met veel variatie en tekstdetails zingt. Uit Zaide zingt hij het onbekende Nur mutig, mein Herz, versuche dein Glück. Het is niet meteen de meest boeiende aria, die ik graag ingewisseld had voor de aria van Almaviva of zo…

Het Franse repertoire mocht ook niet ontbreken. De eerste aria in de reeks is Tells Sois immobile, wat hij redelijk terughoudend zingt. Hij kan zeker nog meer emotie in deze aria leggen, vooral op het einde – “Gemmy, Gemmy, songe à ta mère” – net voor hij de pijl afvuurt naar de appel op Gemmy’s hoofd. Herodes’ aria Vision fugitive zingt hij met veel passie, maar ook met enige onzekerheid of hij Salomé wel zal kunnen veroveren. Hamlet heeft hij al in verschillende operahuizen gezongen. Diens drinklied O vin, dissipe la tristesse klinkt het meest Frans van de drie, inclusief een langzame triller. Zijn Frans is zo mooi, dat ik het spijtig vind dat hij Posa’s Per me giunto niet in de Franse versie gezongen heeft.

Tenslotte staat er ook nog een echte rariteit op. Come due tizzi accesi heb ik slechts in één andere versie in mijn collectie, die van Tito Gobbi. En het is dan ook als eerbetoon aan deze grote bariton dat Keenlyside deze aria uit L’Arlesiana opgenomen heeft. De vergelijking met Gobbi is dan ook onvermijdelijk. Soms klinkt Keenlyside zelfs mooier en aangrijpender dan Gobbi, ondanks een paar ongelukkige adempauzes. Hij kan wel nog niet tippen aan de natuurlijkheid waarmee Gobbi de slotlijn zingt… maar wie kan dat wel?

Met Wolframs O du, mein holder Abendstern besluit hij de CD. Dit is ook een van zijn rollen die hem als gegoten zitten. In het dromerige middenstuk vind ik dat hij zijn stem onnodig aandikt. Maar de aria zelf is mooi opgebouwd om te eindigen met een intiem “… ein sel’ger Engel dort zu werden”.

Tenslotte wordt het CD-boekje nog verlevendigd met eigen tekeningen. Rolando Villazon is blijkbaar niet de enige zanger met cartoon-tekentalenten…

uitvoerders: Simon Keenlyside (bariton)

Münchner Rundfunkorchester, Ulf Schirmer

label: Sony Classical 82876884822

Translated by Petra Habeth and Martin Cuiper

For a singer of the calibre of SK is surprising that he has made comparatively few recordings. He has made a number of Lieder-recitals with Graham Johnson in the Schubert-Schumann-editions by Hyperion. He has also made a handful of opera-recordings among them the “Nozze di Figaro”, highly praised everywhere. Furthermore he appears in some live-opera-DVDs: Hamlet, Magic Flute… recently the Orfeo of the Trisha Brown-production from De Munt/Brussels was released. But that’s it. A CD-calling card with opera-arias was completely missing.

Earlier this year he signed a contract with Sony and the first result is such a CD with a collection of baritone arias. This recording roughly covers the whole baritone repertoire. Keenlyside is singing in French, German, Italian and even a Russian aria going from lyrical to dramatical repertoire.

In the CD-booklet Keenlyside gives detailed explanations for the choices of arias. There are both arias which are in his repertoire already and arias which he will sing soon for the first time. Under these circumstances it is surprising that in the Russian repertoire he has chosen Yeletzki’s aria from Pique Dame and not one of Onegin’s arias.

Furthermore he is singing a couple of arias which are not really suitable for his type of voice. Renato’s “Eri tu” from Ballo in Maschera or the Prologue from Pagliacci belong to these. These are arias which we can’t expect to hear him sing in an opera-house in the near future, but in a studio much more is possible. In these arias I can hardly recognize his voice. Like the photo’s in the CD-booklet they show a heavily photoshopped SK, I get the idea that he enlarges his voice sometimes.

All the same he’s reasonably convincing in these aria’s. Take, for instance, the Verdi aria. He darkens the colour of his voice, thus giving the impression of being a dramatic Verdi baritone, but at certain moments he has to pass. One of the attributes of a Verdi baritone is strong high notes. You can’t say that Keenlyside has problems with high notes but it is more like a Pelléas height. As, for instance, when he has to build up the forte-climax in “e d’un tratto esecrablile”,  he got stuck on the same level and does not get a real forte. On the other hand the cantabile “o dolcezze perdute” which follows is very beautiful, with much attention for legato and with all the little notes as they should be.

As surprising as the choice of dramatic arias, is the choice of some typical bel canto arias… a genre I also don’t really associate with Keenlyside. But Figaro’s “Largoel factotum” or Bellini’s “Ah! Per sempre io ti perdei” from Puritani are of course typical tracks on such a collection-CD.

In the lyrical repertory he shines, of course, in the Mozart arias. In Don Giovannis “Deh vieni alla finestra” he links virility with a sweetness in the voice to produce a perfect seductive serenade. Already his portrayal of Papageno ensures that he sings his “Mädchen oder Weibchen” with a lot of subtleties and text details. From Zaide he sings the little known “Nur mutig, mein Herz, versuche dein Glück.” This is not exactly the most interesting aria, I would have liked to exchange it for Almaviva or something.

The French repertory shouldn’t be lacking either. The first aria in the sequence is Tells “Sois imobile” which he sings in a rather reserved fashion. He could surely include more emotions into this aria, especially at the end “Gemmy,Gemmy, songe à ta mère” – just before the arrow flies to the apple on Gemmy’s head. Herods’ aria “Vision fugitive” he sings with much passion but also with some uncertainness as to whether he will be able to seduce Salomé. He has sung Hamlet at several opera houses and his drinking song “O vin, dissipe la tristesse” sounds most French of all three, including the slow trill. His French is so good that I regret that his singing of Posa’s “Per me giunto” is not in French.

To finish there’s a true rarity: “Come due tizzi accesi”. I have got only one different version in my collection, the one by Tito Gobbi. And it is also meant as a tribute to this great baritone that Keenlyside has recorded this aria. So the comparison with Gobbi is then inescapable. Sometimes Keenlyside sounds even more beautiful and more moving than Gobbi’s despite some unfortunate breaths. As yet he can’t beat Gobbi in the natural way he sings the concluding sentence…. But who ever could?

He finishes this CD with Wolfram’s “O du mein holder Abendstern“. This is one of his roles which fits him like a glove. I think that in the dreamy middle part he thickens his voice unnecessarily, but the aria itself is wonderfully built up to finish with an intimate “ein sel’ger Engel dort zu werden.

A last word about the CD booklet: It is enlivened by his own doodles. Rolando Villazon is apparently not the only singer with cartoon-drawing-talents…

Tales_of_Opera_signing_1

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