Rolando Villazón "con el corazón"
Rolando Villazón

Madrid, Teatro de la Zarzuela
28 April 2008

review by   Paolo Cascio

Entre cielo y mar

As part of the Music for a Bicentennial series, Rolando Villazón performed with the Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid under Daniele Callegari. The first half comprised Italian opera arias and the second zarzuela romanzas.

To represent opera here, Villazón chose Ponchielli and Cilea, as in his latest album Cielo e mar. It is always a pleasure to hear the full, round and yet bright timbre of such a tenor as Villazón, although at times he seems almost like a clone of Domingo, above all in his emulation of that model upper register technique, which we still love. It’s a much-discussed fact that Villazón had to cancel all his commitments in the second half of 2007. No matter now to investigate his reasons; results are what count, and the vigour and power which have taken the vocal stage are signs which lead us to expect even greater things.

In the pre-verismo repertoire the singer knew precisely how to rein in the volume of sound, singing dramatically without excess or loss of good taste. The arias of Ponchielli and Cilea call for incandescent, restless singing, with sudden leaps into the heights and depths, in long, linked musical phrases in which it is very easy to lose control of tension; an aesthetic of wonderful singing that carelessly executed can kill (vocally) the most talented singer. “Tenda Natal” (from Ponchielli’s Il figliuol prodigo, an unknown piece of great quality) and “Cielo e Mar” (La Gioconda) were elegant, well-controlled and mostly very free from any semblance of exaggeration. “La dolcissima effige” and “L’anima ho stanca” from Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, notwithstanding the high quality of execution, were affected by interpretative uncertainty (almost more liederkreis than opera.) It also has to be said that in this first part the orchestra did not succeed too well in capturing that colour and sensual languor so typical of late romantic Italian opera. Villazón sang his Italian half with more mind than heart, paying close attention to breathing and taking great care to achieve smooth and even registration; what was lacking was, precisely, a little verismo involvement.

In the second, Spanish half, Villazón found that missing heart, and the orchestra became animated with colour and brightness under much more inspired direction. The Canción Guajira from La alegría del batallón was truly a happy army song, light and humorous. “Ya mis horas felices” (La del soto del Parral) proved a great lesson in musicality, in which Villazón demonstrated his supreme command of line. “Madrileña bonita” from La del manojo de rosas – the most Domingo-like interpretation – was new-minted by the freshness with which Villazón built and moulded the melody. The program ended with“No puede ser” (La tabernera del puerto), an inevitable triumph. As encore we had “Quando le sere al placido” from Verdi’s Luisa Miller; a dignified leave-taking, albeit not the Rodolfo of our dreams. Whether or no, the applause was generous; the audience was very satisfied and the tenor received a well-deserved ovation.

© Paolo Cascio 2008
translation © Christopher Webber

Músicas para un Bicentenario : Rolando Villazón, tenor; Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid; Daniele Callegari (c.) Part One: Mascagni: L’Amico Fritz (Intermezzo); Ponchielli: Il figliuol prodigo (“Il padre !” –“Tenda natal”); Cilèa: Adriana Lecouvreur (Intermezzo); Cilèa: Adriana Lecouvreur (“La dolcissima effigie”); Cilèa: Adriana Lecouvreur   (“L'anima ho stanca”); Ponchielli: La Gioconda (Preludio); Ponchielli: La Gioconda (“Cielo e mar”). Part Two: Serrano: La alegría del batallón (Canción Guajira); Soutullo y Vert: La del soto del Parral (“Ya mis horas felices”); Giménez: La boda de Luis Alonso (Intermedio); Sorozábal: La del Manojo de rosas (“Madrileña bonita”); Chapí: El tambor de granaderos (Preludio); Sorozábal: La tabernera del puerto (“No puede ser”)

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12 June 2008