Thursday 8 May 2014

Two for the price of one - Rosenblatt Recital

Luca Giordano
Luca Giordano
At Monday (5/5/2014) night's Rosenblatt Recital at the Wigmore Hall, was supposed to be a recital from the veteran tenor Dennis O'Neill. In the event O'Neill was unable to perform and in his place we were treated to two tenors of the younger generation. London-based Portuguese tenor Luis Gomes and Italian tenor Giordano Luca shared the programme, both accompanied by pianist James Baillieu. 

Luis Gomes
Luis Gomes
Both tenors sang a selection of operatic arias (both Italian and French) and songs. Luca opened with arias from Verdi's Rigoletto, Puccini's La Boheme, Gounod's Faust and Cilea's L'Arlesiana. Then Gomes sang Tosti's Ideale, Mompou's Combat del somni and Turina's La giralda. After the interval Gomes returned with arias from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, Gounod's Faust, Donizetti's La favorite and Verdi's Falstaff. Then Luca closed proceedings with songs by Giordani, Leoncavallo, Tosti and Lara. Each artist gave us an encore before giving the audience the item they hoped for, when both tenors joined for a duet (the inevitable O sole mio).

It was fascinating to be able to hear two young tenor voices side by side. Luca (born 1988) is the older. He studied in Milan and Rome, was a finalist and took the Audience Prize in the 2009 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World. Gomes started his studies in Lisbon, but all his recent studies have been in London (at the Guildhall School and the National Opera Studio). Currently he is on the Royal Opera's Jette Parker Young Artist Programme. Both are from Latin countries and have Italianate tenor voices. But Luca's Italian training showed, with its concentration on la voce and the uniform production of a fine open sound; the result is one of the most beautiful, and intelligently used, Italian lyric tenor voices I have heard in a long time. Whereas Gomes' experience in London seems to have armed him with a flexibility of approach and technique, including a willingness to compromise the pure open quality of the tone for the sake of expressivity.

Giordano Luca opened his programme with La donna e mobile from Verdi's Rigoletto. Quite a quick performance, but with subtle rubato and thankfully not too lingering. He has a bright, tight Italianate tenor which is evenly produced throughout the range, though his stage presence was a little impassive. Verdi was followed by Puccini with a nicely fluid account of Che gelida manina from La boheme. Luca and Baillieu kept things moving, but there was a nice caress to Luca's voice, combined with some fabulous diction.

Next Luca sang Salut! demeure chaste et pure from Gounod's Faust, with excellent French combined with a nice inward quality to the performance and a sweet tone from the voice. Luca's last operatic aria was Lamento di Federico from Cilea's L'arlesiana (an aria far more popular in recital than its parent opera is on stage). Here Luca combined passion with finely modulated tone; he certainly never sang 'con belto' and we were treated to some lovely mezzo-voce in what was a brilliant performance.

Giordano Luca was then replaced on the platform by Luis Gomes who performed a group of songs. First Ideale by Tosti in a mesmerising, fine-grained performance which showed off the darker tones in Gomes voice. Gomes is a very fine recitalist, and his performance combined a natural sense with a vivid platform manner. Mompou's Combat del somni is a work which I have heard Gomes perform before (see my review of his lunchtime recital at Covent Garden), but is was very welcome to hear this cycle of three songs by the still relatively under-rated Catalan composer. Damunt de tu nomes les flors was simple yet powerfully effective, with a calm beauty to the performance from both Gomes and Baillieu. Aquesta nit was edgier with interesting leaps in vocal part and piano, developing an intensity which was eerie. Finally Jo et pressentia com la mar combined a flowing piano part with expansive vocals. Yet it wasn't a noisy piece, rather subtle yet lively. Gomes finished the first half with Joaquin Turina's La giralda, a brilliantly Spanish piece given a wonderfully vibrant performance by Gomes and Baillieu.

After the interval Luis Gomes returned to sing his group of four arias. Gomes started with Donizetti, Tombe degli avi miei from Lucia di Lammermoor. He realised the recitative beautifully and though there was a dramatic feel to the performance, it was flexibly and subtly done. There was a beautiful shape to phrases, with a lovely hushed pianissimo moment, and a finely done unaccompanied phrase. This was one of those performance where you longed for the drama to continue. In Ah! leve toi soleil from Gounod's Romeo et Juliette Gomes and Baillieu started quietly and quickly. Though there were climaxes, Gomes retreated from them quickly, so that this was a subtly inflected performance with a nice caress to the voice. The way he faded his voice on the final top note was lovely.

Gomes brought a strong sense of narrative to Un ange, une femme inconnue from Donizetti's La favorite (Gomes will be singing Fernand in act one of La favorite at Covent Garden this July), performing with charm and shaping the phrases in a supple manner. Finally Dal labbro il canto estasiato vola from Verdi's Falstaff was a complete delight.

Giordano Luca returned to the platform for the final section of the concert, performing a group of Italian songs. First the Giuseppe Giordani's Caro mio ben, sung with sweet tone and fine control, with Luca's voice nicely modulated in the song. Leoncavallo's Mattinata was impulsive and lightly done, rising to a fabulous climax. Tosti's L'ultima canzone was sweetly lyric, with a nice feeling of movement. Finally Lara's Granada  was vivid and sung with thrilling tone.

Throughout the recital James Baillieu accompanied with sensitivity. The audience was most enthusiastic and each tenor gave us an encore. Then finally the two joined together for a delightful rendition of O Sole Mio.

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