Friday 25 August 2017

Debut recital: Luc Robert in Verdi arias

Luc Robert, Estonian National Opera, Risto Joost
Verdi excerpts from Luisa Miller, La traviata, Les vepres siciliennes, Macbeth, Un ballo in maschera, Nabucco, Rigoletto, Aida, Il trovatore; Luc Robert, Estonian National Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Risto Joost; ERP
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Aug 25 2017 Star rating: 4.0
The French-Canadian tenor in arias spanning the lyric to the spinto

This intriguing disc features a French-Canadian tenor, Estonian forces, conductor and record company in Italian opera. Luc Robert sings arias by Verdi from Luisa Miller, La traviata, Macbeth, Un ballo in maschera, Rigoletto, Aida, Il trovatore accompanied by the Estonian National Opera Orchestra, conductor Risto Joost whilst the orchestra and chorus perform items from Les vepres siciliennes, Nabucco, and Aida, on ERP (Estonian Record Productions)

Whilst Luc Robert's performances have includes ones in his native Canada (with Canadian Opera Company) and at the Metropolitan Opera in New York (where he debuted in Ernani in 2015), many of his key spinto roles have been with companies in Finland, Sweden and Germany along with Estonia. He is clearly moving into spinto roles, but keeping some lyric ones and on this disc he moves from roles like the Duke in Rigoletto and Alfredo in La traviata to Manrico in Il trovatore. Rather frustratingly, despite being French-Canadian, there are no samples of Verdi's French opera repertoire, so no arias from Don Carlos or Les vepres siciliennes.

Robert has an interesting voice, not conventionally Italianate but expressive and full of interesting dark tones.
There is a slight dryness to the timbre which I found rather interesting and he is certainly able to use it in an expressive way, we get far more than belting through favourite arias on the the disc. The result is extremely characterful, especially when combined with Robert's pointing of words, so that individual arias are nicely differentiated in terms of emotion and character (though at times this can be somewhat generic).

The recording picks up the vibrato in Robert's voice, and I wondered what the singer sounded like live. On this showing this vibrato, though attractive, hints at the possibility that the heroic tone might be pushing things too far. Certainly there is a tightness to the top notes in the more lyric items which makes you wish for more relaxed timbres.

He is heard at his best in Macduff's aria from Macbeth, sung with a nice expressive sweep, whilst  'Ma se m'e forza perderti' really makes you want to hear more of the drama. In well known arias, 'La donne e mobile' (Rigoletto), Robert shows a nice sense of pointing the words to bring character, and though 'Celeste Aida' (Aida) sounds a little careful it is certainly sung with the right degree of quiet tone and not belted. In Alfredo's Act 2 cavatina and cabaletta from La traviata Robert gives us a great sense of narrative and it is a shame that the two are performed without the linking section.

Robert finishes with 'Di quella pira' from Il trovatore complete with a ringing top C, not the most subtle of performances but certainly one which shows his mettle in spinto repertoire. I would like to hear him as Don Carlos in Don Carlos, French version of course, and Saint-Saens' Samson.

Robert is finely supported by Risto Joost and the Estonian National Opera Orchestra, whose accompaniments are stylish and characterful and there is much to enjoy in their solo items. The chorus provides terrific choral tone which makes you forgive the inclusion of such hackneyed items as 'Va pensiero' from Nabucco and the triumphal march from Aida.

There are no texts or translations in the CD booklet, but this disc is well worth exploring particularly as Luc Robert does not seem to have so far appeared in the UK

You can hear excerpts from the album on the ERP website.

Giuseppe Verdi - Luisa Miller Oh! fede negar potessi... Quando le sere al placido
Giuseppe Verdi - La traviata Lunge da lei... De’ miei bollenti spiriti
Giuseppe Verdi - La traviata Oh mio rimorso!
Giuseppe Verdi - Les vêpres siciliennes Overture*
Giuseppe Verdi - Macbeth O figli, o figli miei... Ah, la paterna mano
Giuseppe Verdi - Un ballo in maschera Ma sè m’è forza perderti
Giuseppe Verdi - Un ballo in maschera Di’ tu se fedele
Giuseppe Verdi - Nabucco Va, pensiero sull’ali dorate*
Giuseppe Verdi - Rigoletto Questa o quella
Giuseppe Verdi - Rigoletto Ella mi fu rapita... Parmi veder le lagrime
Giuseppe Verdi - Rigoletto La donna è mobile
Giuseppe Verdi - Aida Romanza. Celeste Aida
Giuseppe Verdi - Aida Gloria all’Egitto. La marcia trionfale*
Giuseppe Verdi - Il trovatore Ah si, ben mio
Giuseppe Verdi - Il trovatore Di quella pira
Luc Robert (tenor)
Estonian National Opera Chorus and Orchestra
Risto Joost (conductor)
Recorded 8 May 2016 (live) and 26 & 29 March 2016 in Estonia Concert Hall, Tallinn
ERP9316 1CD
Available from Amazon.
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