Wednesday 14 August 2013

Three types of tenor singing Rossini, with varying degrees of appropriateness


I love the tenor voice above all others, and am very fond of Rossini - but it is very, very seldom that Rossini is sung better than adequately by tenors.

Indeed I know of only one tenor - Luigi Alva - who has sung the Rossini tenor roles as they should be sung.


Mostly Rossini is sung by tenors with far too heavy a voice - of the examples below Gedda was a Spinto tenor, which is of the same type as Pavarotti. Although he skillfully held-back on his full tone and volume, and lightened it - he cannot get anywhere near singing the decorations of the aria.

Florez is a lighter and much more flexible modern lyric tenor - but still too heavy a voice for Rossini - because although he manages most of the decorations, he cannot separate the notes, and this shows up especially in the runs (the scales).

Listening to Alva after these is a revelation: that is how it should be done. The notes in the fast decorations are separated.

Alva was not perfect - there is sometimes a audible aspiration between the separated notes - but he is the only one capable of singing Rossini in the style it should be sung - in which the decorations contribute a great deal of the value of the music. Without hearing these decorations given full value, the music does not reveal its full value.


Nicolai Gedda - adequate:

Juan Diego Florez - good:

Luigi Alva: how it should be done



dearieme said...

Rossini had no need to write arias - his reputation could have been secured by his overtures alone. But maybe not his income, eh?

Bernard Brandt said...

I was prepared to take exception to your assertion that Alva was better than Gedda in any regard, as I have long loved his singing.

But then I chose to listen to the three examples that you gave.

In consequence, I must agree with you. In terms of fioritura, Alva is by far the more capable of the two. And for scores like those of Rossini, which call for fioritura, Alva is far more to be preferred.

That said, however, I still prefer Gedda's voice to Alva's, for much the same reason that I prefer the timber of the oboe to that of the piccolo.

Bruce Charlton said...

Gedda did a good job on a recording of Rossini's William Tell - which is role for a heavier voice (a spinto, like Pavarotti, probably); but which needs to be able to sing numerous high Cs (and the like) 'from the chest'.

Gedda had a very large repertoire, some quite remote from his comfort zone; but my recollection is that roles for which he was best suited were things like the Verdi and Puccini tenor parts.

TenorJoe said...

What makes you believe the way Alva sings runs is the way it should be done? In any case, sometimes separates the notes, but does not always. Conversely, though Florez might find the runs in 'Ecco ridente' a little tricky to articulate (and I believe your example is a live recording), in other Rossini arias he has incredible coloratura - with accuracy but not at the expense of the legato line.