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CD Feature/ Rolando Villazon: "Opera Recital"

img  Tobias

Rolando Villazon is laughing it out on the booklet’s back cover. Who can  blaim him? The man from Mexico City has every reason to be smiling after a streak of success, which has catapulted him way beyond his competitors in the race for the leading tenor of our times. Just one year ago, colleagues such as Jose Cura and Ramon Vargas seemed to be at eye level. Then came Villazon’s duets with Anna Netrebko, “La Traviata”, unforgettable appearances on TV shows and an inflow of sympathy, which well exceeded the Classical core-audience -and noone could keep up. “Opera Recital” will probably widen the gap even more.

Simply put, this man has understood the rules of the game. This album carefully caters to the needs of conservative listeners as much as it embraces Classical newbies. It is a multimedia product of the 21st century, complete with squeaky clean photography and a bonus DVD, yet at the same time it has been given the greatest care and artistic attention imaginable. And it neatly balances the need for seriousness, which the music demands with an honest desire to entertain. On the level of repertoire, Villazon has furthermore taken yet another important step forward. From the Italian arias of his debut and the French connection he established on his second disc, he has now arrived at a complete package, which includes German, Austrian and Russian composers. Verdi and Puccini are still part of the program, but they have been relegated to second tier, as Tchaikovsky’s extract from “Eugen Onegin”, two surprisingly fresh arias from the somewhat obscure Friedrich von Flotow, the passionate “Fedora” by Umberto Giordano and especially a breathtaking “Carmen”-outtake set the pace. Conductor Michel Plasson openly admits that his main aim was to create a helpful environment for Villazon to thrive on. Thus the warm and deep sound of the “Münchner Rundfunkorchester” plays a supportive role, instead of battling it out with the soloist, who gladly uses the chance to shine in many different roles. Villazon might be a force of nature on stage and even during rehearsals, his interpretations are never drastic or shocking for their own sake. And it is exactly this subtleness, the devotion to the the tiniest of details (such as the tender falsetto in “Les pecheurs de perles”) which lend this recording an air of maturity and a classic feeling. And with the DVD, the entire Virgin Classics team has landed a veritable coup: This is the first accompanying movie which deserves its name, full of interesting facts and quotes. It does nothing but follow Rolando around the recording sessions in Munich, yet it does so with flair and intensity. Fourty minutes of pure pleasure.

Afterwards, you truly have the feeling of knowing this man just a little better and of having been able to share just a little bit of his energy with him. All of that for the surcharge of a mere 2 Euros (compared to the simple CD version) makes this a bargain if there ever was one.Expect this to be more than just another of these records you buy and only listen to once or twice. You can expect his colleagues to keep grinding their teeth and Rolando Villazon to keep smiling for a while.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Rolando Villazon
Homepage: Virgin Classics

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