Classical CD of the month

The reason why a bits-and-bobs arias recital becomes CD of the month is simply the artistry of its soloist, Simon Keenlyside

Name Tales of Opera

Composer Various

Artists Simon Keenlyside (baritone), Munich Radio Orchestra /Conductor: Ulf Schirmer

Label Sony Classical 

The many fans of this intelligent, lithe-voiced baritone will need no reminding of his prowess in, say, Mozart or Britten. But here he also takes on Verdi, Wagner, Leoncavallo — beefy roles that his type of voice just isn’t supposed to be able to handle.

While he might not be able to boom his way through this repertoire in an opera house, the intimacy of the recording studio allows him to adapt thrillingly. He never blusters but finds the through-thought in even the most hackneyed warhorse. His ‘Eri tu’ from Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, for instance, is less a furious tirade than an agonised traversal of a cuckolded husband’s pain.

Elsewhere, he provides an object lesson in legato as Tchaikovsky’s Yeletsky, and brings the right elegant touch to French roles. But throughout, his approach remains the same. As the title of the disc suggests, this is not mere vocal showing-off — these are stories and Keenlyside is a most eloquent narrator.

James Inverne is editor of Gramophone. A full review is published in the November issue

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