Massimo Giordano

Amore e Tormento: Italian Arias

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Neapolitan-born tenor Massimo Giordano has received strong notices for performances in many of Europe's leading opera houses since about 1997, but not until 2013 did he release a solo album. Amore e Tormento is his debut release, as well as the first solo vocal release from the BMG label in some time. It's not clear what caused the delay as numerous other singers were being heavily touted. Giordano certainly yields to none in terms of photogenic quality, and here he is splashed in various hipster poses across a substantial trifold. The booklet is devoted to archival images from the collection of the publishing firm Ricordi, minimally helpful to the non-Italophone listener, but relevant to the tail end of the classic Italian opera repertory from which all of these pieces are taken. Here lies the most distinctive and daring aspect of Giordano's release, and the one that makes it impossible to write him off as simply another pretty face or big voice. Most operatic debut recitals include a variety of material, with several easy-on-the-ears tunes that everybody knows to rope new listeners in. Giordano's program, by contrast, is strikingly homogeneous. All of the pieces are in medium tempo, covering, as promised, amore e tormento. There are excerpts from a pair of Verdi operas for which the term "aria" still makes some sense, but the rest of the pieces are sliced from continuous action. Several of them, such as Torna ai felici di from Puccini's Le villi, qualify as obscure. And Giordano surmounts all of these challenges with ease. He has a voice that never seems to be straining and has the odd quality of seeming quiet even when the actual volume is quite loud. He has a conversational quality with the text even at the top of his range. And he has the elusive quality of moving the action forward that makes one anxious to hear him in new recordings where he has lead role status. Indeed, that's what a debut album of excerpts is supposed to do.

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