Roberto Alagna

C'est Magnifique!

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Sicilian-French tenor Roberto Alagna continues with his bid for superstardom, an effort that has involved performing crossover material in quantities comparable to some of his illustrious tenor ancestors. Among his strong points here, in addition to a really compelling high C that he doesn't just throw around, is that he tends to find really unusual popular material to replace the Neapolitan songs that were musical common coin in Caruso's day, or even the big pop ballads that worked in Domingo's. Here Alagna unearths the repertory of post-World War II French pop singer Luis Mariano, whose voice first made an impression on him when he was 10. For most listeners outside of France, Mariano will be little more than a name, but the songs for which he was famous work well in drawing out Alagna's playful personality and in exploiting his ability to shift vocal personalities in pop material. Various composers are represented; the most frequent is the Basque-born Francís López, whose Spanish- and Mexican-flavored French songs had the lush quality familiar to American listeners from dozens of easy listening arrangements. Alagna does well with songs like México, track 1, and he manages to bring the listener on board with his enjoyment of fluff like Noël Roux's Salade de fruits (Fruit Salad). Alagna's accented but not uncomfortable readings of two Cole Porter songs, "C'est magnifique!" and "I Love Paris," will satisfy English-speaking listeners, but the copy of the disc examined had booklet notes and song texts (except for the Porter items) in no language other than French. Even if translations had been provided they wouldn't have helped much, for the booklet design renders the text virtually unreadable. The album also stumbles with the inclusion of several duets with vocally undistinguished French pop stars and even rugged movie star Jean Reno; these break up the momentum Alagna generates. Nevertheless, the tenor takes another step with this release toward creating the sense of relaxed fun that will put him in the Three Tenors territory.

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