For his installment in Chandos' Opera in English series of solo recitals, Gerald Finley has chosen a thoroughly eclectic program that is a testimony to his versatility and artistry. He is at his strongest in the arias that give him the opportunity to spin long lyrical lines (he has remarkable breath control) with ringing, warmly resonant tone. He is also most persuasive in music that is romantically passionate or passionately benevolent. Iago's Credo is perhaps the weakest track because the episodic nature of the music isn't especially suited to Finley's strengths, and he isn't able to conjure up the requisite malice. The same is true to a lesser extent in the Te Deum from Tosca, even though this music itself falls more naturally for his voice. The singer is not usually associated with Wagner, but the two arias from Tannhauser and the one from Meistersinger are gloriously resonant and finely characterized, leaving the listener wishing he would turn to Wagner more often. He can also play a convincing and charming cad, as evidenced by his marvelous versions of "La ci darem la mano" (There will my arms enfold you) and the Toreador Song. Three works from the contemporary repertoire -- the familiar "Some Enchanted Evening," with two rarities; "Batter my heart, three person'd God" from John Adams' Doctor Atomic; and "O bring to me a pint of wine" from The Silver Tassie by Mark-Anthony Turnage -- are among the most striking. Finley created the roles in the premieres of the Adams and the Turnage operas, and he sings them unforgettably, with ferocious intensity. If there is any criticism of his performances (except in the Adams and Turnage), it is that his rhythmic precision sometimes limits the expressiveness of his interpretations; there are times when he could afford to apply a more flexible rubato to his lines. Edward Gardner leads the London Philharmonic Orchestra in committed and thoughtfully differentiated performances, joined on several tracks by the Geoffrey Mitchell Choir. The sound of Chandos' CD is clean, warm, and nicely ambient.
Great Operatic Arias Review
by Stephen Eddins