Vittorio Grigolo

In the Hands of Love

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The enormous success of Andrea Bocelli has ensured that no matter how fallow the ground might be for the major classical labels, there is always enough fertile soil left in the garden to cultivate a new pop tenor. The single-named Vittorio, short for Vittorio Grigolo, is Decca's new flavor of the month among tenors. Decca's one-time advocacy of Juan Diego Flórez was something to applaud, as this tenor is a truly fabulous singer, if not entirely suitable for the legions of soap opera fans who also love Bocelli. Vittorio, however, is right on the money for a singer following Bocelli's lead -- he is light-voiced, handsome, darkly romantic, and probably wouldn't do a very good job singing the title role in say, Don Pasquale. The arrangements by Romano Musumurra consist of slick, sugarcoated orchestral pop that would be very much at home in a European Hallmark card commercial. Vittorio sings with a breathy ease throughout and never seems to break a sweat; his high notes sound more like Mickey Dolenz than Pavarotti, and he sings a duet with Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls that is every bit as sappy and smarmy as Sarah Brightman's familiar duets with Bocelli.

Vittorio is not classical music, nor is it trying to be -- producing these kinds of albums is a way through which major classical record companies have discovered they can survive and pay the bills. It is entirely reasonable to conclude that Decca is not expecting to get good reviews from critics who are grounded in opera and in traditional notions of what an Italian tenor should be. It's a question of keeping to the classical music status quo and going under, versus putting one's resources into a marketing strategy known to work and perhaps having a chance to stay afloat. Being mindful of such conditions still does not excuse how positively awful Vittorio is. In short, if your favorite magazine is Gramophone, then you won't need Vittorio. However, if its Soap Opera Digest, then he might be worth a try, though Vittorio is obviously not as good a tenor as even Bocelli is, and the only qualification this statement requires is the briefest of listens.

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