Ramón Vargas

Rossini, Donizetti: Opera Arias

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This recording, made in 1991, was once out of print, but has been re-released thanks to Vargas' well-deserved increase in renown in the late 1990s. The singing here displays the traits that have raised him to stardom: a sweet timbre, delicacy of touch, and exceptional ornamentation. He articulates each note in rapid-fire fashion, a stylistic choice that will please some listeners and displease others. The very lowest notes at the bottom of the perilous leap to a low G in "Eccomi a voi" are not as powerful as the rest of his range, and a few times, most noticeably in "Languir per una bella," the pianissimo passages can sound breathy, but these are small flaws compared to everything else he offers--especially in the more lyrical outpourings where his timbre and delivery often match the music perfectly.

What is seriously lacking, however, is more than monochromatic emotion; in the Lucia di Lammermoor aria, for example, there is only a perfunctory difference between the angry and the lachrymose outbursts. However, even among an excellent crop of Rossini-Donizetti-Bellini tenors, this recording still stands out for fine vocalism, if not dramatic intensity or individuality. The arias vary nicely between the standards and some rarer choices.

Viotti's conducting is soft-edged, standing in contrast to the usual crispness we hear today in Rossini conducting, but not at all lethargic or overwrought. The sound is acceptable, if slightly distant, and the packaging includes the texts, a brief biography, notes and translations in Italian, English, German, and French.

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