Friar Alessandro Brustenghi

Voice from Assisi

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Given the tremendous success of the Singing Nun album half a century ago, it's surprising that it has taken so long for the music industry to come up with a Singing Friar. Friar Alessandro, an Umbrian tenor and Franciscan friar named Alessandro Brustenghi, seems sincere enough in his undertaking here. Having taken a vow of poverty, he does not stand to profit from this major-label release, although some profits will be donated to his order. The program of Voice from Assisi, with the composers mostly unidentified in the graphics (all except a hitherto unknown sacred aria by Bellini are quite familiar), reflects a degree of thought on the singer's part: much of the music has roots in chant or in other music that is iconic of Catholic ritual, and he clearly came to it out of his own enthusiasm. Yet even these points in favor aren't enough to quite make this work. Alessandro's voice lacks the power to make him the next Italian star Decca seems to be hoping he'll become. In its lower register it's not as pleasant as Bocelli's, with a flat honk that wears on you at times. Much of the music is arranged for the unidentified orchestra (and choir), and the arrangements start out from the overwrought style of Donovan's theme from the film Fratello Sole, Sorella Luna (Brother Sun, Sister Moon) and don't develop or vary much from there. The album as a whole smothers the listener in the clichés of soundtrack music. The religiously oriented may be able to listen through to the core here, but average listeners can do better with other crossover releases.

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