Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

José Cura (tenor) Canio/Pagliaccio; Barbara Frittoli (soprano) Nedda/Colombina; Carlos Alvarez (bass) Tonio/Taddeo; Charles Castronovo (tenor) Beppe/Arlecchino; Simon Keenleyside (baritone) Silvio; Netherlands Radio Choir; Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Riccardo Chailly.
Decca 467 086-2 [73'05] [DDD]

Riccardo Chilly's innate feeling for Italianate lyric tragedy, José Cura's involved reading of Canio, Simon Keenleyside's triumph in the role of Silvio and Barbara Frittoli's beautifully-shaded assumption of Nedda make this an eminently recommendable Pagliacci. Perhaps to list the strengths of this issue in this manner is a trifle over-simplistic: it also ignores the contributions of the Netherlands Radio Chorus, which is nothing short of exemplary. What is in no doubt, however, is that this is a major issue that exudes acute dramatic sense from every side.

Frittoli confirms her position amongst the higher rungs of the ladder contemporary operatic sopranos. She has the ability to float high notes magically (try O che bel sole de mezz'agosto in Act 1 Scene 2, for example) and to shade her phrases with an innate musicality (try anywhere in Act 2 Scene 1). Alvarez's Si può? (a non-serial equivalent to the opening of Berg's Lulu) has just the right weight. Simon Keenleyside's success as Silvio stems from his refusal to lay on the vibrato heedless of context. Instead he offers an intelligent reading of the part.

Cura, like Keenleyside, realises the value of not over-stretching the limits in a piece that on the surface positively cries out for over-indulgence. His Un tal gioco, credetemi, therefore, is all the stronger for this. He brings an almost baritonal quality to Vesti la giubba.

Any initial qualms about the Concertgebouw Orchestra's abilities were banished within the first bar: it is obvious its outing into this territory was a hugely rewarding one. To top it all, Decca's recording is of demonstration quality. This hugely impressive issue will grace even the most Pagliacci-heavy of shelves.


Colin Clarke



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