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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Virtuoso Rossini Arias
Vieni fra queste braccia (from La Gazza ladra) [5.12]
Que les destins prospčres (from Le Comte Ory) [5.15]
D'ogni pił sacro impegno (from L'Occasione fa il ladro) [5.06]
Che ascolto! (from Otello) [6.56]
Ah dov'č il cimento? (from Semiramide) [7.43]
Tu seconda il mio disegno (from Il Turco in Italia) [6.20]
O fiamma soave (from La Donna del Lago) [8.41]
Terra amica (from Zelmira) [9.13]
Lawrence Brownlee (tenor)
Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra/Constantine Orbelian
rec. 2013, Kaunas Philharmonic, Kaunas, Lithuania
DELOS DE3455 [54.32]

This Grammy-nominated Delos release showcases the tenor voice of Lawrence Brownlee who sings eight arias, each from a different opera. From Youngstown, Ohio, this tenor made his professional stage debut in 2002. A bel canto specialist he is in great demand singing principally Rossini roles. Brownlee made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 2007 singing Il Barbiere di Siviglia and has gone on to sing Il Barbiere in Vienna, Milan, Berlin, Madrid, Dresden, Munich, Baden-Baden, Hamburg, Tokyo, New York, Washington, San Diego, Seattle and Boston. Perhaps strangely for an opera that has been extremely providential for him there is no aria from Il Barbiere here.

Sometimes referred to as being in the lirico-leggiero bracket in the manner of Rockwell Blake and Juan Diego Flórez, Brownlee describes himself as a high bel canto tenor. A highly assured performer, he displays an appealing timbre and excellent voice control especially in the top register. These Rossini arias are laden with fioritura demands in which Brownlee sounded a touch awkward, requiring additional fluidity.

Immediately noticeable is his crystal-clear diction and impressive reach. These key attributes are heard at their finest as the amorous young bachelor Count Alberto. The Count gives vent to his outrage in D'ogni pił sacro impegno from the rarely heard opera L'Occasione fa il ladro, set in eighteenth century Naples. Brownlee is in sparkling form in the recitative and aria, Che ascolto! from the excellent Otello based on the Shakespeare tragedy. It’s a joy to hear this singer effortlessly traversing his range and generating considerable emotion as Rodrigo — the son of the Doge of Venice — who has been betrayed by Desdemona. For me the highlight is the cabaletta, O fiamma soave from La Donna del Lago based on a Sir Walter Scott epic poem set in the turmoil of the sixteenth century Scottish Highlands. As the love-struck Umberto — really James V of Scotland in disguise — who has come to take his lover Elena away from the imminent danger of battle, the outstanding Brownlee sings with passionate expression; once again demonstrating his high register security.

Praise is due to orchestra and conductor for providing creditable support throughout.

This highly desirable collection sounds very well indeed: clear and well balanced. It is beautifully presented and the booklet is a prime example of best practice containing full Italian texts and English translations together with a most helpful explanation of the aria’s dramatic context in each opera. My only grumble is that fifty-four minutes is very short for a CD these days.

Michael Cookson
Previous review: Simon Thompson