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
Sometimes referred to as being in the lirico
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
, 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.
Previous review: Simon Thompson