After a decades-long career as one of the world’s most celebrated dramatic tenors, Plácido Domingo releases his first recording as a baritone, simply titled Verdi. Domingo has had a long and fruitful relationship with Verdi’s music (in the early years of the millennium, he released a similar collection of arias and scenes for tenor), and this album continues that relationship with fine results. Released during the bicentennial of the composer’s birth, Verdi – complete with cover art in which Domingo recreates one of the composer’s most iconic portraits – features some of Verdi’s most famous baritone arias and scenes, including “Pari siamo” from Rigoletto and “Di Provenza il mar, il suol” from La traviata. Domingo has been performing several of these roles over the past few years, and the collection, ranging from well-known to more obscure, presents an exciting look at this new chapter in his career.
Verdi often gave his baritone roles much more pathos and richness of character than he did those written for tenor, and Domingo explores each piece with such thoroughness and excellence (a particular highlight is the series of pieces from Simon Boccanegra, in which the titular character’s discomfort at being an unlikely city leader is more than palpable) that it is easy to forget this is a collection of disparate pieces. Though Domingo’s voice is not what purists would call a “true” Verdian baritone, his versatile high range and ability to convey emotion through his singing should be more than enough to convince any lingering skeptics that this recording is a true gem.
The recording itself provides more proof of quality. This does not feel like a sterile studio recording, with the singer’s performance pasted onto the orchestral track, but rather a series of live performances – a feat that not every aria collection is able to pull off. Furthermore, from the orchestral opening of “Perfidi! All’anglo contro me v’unite,” the first track off the album, Pablo Heras-Casado and the Orquestra de la Communitat Valencia provide a warm and clean accompaniment that never feels lacking in emotion or finesse.
Verdi is a welcome addition to Plácido Domingo’s body of work, as well as an excellent introduction to Verdi’s baritone roles for those who have not yet explored the composer’s work for that voice type. Each aspect of the recording works towards a stunning whole, and it is a very exciting first look at where Domingo will be going in the coming years.
Review by Jon Fuller
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