I enjoyed Roberto Alagna's singing ever since his first album of opera arias came out. The lyric instrument has darkened a little over the past decade, but it's still a very exciting and unique, clearly setting Alagna apart from so-called cross-over tenors who haven't sang a single role onstage. Alagna, along with José Cura, Ramon Vargas, and most recently Salvatore Licitra, form a distinct group that I would like to call REAL New tenors, capable of not only singing these roles onstage, but infusing them with personality and energy.
The recital at hand pays tribute to the tradition of Bel Canto era and, while some notable music is not represented (most regrettably, Edgardo's death scene from Lucia), it's not to be missed.
First aria from Poliuto is ringing and heroic, and it sets a tone for the whole disc - it's a disc of achievements. Those looking for "money notes" will find them aplenty here.
The aria from La Somnabula is a sharp contrast -- the singing is much lighter, with real care for the legato line, simply beautiful.
La favorite - I actually prefer it sung in Italian, a little more delicacy is needed here. And where's the bass voice? Did not care much for the falsetto notes at all in Un ange une femme inconnue... However, the aria more known as "Spirito Gentil" is sang with real feeling and warmth.
"Meco all'altar di Venere" from "Norma" is a little bombastic, remember that the character is telling a dream.
The "money note" from "A te diro negli ultimi" sounds like it just does not belong there, forced and out of place. I have an unconventional view on high C's, C-sharps, and D's: a tenor can be a wonderful singer without them (oh what blasphemy). If a tenor does chose to sing them, they should be of consistently good quality. Alagna sings some beautifully, but some come out either forced or not 100% clear. I hate to do comparisons, but there are still some great Donizetti and Bellini recordings featuring young Luciano Pavarotti. Even though he did not do as much vocal coloration or characterization, his high notes were ringing with perfect clarity, sounding effortless and even playful.
"A te o cara" is supposed to be an ensemble, but in this arrangement you can't quite hear the lower voices, just Gheorghiu soaring above... In this case, by the way, the tenor's high C's are beautifully and passionately sang.
Interesting arrangement of Una furtiva lagrima", this is a fine morsel in this album. This Nemorino is definitely more mature and sympathetic than the one Alagna did for the complete recording of L'Elisir.
The recital ends with what's bound to be a controversial recording of "Ah, mes amis". While I understand what Alagna was trying to accomplish with singing in "different voices", it still was a bit strange to hear. Same comment about high C's here as above.
Overall, I would give it 4 stars. If anything, it's quite "gutsy" and it alone would be worthy of praise.