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For this singer, one vocal line is pretty much the same as the next; worse still, he makes virtually no distinction between one role and the next. There is a kind of homogeneity of characterization in his dynamically compromised readings that want for detail of inflection. It is as if Mr Álvarez has never been taught to recognize what constitutes a compositional event, and that the world of music remains antipathetic to a democracy of affect. Indeed, he prefers to equalize things in a haze of general intensity. Even his quiet singing, ignorant of the concept, much less the potential of micro-dynamics, suggests a kind of cracked crooning as it drifts into mere mannerism.

Thus, his reading of Des Grieux's lovesick ode to Manon, from Massenet's opera of the same name, trips off his tongue with the same glib, affective generality as does his reading of the famous Pourquoi me reveiller from the same composer's popular Werther. Mr Álvarez's faulty stentorian upper register consistently threatens to degenerate into hoarse shouting, while his lower one betrays a severely compromised legato, the sine qua non of a cultivated bel canto. Only in Werther's Je ne sais si je veille does Mr Álvarez show some sign of relaxing, allowing his instrument a certain natural space to envelop its subject matter, although even here he struggles to sustain a rounded tone through a short vowel (such as in 'silence'), or to enjoy the riches for vocal placement and exfoliation that a rich double vowel, such as ou in 'souriante', occasions so deliciously. At other times, his voice simply breaks down under its own weight, as it does in Don Carlo's Fontainebleau aria, and again in his ill-defined, intonationally faulty, and thoroughly lackluster singing in Gounod's Faust. In Arnold's stirring vengeance aria from Rossini's Guillaume Tell, Mr Álvarez simply loses control altogether, as if he were proclaiming a fire in a crowded theater just to rise above the din of the masses.

The introductory biography suggests that Mr Álvarez belongs to a line of singers well represented by José Cura, another South American tenor pumped up to celebrity by the PR machine. That is certainly true, though Mr Álvarez, who at least demonstrates genuine passion and restraint, shows far greater promise than his coarse, but no less vocally challenged colleague. Mark Elder's sympathetic, expertly adjudicated accompaniments are nearly as enlightening as Albert Innaurato's elegantly written liner notes.

Copyright © 21 July 2002 John Bell Young, Tampa, Florida, USA


Marcelo Alvarez - French Arias

89650 2001 Sony Classical

Marcelo Alvarez, tenor; Orchestra and Chorus of the Opera de Nice / Mark Elder

Arias by Massanet, Donizetti, Gounod, Verdi, Rossini and Meyerbeer




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