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Ask the audience members, among whom were high-profile classical music sponsors that Festival director Ludwig Baumann continues to attract, about their personal favorites that evening, and the choice is clear: Gilda, followed by the Duke. The latter was sung by Alexandru Badea, who stems from Romania, and oozed charm with every note as the flighty Duke. His heights came effortlessly enough, his timbre was very individual, and his playful stage presence, especially in La donna è mobile, made up for some of the drawbacks: the diction, for instance, or that he was better in the arias than the duets because he sometimes outsang Gilda, no matter how loud she was, or -- forgiven by the audience because of the aforementioned redeeming points -- when he lost the thrice sung Rigoletto trademark aria La donna è mobile at the end on two occasions, seeming to run out of air.
Alexandru Badea as the Duke of Mantua. Photo © 2008 Philip Crebbin
As for Rigoletto, sung by Korean-born Jooil Choi, his breath was always there and so were all the notes, right on. However, when one is used to Rigoletto performances by the likes of Franz Grundheber, who knows impeccably how to portray both the character's insanity/rage on one hand and its vulnerability/pathos on the other, then Choi fell, unfortunately, rather short in comparison. His singing was technically perfect, across his entire range, but the emotion failed to come across to the right degree as Rigoletto slipped either into overdone drama or uncalled-for distance at the wrong moments, while the voice kept coming out well and would, perhaps, sound very good on CD. However, conductor Georg Schmöhe was not too strict about the tempi and sometimes rather slow in keeping things moving, which may have contributed to the problem.
Jooil Choi as Rigoletto. Photo © 2008 Philip Crebbin
Copyright © 9 July 2008
Tess Crebbin, Munich, Germany