Andrea Bocelli: Verdi - Andrea Bocelli [CD]

With this CD devoted solely to operatic arias--by none less than Giuseppe Verdi, the greatest Italian opera composer of all time--pop crossover phenomenon Andrea Bocelli throws his hat into the operatic ring with the big boys. The hat occasionally fits, and occasionally it doesn't. The beauty of the voice is undeniable, as is the relative ease in all registers. But, regardless of what the engineers do, it is clearly a small voice. For "Celeste Aïda"--Radames's great aria from Aïda--Bocelli opens with fine, as-big-as-possible exclamation and sounds confident; the long diminuendo on the aria's final high B-flat is stunning (whether or not the engineers were twiddling with the knobs, we'll never know). The tenor is more at home with Alfredo's Act Two music from La Traviata; he sings with grace and charm, ending the rarely performed cabaletta (a brief and showy piece that usually follows an aria) with one of the longest, most solid high Cs ever recorded. Elsewhere, there are mixed results: "Di' tu se fedele" from Un ballo in maschera is so free of feeling that it seems digitally produced. A big, unnecessary high D at the close of the Duke's cabaletta "Possente amor" from Rigoletto is screamed, and Bocelli sounds at times as if he's about to collapse from exhaustion during a heavy aria from Ernani. But "Ah si, ben mio" from Il Trovatore is beautiful, as is the Luisa Miller aria; Don Carlo also seems to fit Bocelli well. Needless to say, the singer's fans will certainly want to have this--and it might encourage them to try other recordings of music by Verdi. Newcomers and the curious will find plenty to admire, too. The sound itself remains alluring, and Bocelli has taken steps also towards improving his technique. In short, some nice surprises for the opera lover, and many for the Bocelli fan. --Robert Levine

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