After perusing the repertory on Vittorio Grigòlo's newest album, The Romantic Hero, one might wonder that it could well have been entitled, Vittorio Grigòlo Sings French Arias. But of course that kind of generic title has been used countless times before, and this new release deserves better than a garden-variety name: it may well be this tenor's best solo album to date – and that's high praise since his previous recordings have been hugely successful. Moreover, most of the numbers on this CD deal with romance or with love in one form or another and the characters Grigòlo portrays can generally be called heroes.
He sings three numbers from Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, including the Act Four love duet "Va, je t'ai pardonné" (track 10), wherein Sonya Yoncheva takes the role of Juliette. Both Grigòlo and Yoncheva sing splendidly here and Grigòlo makes no attempt to overwhelm Yoncheva, as so many other tenors would. Instead, he partners Yoncheva with a good sense for proper balances and infuses the music with the utmost passion. Passion – that's the trait one finds in abundance in Grigòlo's singing on almost every track on this CD. Try "La fleur que tu m'avais jetée" (track 3), from Carmen, whereas Don José, Grigòlo becomes overwrought with his conflicted yet passionate feelings for Carmen. One discerns his all-consuming love in his every vocal utterance, even in his unsteady breathing, or gasps, near the end. The same kind of commitment is in evidence in the ensuing track, "Quel trouble inconnu…" Here Grigòlo as Faust seems to soar to the vocal heavens as he expresses his overwhelming love for Marguerite in such creamy tones in the upper ranges.
Actually, every number is convincingly sung here. I mentioned that Grigòlo sings three from Gounod, but there are four splendid selections from Massenet, including, from Le Cid, "Ah! Tout est bien fini…" which leads into the beautiful "O souverain…" (track 11). In this aria, which is heard far more often than the entire opera itself, Grigòlo, portraying Rodrigue, floats tones infused with beautiful sadness and ardent resignation, again capturing the emotional pitch of the music to seeming perfection. While some listeners might want a little more variety in a solo album, they will have to concede that there is nothing but excellence in the performances here. Evelino Pidò draws splendid playing from the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI and Sony's sound reproduction is vivid and powerful. I've reviewed two other recordings by Grigòlo here, Ave Maria (Sony 78637) and The Italian Tenor (Sony 75257), and as suggested above found both to be first-rate efforts. I believe this new one by Grigòlo is more impressive still. His many fans will surely want it, and opera mavens, especially those with an interest in French opera, should find it a very worthwhile acquisition.
Copyright © 2014, Robert Cummings