Alongside the opening of the new opera season at London’s Houses comes the opening of the season for the Rosenblatt Recital Series that has been running since 2000. A good spotting ground for up and coming international talent.
I approached the evening with a slight trepidation as my last live experience of him was the 2011 La Sonnambula at the Royal Opera House, his Elvino was the main disappointment of that evening, clearly having a difficult night, looking out of sorts in both style and vocal output.
For this recital the two halves were mainly divided by temperament which made for a slightly odd and too homogeneous programming. But one particular saving grace of this recital series is allowing the singers to make personal choices of songs and arias that reflect their interests and frequently in their native language, allowing them to show a different side from the expected standard rep.
Albelo’s delivery of the brooding at times near lacrimose material in his native tongue was beautifully engaging. His reserved stage personality well in tune with the material. The attention to the words and the soft caress of the melody was a great start and brought out a side to his interpretive capability I hadn’t seen before.
His Pampamapa (Song of the trail) was a great example of his ability to weave the thread of a story with simple means and to keep the audience captivated. His colourful rendition of a meditation on a love affairs that has gone wrong was affecting and not over dramatic. Revealing a sensitive side to our preconceptions of what a lyric tenor is expected to sing in recital. In Ya me voy a retirar (I’m going to go away) he brought a broken simplicity and expressive economy full of tenderness. Hi El sampedrino (The herdsman) was a meditation on bitterness after the end of a love affair. The last item of the first half Besos en mis suenos (Kisses in my dreams) was a strange melange of MOR melody and light vocalism that reminded me a musical backdrop for an MGM musical from the 1940s. Breaking a bit the spell cast from all the previous songs.
After the interval things got much more vibrant to maybe the expense of subtlety (a danger with lyric tenors oi).
The first (very loud) song Deten tu lado paso (Don’t take another step) was the exact opposite of all the songs of the first half, the subtlety replaced with volume and overarching ardency.
But maybe the most musically futile and overall problematic number was the solo piano Danza de los Nanigos (Dance of the Negroes) which except for a break for the singer offered very little to the overall recital and the very title of it in the programme made me cringe.
The arias from the Donizetti operas were a great display of his bright tone and firm delivery. Particularly his rendition of Spirto gentil was the crowning achievement of the evening and it’s wonderful to have a video released by the Rosenblatt Recitals organisers for posterity. It was exactly one would wish for, full bloodied Italianate singing with clarity of phrasing and a seamless legato.
His finale with La donna e mobile was a bit of chore for me after having seen a performance of Rigoletto two days earlier and was not quite convinced that he had the arrogance and weaselly malice one needs to be a convincing Duke of Mantua. But it definitely ticked a big box for the fans in the audience.
His two encores were Francesco Cilea’s È la solita storia del pastore (Act II L’arlesiana) and a short version of Donizetti’s Ah mes amis (Act I La Fille du Régiment) which made a suitably sparkly end to the evening and continues a Roseblatt tradition for tenors to sneak in a snippet of La Fille du Régiment in their recital programme. It was funny seeing pianist and singer backstage trying to agree on the second encore after Albelo asked for us to wait for a minute…a good light-hearted end to the recital.
Videos from the performance
Some tweets from the evening