22 Sep 2005

Lado Ataneli — Opera Arias

Baritone Lado Ataneli’s self-titled debut CD contains an impressive selection of arias intended to showcase the singer’s style, range, and versatility.

The liner notes, taken verbatim from Ataneli’s web page (www.ataneli.com), praise the singer as “one of the world’s most sought after interpreters of Verdi, Puccini and verismo roles,” and as such, the disc features Ataneli in fourteen well known musical excerpts from operas by Puccini, Leoncavallo, Ponchielli, Giordano, and Verdi. Regretfully, in the “verismo” canon as with Ponchielli, there is only one selection per composer, and the rest of the tracks are devoted to some of Verdi’s most demanding music for the baritone.

Pagliacci: Si puo? (Tonio)

Un Ballo in maschera: Alla vita (Renato)
Un Ballo in maschera: Alzati!...Eri tu (Renato)
Rigoletto: Cortigiani, vil razza dannata (Rigoletto)
La Traviata: Di provenza il mar (Giorgo Germont)
Don Carlo: O Carlo, ascolta (Posa)
Otello: Vanne…Credo in un Dio crudel (Iago)
Il Trovatore: Il balen del suo sorriso (Conte di Luna)
Macbeth: Perfidi!...Pieta, rispetto, amore (Macbeth)
Nabucco: Ah prigionero io sono!...Dio di Giuda (Nabucco)
La Forza del Destino: Morir! Tremenda cosa!...Urna fatale del mio destino (Don Carlo)

La Fanciulla del West: Minnie, della mia casa son partito (Jack Rance)

La Gioconda: O monumento! (Barnaba)

Andrea Chénier: Nemico della patria?! (Gerard)

After listening to this disc several times, and in spite of some very positive and encouraging reviews of live performances, I cannot warm up to this singer—he can deliver some clear high notes, he has excellent diction, and his instrument has a pleasant timbre and the warm, dark quality required to sing some of these roles. To this listener, however, Ataneli offers little interpretive understanding of the subtleties inherent in each of the characters’ emotions. Through most of the recording Ataneli sounds as though he is holding back or bored (Otello’s Credo, Trovatore’s Il balen del suo sorriso, Pagliacci’s Si puo), that he is singing outside of his range (Ballo’s Alla vita…Alzati…Eri tu!) or that he is singing without knowing what the words mean. Though he has been praised for “glittering high notes and irreproachable legato,” on this recording, he occasionally eliminates or avoids legato, at times the forte is unpleasant, and more than once the heavy vibrato almost becomes an annoying wobble.

Ataneli has been compared to the greatest baritones of yesteryear and hailed as their successor, and in fact his instrument is reminiscent to the likes of Bastianini, Bruson, Milnes, Capuccilli, but listening to this disc makes one wish one were listening to them, instead.

Chénier’s Nemico della patria!, and Rigoletto’s Cortigiani, vi razza dannata come closest to the interpretation which one would expect, and are by far the best tracks in the disc, filled with emotion and conviction. Ataneli’s first disc is sincere, and well intentioned, but marred by some inconsistencies which in time he will overcome, and at a time when there is a dearth of baritones, he is a welcomed addition.

Daniel Pardo