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Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’ 



Salvatore Licitra -- Forbidden Love
21 Oct 2006

Salvatore Licitra — Forbidden Love

As the careers of the “three tenors” drew to a close, it became more and more obvious that replacements would have to be found, if not for all of them, then certainly for one or two.

Forbidden Love

Salvatore Licitra, tenor, Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, Robert Rizzi Brignoli (cond.)

Sony 82876-78852-2 [CD]

$18.98  Click to buy

In an ideal world, we would have a lyric tenor for the bel canto repertory, a lyrico spinto or spinto for the basic Verdi, Puccini, verismo and French repertory, and a dramatic tenor for Otello, Pagliacci, and some of the heavier French operas, such as Samson and Juive. But, in the real world, the bulk of these roles, with the possible exception of Otello, might well be all taken by the same tenor.

The way this reviewer sees it, such a tenor should have a beautiful voice, a secure and reliable top, going up at least to a high C, plenty of squillo, be able to sing with artistry, sensitivity, imagination and musicianship, be a fine actor with an endearing personality, as well as having an interest in expanding the repertory.

My initial reaction on listening to the first of the 14 selections on Salvatore Licitra’s second aria CD, Forbidden Love was something like: “Hey, this could be the guy”. While not quite at their level, his voice is almost beautiful enough to put him in the select company of Lauri-Volpi, Bjoerling, Pavarotti, and Carreras, and well ahead of most other recent tenors. Just as importantly, he exhibits plenty of squillo, and sings with great artistry and sensitivity. There is no way to judge his high C from this CD, since the arias selected just do not go this high. But he did record “Di quella pira” on his debut CD, which I have not heard, and I understand from reviews on the Internet that he has plenty of high Cs.

Looking more closely at the individual selection, I was delighted to see that he starts off with one of the young Verdi’s most thrilling arias: “Come rugiada al cespite” from Ernani, and that he includes the striking cabaletta “O to che l’alma adora.” But I was disappointed to see that he omits the cabaletta to the Luisa Miller aria, and only sings the slow part. The ”Lamento di Federico” from Cilea’s L’arlesiana demonstrates his ability to sing with great lyricism, while in “Vesti la giubba” he sings with deep feeling without excessive sobbing. His voice is not yet powerful enough to be fully satisfactory in the “Dio! Mi potevi scagliar” from Otello, but it is one of the best versions since Mario del Monaco’s.

Perhaps the best selection is the “Improvviso” from Giordano’s Andrea Chenier, which shows off his dramatic abilities a well as his ringing high notes. He grabs you with his first words, and holds your attention throughout.

My one disappointment with this CD was the absence of at least one genuine rarity—an aria that no other singer or almost no other singer had ever recorded. Ideally, such an aria should be from some opera he might eventually be the first to sing and record complete. There are many such operas, including less well known works by composers like Ponchielli, Montemezzi, Giordano, Halévy, or others who are now regarded as “one opera composers”.

This one quibble not withstanding, I think that Licitra has a bright future, and can recommend this CD without hesitation.

Tom Kaufman

Forbidden Love

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