GIUSEPPE GIACOMINI -- Arias by Verdi: La forza del destino, Aïda) , Giordano (Andrea Chénier); Puccini: (La fanciulla del West, Madama Butterfly); Ponchielli: (La Gioconda); Cilea: (Adriana Lecouvreur): Leoncavallo;(I Pagliacci); Meyerbeer: (L'Africana).
Giuseppe Giacomini, tenor/Symphonia Perusina/Guido Maria Guida, cond.
Bongiovanni GB 2526 (F) (DDD) TT: 51:04

Italian tenor Giuseppe Giacomini (b.1940) is a rare breed among tenors of his generation -- a true spinto-dramatic voice with both a baritonal authority in the lower register and ringing high notes as well. And, unlike some other tenors with voices of comparable heft, Giacomini phrases with sensitivity and admirable dynamic shading. He also is a compellingly involved interpreter, and his career has taken him to virtually every major opera house in the world.

Why, then, is Giacomini so under-represented on recordings? His commercial discography includes a Norma on Sony Classical, Cavalleria Rusticana and Tosca on Philips, a hard-to-find Manon Lescaut on RCA Italiana, a recent Otello on Forlane, and a recital of religious songs and arias on Phoenix Classics. In truth, Giacomini does not own the most sensuously beautiful of tenor voices, although it is by no means unattractive. He possesses neither the charisma nor the publicity machines that attend some of the more celebrated of his tenor contemporaries. Still, Giacomini's talents are too considerable to be overlooked, particularly in an era that lacks the del Monacos, Tuckers and Corellis of the past generation or so. Therefore, this new issue on the enterprising Bongiovanni label is all the more valuable. Recording sessions took place in September of 1996, just a few days before Giacomini's 56th birthday (the aria from L'Africana was recorded the following March). Under these circumstances, Giacomini is a marvel. His voice rings with the health of a singer many years his junior. Only a (very) occasional beat in the upper register and a tendency from time to time to rush certain phrases suggest that this is a singer in anything other than his absolute prime. I have to emphasize that these minor shortcomings are outweighed by some of the finest dramatic tenor singing you are likely to hear by anyone on the stage today. From the very opening phrases of Don Alvaro's great aria from Verdi's La forza del destino, one is struck by the extraordinarily baritonal quality of the voice, accentuated by an extremely dark approach to the articulation of vowels. It is hard to imagine that such a voice would be able to negotiate the fiendish tessitura of Alvaro's music, yet Giacomini conquers the punishing B-flats with admirable élan. Further, his involvement with Alvaro's plight is never in question. It is a stunning performance.

The remainder of the recital offers similar positive qualities. I have not yet heard Mr. Giacomini's Otello recording, but the two monologues from Verdi's penultimate opera included on this disc have certainly whetted my appetite. Listen to the way Giacomini masterfully builds tension in "Dio! mi potevi scagliar." His version of Otello's death is all the more heartbreaking for its restraint. Even the more lyrical arias on this CD, such as "Amor ti vieta" and "O paradiso" are admirably delivered. I doubt I'll ever hear a voice of such darkness and power sing Pinkerton in the opera house, but Giacomini's rendition of "Addio, fiorito asil" certainly conveys the remorse the character should feel.

The sound is first-rate, accompaniments by Guido Maria Guida and the Symphonia Perusina are fine. It is reported Bongiovanni will release another Giacomini recital disc later this year, and I happily look forward to that issue. In the meantime, I highly recommend this thrilling CD of a considerable artist who, after three decades of singing, still has much to contribute.