Ramón Vargas: MÈxico Lindo
Songs by JÈsus Monge RamirÈz, Lorenzo Barceleta, Agustín Lara, JosÈ Alfredo JimÈnez, Quirino Mendoza y CortÈs, Consuelo Velázquez, Roberto Cantoral, Carlos Rigual, Elpidio Ramírez, María Grever, Alvaro Carillo, María Grever, and Tomás MÈndez Sosa.
Ramón Vargas, tenor, La Camerata de las AmÈricas, Enrique Barrios, conductor, Mariachi de la Casa de la Música Mexicana, Daniel García Blanco, director, Trio Los Morales.

RCA 75478 (F) (DDD)  TT: 68:55
Ramón Vargas has established himself as one of today's finest lyric tenors. Excellent recordings of Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Naxos), as well as Donizetti's La Favorite (RCA), demonstrate that he is a persuasive interpreter of Bel Canto. That Vargas is also a worthy exponent of the French Romantic repertoire is made clear by his ardent portrayal of the title role in Massenet's Werther (RCA).

Vargas seems equally at home on the concert stage. A CD on the budget Laserlight label (previously reviewed here) documents a 1995 concert in Mexico, in which Vargas captivates his audience with a series of Italian canzoni. The program concludes with four encores, all Mexican songs that Vargas performs with predictable Èlan.

This new CD, entitled MÈxico Lindo (Beautiful Mexico) is devoted entirely to the popular music of Vargas's native land. There are several familiar songs, including Granada, Cielito lindo, and BÈsame mucho. But all of the selections make for easy, pleasurable listening, particularly when sung in the tenors beguiling fashion. Time and again, Vargas demonstrates a willingness to scale his operatic voice down to a more intimate scale. There is also power when needed, as in Granada. Throughout, Vargas performs with great relish and style.

Accompaniment includes, from time to time, vocal backing and a mariachi band. The arrangements, by various prominent Mexican musicians, are tasteful, never overwhelming the song. ' Bravo also to RCA for providing not only the original Mexican texts of the songs, but English, German, and French translations as well. This can only serve to increase the listener's appreciation of a most enjoyable disc.

K.M. (Dec. 2000)