FRED PLOTKIN is one of America’s foremost experts on opera and has distinguished himself in many fields as a writer, speaker, consultant and as a compelling teacher. He is an expert on everything Italian, the person other so-called Italy experts turn to for definitive information. Fred discovered the concept of "The Renaissance Man" as a small child and has devoted himself to pursuing that ideal as the central role of his life. In a “Public Lives” profile in The New York Times on August 30, 2002, Plotkin was described as "one of those New York word-of-mouth legends, known by the cognoscenti for his renaissance mastery of two seemingly separate disciplines: music and the food of Italy." In the same publication, on May 11, 2006, it was written that "Fred is a New Yorker, but has the soul of an Italian."
Where Are Italy's Opera Singers? Part II
Monday, August 29, 2011 - 12:00 AM
In the first part of this article I brought to your attention some of le donne italiane who sing opera today. Now it is the turn of gli uomini italiani. Some of these singers are familiar while others you might not know. The explanation for this might be simply because they have not appeared in theaters you frequent but also because only the most famous among them have acquired reputations. This is one of the problems in the Italian opera world today -- singers have been marginalized and cannot necessarily forge careers in the way Italian conductors do.
Among lower voices, Ferruccio Furlanetto is, as I mentioned in my posting about conductors, in a category of one. To hear him sing the role of King Philip II in Verdi’s Don Carlo is to know greatness. I have mentioned in recent posts the old guard (bass Ruggero Raimondi and baritone Leo Nucci) and basses Carlo Colombara and Luca Pisaroni, who is on the verge of stardom.
In my previous post, in discussing Raimondi and Nucci and the Pavarotti Generation, I should have also mentioned Renato Bruson (1936-). He is an outstanding baritone who still occasionally performs as well as teaches. Watch him as Macbeth:
Ambrogio Maestri from Pavia, near Milan, has become a leading exponent of the Italian baritone repertory, notably as Falstaff (here with Barbara Frittoli). He is also an excellent Amonasro in Aïda. Veterans also worth knowing are bass Roberto Scandiuzzi and baritone Alessandro Corbelli, who often sings comic roles. On the horizon is Fabio Maria Capitanucci, a Roman still in his 30s who was a wonderful Marcello in La Bohéme at the Met last season.
Among tenors Marcello Giordani stands atop the list in terms of international reputation and desirability in the world’s top opera houses. Fabio Armiliato, mentioned in the previous post along with Daniela Dessì, is probably the foremost Italian tenor in his own country. There is a group of younger tenors who are not necessarily as well known. I considered having you hear them all sing “Una Furtiva Lagrima” from L’Elisir d’Amore, but one of them (though he has sung it) seems not to have a performance in that vast wonderful place called YouTube.
Massimo Giordano (whose name is often confused with Marcello Giordani) was born at Pompeii, near Naples, but grew up in Trieste. He made an important Met debut in 2006 as Des Grieux in Manon opposite Renée Fleming. He returned to the company as Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi, and as Alfredo in an excellent La Traviata with Anja Harteros and the debut of Italian conductor Paolo Carignani. Then came La Bohéme and two performances of L’Elisir d’Amore with Angela Gheorghiu. One of these went out on the Met broadcast but I have not been able to locate that it to play for you. Instead, listen to him sing “Recondita armonia” from Tosca:
Stefano Secco (whose name translates unfortunately as Steven Dry) from Milan is singing in these days at the Festival in Verona. His career is unusual in that he has performed in more than 30 theaters in Italy, including La Scala under Riccardo Muti. Most Italians of any age have not appeared so widely. I only heard him once, as a fine Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly at the Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago. He has also appeared in important international theaters. Here he is in Elisir:
Vittorio Grigolo is a young Tuscan who has a large public relations machine behind him. He has learned English, moved to Los Angeles and is trying to establish himself as almost a pop icon. Zachary Woolfe in the New York Times recently remarked on Grigolo’s charisma. The tenor did this version of the Donizetti aria on “Good Morning America,” so bear in mind that he was singing early in the morning, in front of a microphone, not in an opera house and not while playing the role.
I heard the Genoese Francesco Meli for the first time in 2008 in Torvaldo e Dorliska at the Rossini Festival in Pesaro and he was spectacular. I later enjoyed him as Alfredo in La Traviata in Turin. He had a rough debut at the Met in 2010 in a misbegotten revival of Rigoletto that was badly directed, underrehearsed and weakly conducted. Anyone who saw him only then does not have a measure of his talent.
Giuseppe Filianoti, from Calabria, made a superb Met debut as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor in 2005 and later sang the tenor leads in L’Elisir d’Amore, Rigoletto, La Rondine and Les Contes d’Hoffmann. He had a rough patch in his career and disappeared for a while. It turned out that he had cancer in his early 30s but successfully recovered.
Please share your impressions about these five young Italian tenors: Giordano, Secco, Grigolo, Meli and Filianoti. Are there any other Italian male singers now before the public whom you admire?
Watch for the third part of this series, in which we will explore whether the political, social, academic and cultural climate in Italy will foster or impede the development of a new generation of Italian opera singers.