In this week's Full Rotation, the charismatic Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel offers a collection of arias sung by some of the greatest villains from opera and musical theater.
Terfel is known among opera lovers as the perfect gentleman in real life. But for his latest album he has gathered a line-up of operatic villains, cherry-picked their greatest, most distinguishing numbers and assembled them into a rogues' gallery of what he calls "the demonic misfits and malcontents of this wonderful music."
And they’re all here. There’s Verdi's nihilistic Iago from Otello; Donizetti's snake-oil salesman Dulcamara in l'Elisir d'amore; the vengeful Kaspar in Weber’s Der Freischutz; and Puccini's corrupt Scarpia in Tosca (which he sings at the Metropolitan Opera through April 24). The ultimate Bad Boy, Satan himself, makes two appearances, courtesy of Boito and Gounod.
Of course, villainy knows no bounds, and Terfel, known for occasional stints in musical theater, presents scoundrels from the drug dealer Sportin' Life in Porgy and Bess, Javert from Les Miserables, Mack the Knife from Weill's Threepenny Opera and the demon barber from Sweeney Todd. Mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie van Otter makes a cameo appearance as the pie-making Mrs Lovett in the latter piece, with a Cockney accent worthy of Eliza Doolittle.
The whole show culminates with the closing scene from Mozart’s Don Giovanni where the Don is dragged off to hell. In a feat that's both slightly disorienting and spectacular, Terfel sings all three roles: Il Commendatore, Leporello and the Don himself.
Bad Boys (Deutsche Grammophon)
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Paul Daniel, conductor