Bravo Bergonzi! Bergonzi Sings Verdi
Never possessing the charisma of his near-contemporaries del Monaco, di Stefano and Corelli, Bergonzi created his notable career as a Verdian tenor by dint of his well-integrated, evenly produced tone and a sure sense of style exemplified in his continuous line and well-nigh faultless phrasing. All these excellent qualities are adumbrated in these extracts taken from his Philips set comprising virtually all the solos for tenor that he committed to disc in 1974. Here he moves with effortless ease through early, middle and late Verdi, from the insouciant grace of the Duke of Mantua to the torments of Otello, almost always obedient to the exigent markings of Verdi’s score.
If I had to choose just one aria to illustrate his dominance in this field it might be “Celeste Aida”, where the tone is seamless, the breath control remarkable and the sense of the music moving forward without encumbrance creates the very essence of the Verdian style, not to forget a high B flat at the end for once taken piano as Verdi enjoins. Hardly less notable are his accounts of two roles with which (as with Radames) he delighted Covent Garden audiences in the 1960s and early-1970s – Riccardo and Alvaro. The former’s musings in Act 3 on his love for Amelia, the latter’s remembrance of his love for Leonora are both expressed with that understanding of how unerringly Verdi caught the character’s inner feelings in broad, rewarding cantilena. Just once or twice in the course of a taxing programme a suspicion of a beat betrays the fact that Bergonzi made this set when he was marginally past his peak, but these moments hardly detract from the pleasure to be derived from this CD, aptly titled “Bravo Bergonzi!”.'