José Cura - Aurora
Since José Cura, who is very much Master of Ceremonies here, gives such prominence to Aurora, we may as well follow his lead and give credit where it is due. Ettore Panizza was an important operatic figure during the first half of the 20th century. Toscanini’s assistant at La Scala, he eventually succeeded him at the Met and is known on records principally as conductor of noted performances in the Italian repertoire such as Martinelli’s Otello, Tibbett’s Boccanegra and Ponselle’s Traviata. As a composer he is almost unknown. Now Cura takes up a patriotic song which has caught his fancy in the opera Aurora (1907), taken from a section curiously named ‘Intermezzo epico’. He likes it so much that he repeats it, this time with an introductory passage and translated from Spanish into Italian. Apart from its possibly being seen (as a song of the flag, the ‘bandera’) as having some special message for our times, it is a fairly attractive song and Cura sings it with fervour.
Of the rest, the booklet advises us (for Cura is editor of that, too) not to look for any ‘stylistic association’ in his choice of arias: the excerpts are just bits and pieces from Cura’s repertoire not yet on record. They include two passages from Giordano’s Siberia, one the Prelude to Act 2 (Cura conducts throughout) evocative of adverse weather conditions and, with reference to the ‘euchnyem’s’ of the Volga boatmen’s song, Russia in general. The others (Cura does himself an injustice here) do indeed have a stylistic similarity in that as far as characterisation is concerned, they are virtually indistinguishable. What they also have in common is the employment of a magnificently full-bodied heroic tenor voice, firm and even in production. Its capability of a veiled tone (as in Luisa Miller) is one of which the owner makes limited use, and its capacity for more varied expression is further curtailed. It would not have needed a Walter Legge to give a few hints in the course of recording sessions, but Cura is the producer as well. Perhaps he should be writing this review. Note that the critic has emulated the tenor’s restricted range of expression by refraining entirely from comment on the bonus track which offers glimpses of sessions ‘backstage’.