Simon Keenlyside - Tales of Opera
Is there anything Simon Keenlyside can’t do? In addition to displaying his dramatic and vocal flair in characters ranging from Papageno to Hamlet, he has also written a thoughtful essay in the booklet, and illustrated it with humorous drawings. The reason behind the choice of arias is “to make a record of my little life, my short turn in this wonderful musical adventure”.
He starts with a fizzing account of Figaro’s entrance from Il barbiere; as he reminds us, “its pyrotechnical difficulties can never be taken for granted”. This and Papageno’s “Ein Mädchen” are the two light-hearted moments; for the rest it is a question of balancing moods between yearning, anger and despair. On the quieter side are lovely accounts of “Vision fugitive” from Massenet’s Hérodiade and Wolfram’s song to the evening star from Tannhäuser.
Comparitive rarities include the aria for Allazim from Mozart’s Zaide, and an extract from Cilea’s L’arlesiana, recorded as a tribute to Tito Gobbi. The biggest surprise comes in the three Verdi extracts, with Keenlyside finding darker colours in his tone. “Eri tu” from Ballo in maschera has a tortured grandeur, and even “Di provenza” from La traviata – both verses – emerges as freshly thought-through.
Ulf Schirmer and the Munich Radio Orchestra provide fine support throughout. A black mark for proof-reading, though; the booklet misspells Serafin as “Seraphim”. And why nothing in English? Anyone who has heard Keenlyside in recital knows what magic he can weave in his native tongue, so a follow-up CD, please, of English songs.