Thursday, September 1, 2011

Latest listening.

Alright here comes another blog. I have been listening to a two disc set of Jose Van Dam singing various operatic excerpts. Well, it is a mixed bag. I tend to like Van Dam in French, some German, and some Italian repertoire. In French rep he is awesome because of his elegance. There are excerpts from The Flying Dutchman, Parsifal, Die Meistersinger, Salome, Boris Godunov, Don Carlo, Simon Boccanegra, Don Giovanni, Damanation of Faust, Pelleas and The Tales of Hoffmann.
The French excerpts are all exquisite. Van Dam's portrayal of the troubled Golaud in Pelleas is a work of art. Here we have a live recording from Opera Brussels of the hair pulling scene. Golaud becomes so jealous of the idea of his wife Mellisande and his half brother Pelleas having an affair, that he completely falls a part mentally as the opera goes on. He sings the two excerpts from Damnation of Faust and The Tales of Hoffmann like they were written for his voice. He was wonderful at portraying all four of Hoffmann's alter egos.
I am pretty happy with the German excerpts also. Van Dam's Dutchman is a little light vocally for me. There is something missing. This is a live performance. The same thing is true on the studio recording with Von Karajan conducting. Van Dam also sings Amfortas from Parsifal in a live excerpt. This is an heart drenching lament, sung exquisitely. I feel the pain of the wounded king. Amfortas sits higher vocally than Dutchman, so it works much better for Van Dam. Van Dam is a little light vocally for Hans Sachs. I do like his singing in both the monologues though. Works for me because he still sells the music through his expressive singing. Van Dam has always impressed me as John the Baptist in Salome. He continues to do so in this cd. I remember when I first heard him singing that role on the emi set for Karajan. I was in Tower Records in NYC. I thought to myself, wow, I didn't know or even think he could sing that. He sang it really well as a matter of fact. The two Boris Godunov excerpts after that simply do not cut it. His voice sounds way too light and the lower notes are too weak.
The Italian rep is a mixed bag. I think he does nice things with Fillippo's monologue in Don Carlo. However, the lower notes are simply not there. Phillip should be more of a bass than Van Dam is. The excerpt from Simon Boccanegra features Van Dam singing the title role. Very interesting, since that part is a high verdi baritone. Van Dam sings it pretty damn well. Although, I prefer his recording of Paolo under Claudio Abbado from the late 1970s. The Falstaff excerpts are sung very well, but lack the comic flare of Taddei, Gobbi, or Terfel, to name a few. The Rossini is just kind of a boring duet, so I didn't pay much attention. The Don Giovanni excerpts are well sung, but I feel like Van Dam does not fit that opera. Overall, this is a descent two disc set, but there is better Van Dam out there. For example, check out his disc of Duparc songs if you can find it. It is a gem. Both his recordings of Golaud in Pelleas are awesome too. Especially the EMI set with Von Karajan. The last one I will mention is his recording of Amfortas under Von Karajan in Parsifal. Unbelievably sung and expressive account of Amfortas. That is all for now.

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