Alfredo Kraus and Renata Scotto: Villancicos

[They really exist. I
know at least one charming, well-known American lady.] The sleeve notes tell
us the CD was recorded in 1991. At the time Kraus was 64 and Scotto 58. The
tenor’s voice is clearly in better shape than the soprano’s.
Still, if one knows the young tenor’s many recordings on his own label,
Carillon (now mostly available at Bongiovanni), it is clear that the voice
has become far drier and a little bit wooden. Nevertheless it still
impressively shows how a good technique and careful husbanding of one’s
means keep a great voice in shape after a career of 37 years. Kraus kept his
splendid top notes till the very end of his life, which he was not shy of
showing off, and this is one of the disturbing things on this CD. Several
times he interpolates or ends with blazing high C’s where the flow of
the music goes completely the other way. Even a shameless top note hunter
like myself thinks a high C too much and rather unmusical at the end of
Adeste fidelis (Come all you faithful) or the disguised Agnus
of Bizet’s ArlÈsienne that no tenor can leave in
peace. Kraus is at his best in a few simple Spanish Christmas ditties that
follow well-known paths but his Ave Maria’s or Brahm’s
Wiegenlied are not records for eternity unless one wants to hear the
tenor sing in German.

Still, compared to Scotto this is more than decent singing. The
soprano’s voice was in shreds by the nineties. She is, of course, an
old pro and tries to hide it as much as possible. One way she does it is by
transposing so heavily that she has to go to the bottom of her voice and then
resorts to a kind of growl. Almost all the time she sings in the lower middle
of the voice where there is still roundness of sound. But sometimes she has
to sing a weeny teeny bit higher and then trouble starts. Most of the time
for a few measures she uses crooning or a thin piano and when that is not
allowed as in Adam’s Cantique de NoÎl (O Holy Night) she gives
a small shriek (mercifully, one verse only). She, too, introduces some lesser
known carols; but one is too much fixed on the remains of a once great voice
to pay attention to the repertory. As I said, strictly for those who want any
note recorded by one of these singers.

Jan Neckers

image_description=Alfredo Kraus and Renata Scotto: Villancicos
product_title=Alfredo Kraus and Renata Scotto: Villancicos
Religious arias and Christmas Songs
product_by=Alfredo Kraus, Renata Scotto, Chamber Orchestra of Bratislava and Chorus Conservatorio de Badajoz, Erich Binder (cond.)
product_id=RTVE Musica 65018 [CD]