Mirco Palazzi & Vincenzo Scalera

Berenice – Si tra i ceppi
Metre ti lascio, K513
Simon Boccanegra – Il lacerato spirito
Don Carlo – Ella giammai m’amo
La Damnation de Faust – Devant la maison
Datime a piena mano e rose e zighi
Non t’amo più
L’ultime canzone
Addio Brunetta
Il modo di prender moghie

Mirco Palazzi (bass) & Vincenzo Scalera (piano)

Reviewed by: John T. Hughes

Reviewed: 7 May, 2006
Venue: St John's, Smith Square, London

To have an Italian bass beginning a recital with a Handel aria sung without aspirates suggests that the listener may well be in for an enjoyable evening, and such was the case with young Mirco Palazzi (born in November 1978) in the latest contribution to the Rosenblatt Recital Series, with the valued support of Vincenzo Scalera.

This young bass’s voice is built on a solid foundation, with tone well centred and given firm support. It is of fine quality, used intelligently and is flexible, as he demonstrated in that opening aria, from “Berenice”, in which Handel’s divisions were cleanly articulated. He also has tonal sonority, heard as he rolled out the line of Mozart’s concert aria.

In the Verdi pieces he produced a sensitive account of Fiesco’s aria from “Simon Boccanegra”, which benefited from the vocal colouring and shading that he knew was important. Not only was he not afraid to make use of mezza voce but he had it well controlled. Perhaps that virtue was even more effective in Philip’s big scene from “Don Carlo”, with long phrases elegantly sculpted and the king’s inner thoughts and emotions well realised.

The last of the arias was the serenade which Mephistophélès sings to lure Marguerite to her doom. It is a light, airy piece, in which the voice has to move nimbly, flitting like the will-o’-the-wisps that are dancing around the diabolic figure. Palazzi’s voice was certainly agile enough to negotiate all those quick, short notes, tossing them off with insouciance. Vincenzo Scalera’s fingers were equally flexible.

It was to songs that Mirco Palazzi and Vincenzo Scalera turned for the second part of their recital, beginning with one which must be something of a rarity – Ghendi’s playful setting of a 15th century text. It was pleasing to hear. More well known were the Tosti songs, so well written for the voice. Even if they are usually the province of tenors, Palazzi’s sensitive interpretation paid dividends in the nostalgic words. Some most attractive verbal and tonal shadings were skilfully used. A sweet little trifle by Donizetti, barely a minute long, preceded a Schubert song that was very much not what one would expect from that composer: a buffo aria that could have been part of an Italian comic opera. Once again, singer and pianist showed their versatility. As elsewhere, Palazzi’s enunciation was as clear and pointed as his tone was focused and easily produced.

For his first encore, the singer turned to “Ol’ man river”, catching its mood as he worked to a ringing climax. Tosti was revisited for a thoughtful, well-shaped “A vucchella”. Humour came next, as Palazzi returned to opera with “La calunnia” (“Il barbiere di Siviglia”), and finally we heard another serenade from someone who finished in hell: Don Giovanni’s “Deh vieni alla finestra”, sung with appropriate lightness of tone.

A knowledgeable member of the audience, himself a singer and insatiable collector of vocal recordings, summed up the recital by saying that Mirco Palazzi has “all the elements of being a great singer.”

The next recital in this estimable series will be given by young American tenor Stephen Costello on 1 June at St John’s, Smith Square.

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