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Simon Keenlyside

available at Amazon
Simon Keenlyside, Tales of Opera
(released September 25, 2007)
Sony Classical 88697-13067-2
Having just reviewed a recital by Nathan Gunn, it is as good a time as any to mention the new solo disc from baritone Simon Keenlyside, a singer with comparable physical appeal and vocal suavity. Reviews of Keenlyside's singing make one want to experience him live, like Richard Fairman's recent review of Keenlyside's Wigmore Hall recital -- the first of an eight-concert series presenting all of Poulenc's songs (Simon Keenlyside, Wigmore Hall, London, January 10) -- for the Financial Times, in which Keenlyside's is described as "a voice in its prime." Also like Nathan Gunn, it is on the operatic stage that Keenlyside has made his greatest impact, especially as Billy Budd and Prospero in Thomas Adès' The Tempest and the Count in Le Nozze di Figaro (heard at the Met this fall), although he has had success in Lieder recitals, too.

With this selection of favorite arias -- "for the most part, they represent the work that I perform in the theatre now, or will be doing so in the near future," he writes in his liner essay -- he presents himself in the best possible light. A few favorites from roles already in his grasp, like Papageno, Figaro, and Don Giovanni, pale beside the appeal of relative rarities like "Vision fugitive" (Massenet's Hérodiade) and "Nur mutig, mein Herz" (Mozart's Zaide) and excerpts from roles not yet associated with Keenlyside that seem to fit his voice like a glove. The disc is an intensely personal experience, having an extensive essay by the singer in lieu of texts and translations for the selections, as well as some of his capable and whimsical cartoon renditions of settings for a couple of the arias. Ulf Schirmer leads the Münchner Rundfunkorchester in creating a full-throated and beautifully woven tapestry of sound for Keenlyside's voice. Worth a listen if, like me, you are still waiting to hear Keenlyside live.


Akimon Azuki said...

Although seeing and hearing SK live would indeed be ideal, I think the closest most of us will get would be through opera DVDs, and I'd like to mention one of my favourites, the Covent Garden Magic Flute. Keenlyside's Papageno was, for
me, a revelation. I usually find the Paps irritating, even threatening (the lumbering village idiot of Gilfry, for example, presented by WNO recently.) This
one is so - touching, real, and it could not be sung any better than this.
The production itself is one of the best I have seen, too. BTW, this is one of the very few music productions that have been released in high definition on disc (sadly, on HD-DVD; I'm in the Blu-ray camp) but the fact that was filmed in HD means even the regular DVD has great picture and sound. Highly recommended for the Netflix queue or such.

Charles T. Downey said...

Nice. I'm still waiting for DVDs of his Billy Budd and of The Tempest. Let us all hope that Vocal Arts Society will be able to bring him to Washington soon.