Nucci’s game of three halves (Cadogan Hall, 13 October 2015)
A week before that eventful trip to Vienna I went to see Leo Nucci with chamber accompaniment. I liked him in Nabucco two years ago and it’s good to visit other places beside your comfort zone on occasion. There’s something to be said about the tried and true – other things tend not to seem quite as sparkling – so here we are, with an overdue writeup.
You might wonder if it is necessary to write about everything one sees. I have on occasion asked myself the same question. My conclusion is in principle yes, why else run a blog? I very rarely go see something about which I have no idea whatsoever. If I see something I want to talk about it, to the best of my ability.
I like baritones in theory – low voices ahoy – but I am not very familiar with their repertoire outside of Mozart. I also love sung Italian in general and it’s not that often you hear a native speaker (saying that, he’s the fourth Italian singer I heard in concert this year) but for Verdi and them you want the typical Italianate sound.
Leo Nucci, baritone
Paolo Marcarini, piano
Pierantonio Cazzulani, violin
Lino Pierantonio, violin
Christian Serazzi, viola
Massimo Repellini, cello
Davide Burano, harp
Donizetti, Poliuto – Di tua beltade imagine
Bellini, Beatrice di Tenda – Qui mi accolse
Donizetti, Don Sebastiano – O Lisbona, alfin ti miro
Marcarini, Le donne di Donizetti: chamber versions of Donizetti ladies’ arias
Verdi, Macbeth – Mal per me m’affidai
Verdi, Non t’accostare all‘urna
Nucci needed quite a bit of time to warm up. To start with there was a whooping amount of vibrato especially at the top, whenever he took flight. On top of that I don’t know Verdi’s romanze, I’m not familiar with Poliuto and barely with Macbeth, I haven’t listened to Beatrice in a long time and I really don’t like Don Sebastiano, so this first part was a bit lukewarm for me. The upshot was that his pianissimos were lovely. He sang the romanze in operatic voice but Non t’accostare all’urna was quite moving in that dark over the top Verdi manner (which is to say nightmares, palpitations and soaked pillows). Also considering the accompaniment it was quite a full sound.
Verdi, I due Foscari – O vecchio cor, che batti
Verdi, I vespri siciliani – In braccia alla dovizie
Marcarini, Le donne di Bellini: chamber versions of Donizetti ladies’ arias; my complaint here was the piano in Casta diva, it felt like it was breaking the mood.
Rossini, Guillaume Tell – Sois immobile
Bellini, I Puritani – Ah! Per sempre io ti perdei
Donizetti, La Favorita – Vien, Leonora, a’ piedi tuoi
Eventually Nucci shook off most of the vibrato and by Ah! Per sempre… he was cooking with heartbreaking belcanto gas. Which reminds me, we need more Bellini in London. He does the kind of tearjerkers I can get behind.
Rossini, Il barbiere di Siviglia – Largo al factotum
Verdi, Un ballo in maschera – Eri tu
– can’t remember… –
Verdi, Rigoletto – Cortigiani, vil razza dannata
By the encore Nucci was properly energised. After the very serious stuff he pulled out all the tricks in the Largo book with a glee that belied his years – and that very serious stuff, when he was mostly still and stern/pained looking. The trills weren’t very precise but the characterisation was hilarious, which was such a change I wondered if he hadn’t sent a doppelganger out for this number. But he was immediately back to murderous baritone territory with a riveting Eri tu. Nice angst from the strings (which were very good in general). I was quite surprised how much energy he had for these long, difficult encores. Rigoletto is one of his signature roles so he was unsurprisingly intense and once again Verd’emotional. It’s hard to feel for Rigoletto instead of thinking bastard got his due but both Verdi and Nucci tried very hard to pull at heart strings. I was moved all right.
Nucci himself appeared very moved by the warm reception, which might’ve been the reason he sang a setlist the size of rock band’s. I didn’t think he was going to sing so many encores but he kept coming back 😉 Puts younger singers to shame. He sang, he talked, he might’ve even hidden a tear or two. He has quite a particular type of charisma (you might remember I occasionally pick this from singers), surprisingly subtle for a dramatic singer.
I had a seat at the back of the stalls and it seems like the audience there is very different from the one at the front. I was surrounded by chatterboxes – Italian in front and German (or thereabouts, judging by the accent) behind. The “Germans” talked very technically, praised Nucci a lot… and left at the interval. I didn’t get it but hey. The Italians chatted about their daily business and texted well into the show. On my left was a local gent whose feet smelled like a platoon’s socks after a 12 hour march through mud. He was very well behaved otherwise – until he elbowed me on the head whilst fussing with his coat during the applause. Then I dropped my trusty lozenges (Cadogan Hall can be a bit dry)…
So you may conclude, a bit meh all in all? It was better than meh, patchy but with some very enjoyable moments and a proper, unfussy baritone voice. Though I’m worried about Vologeso now as I will be sitting in the same seat. Maybe I’ll sneak in air freshener.