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La Passione

Notes & Reviews:

Alfie Boe, Alfred Giovanni Roncalli Boe, is not Italian or Scandinavian, but an English crossover tenor. He has made numerous appearances in English opera and musical theater, and released various mostly pop albums. The field of recordings of Neapolitan song is crowded, and there was no real reason for him to enter it except that he does them superbly; for those in search of an introduction to this repertory, which was most popular in Italy and America but had international reach, you can hardly do better. Boe's voice has the perfect dimensions for the music, with a big top that feels organic rather than artificial. In the more operatic pieces such as Lucio Dalla's Caruso (an imagining of Caruso's last days), earlier recorded by Luciano Pavarotti and even by Joan Baez, he has plenty of power, but he transitions easily to jokey fare like Funiculì, Funiculà (for which Richard Strauss, and presumably his estate, had to pay royalties at each performance of Aus Italien), and to an almost crooned sound in some of the quieter pieces. The variety in itself is another of the album's strengths; Neapolitan songs require a good interpreter and a coherent program to come alive, and there are too many recordings that fall into the sameness trap. Not here; this album is lively, beautifully executed, and in every way evocative of what these semipopular artifacts of southern Italy are all about. Translations of the texts in the booklet (especially for a song like Caruso, which has a very specific narration) might have been helpful. But Boe's career took off after the 2007 release of this album, and it will give you a very good idea of what the fuss is about. ~James Manheim


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