Listening to classical music is one of the best ways to unwind, which I suppose was what we all did during the recent long weekend. Times like those I would usually reach for the music Mozart or Handel or Bach or Debussy. This time around though, I thought I’d try something different. I decided to concentrate on vocal recordings and find out if I will find them as relaxing.
Remember you cannot really relax with opera or a concert. Those require a lot of involvement from the audience. Not so an album of just plain classical singing. You can simply put it in the player and then forget about it. All that you will be aware of is the sound of heavenly voices in the background.
And who are those heavenly voices? They are what the album Passione boasts about. It is subtitled Classic Interpretations of Opera and Pop by the world’s greatest voices and is a two-CD collection of recent classical and popera recordings. This means that the listener gets the likes of Leontyne Price and Susan Boyle in one package. I know those two are not in the same league, but they do have heavenly voices and that is what this compilation is about.
Who are the others whom we might consider as among the world’s greatest voices? I have always believed that the answer to this question should also include the rockers like Steven Tyler or the R&B balladeers like Luther Vandross or the pop divas like Beyoncé. I will not go into whether they should make the list now, I will just go instead to what Passione contains.
Happily, a soul singer and a blue-eyed one at that made the list. This is Michael Bolton and he sings E lucevan le stelle from Tosca and Una furtiva lagrima from L’elisir d’amore. Not classically trained but still a great voice and a heartfelt interpretation of these two popular arias. Luciano Pavarrotti has his iconic interpretation of Vesti la giubba from Pagliacci. Fellow tenor Jose Carreras of those beautiful lyrical high notes sings the Spanish favorite Oyeme, while Placido Domingo has four cuts, including two incursions into pop territory, Perhaps Love, with John Denver and Maitechu Mia with Mocedades of Eres Tu fame.
I was happy to find a Mario Lanza cut, Come Prima, and that the opera divas, save for Maria Callas, are well represented. Leontyne Price with Amazing Grace, Monserrat Caballe with an Ave Maria, Kiri Te Kanawa with Un bel di vedremo from Madame Butterfly and Teresa Berganza with Romanza De Rosa are all here. As for the newer names, Boyle, Paul Potts, Russell Watson, Lucio Dalla, Charlotte Church, Il Divo and even The Priests are also included.
I know that the great classical pieces should be listened to in their entirety and that there are still music lovers who believe that popera corrupts the genre. But music is constantly evolving. Most of us do not have anymore the luxury of time to spend two or three hours listening to an opera. So why not take what you can get, even piecemeal. Passione allows one to do that. Besides, while it is a compilation album, it is also an excellent sampler for people who are only now discovering the beauty of classical music. Everybody can enjoy this one.
Must-have classical music CDs
Among today’s must-have CDs for the classical music lover are Dream With Me, the debut album by the child sensation Jackie Evancho; Rock Symphonies where violinist David Garrett alternates between Vivaldi and Nirvana; The Royal Wedding, the official album of the Prince William and Kate nuptials recorded live at Westminster Abbey; This Is The Christ by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra with that magnificent pipe organ at Temple Square; and the Disney Baby Einstein Series which says that exposure to classical music results in intelligent, caring and maybe also emotionally mature babies.
Of course, there is also Il Volo, the first album release by the cute teenaged trio of divine voices of the same name. I do not know when we will get it out here, I hope soon, but the CD is now the No. 1 selling classical album in the U.S. of A. and is expected to hit the Top 200 Albums tabulations soon. Not only that there are already two versions of the debut CD available. The other one is the Spanish Edition. Given the way marketing works, I will not be surprised if there is also an Italian, English and maybe a French edition anytime now.