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Piotr Beczala - The French Collection / Opera News review

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Piotr Beczala is the third prominent tenor to release a French aria disc in less than a year, after Juan Diego Flórez and Vittorio Grigolo. While several selections are performed on two of these recordings, only one aria appears on all three - "Pourquoi me réveiller," from Massenet's Werther. 

The three tenors' different approaches to this brief, ambitious excerpt are revealing. Flórez, a bel canto specialist and so the least likely contender, braves the challenge with a smart show of style, emphasizing suavity without any suggestion of straining in the big, loud effects. Grigolo, even at some risk of overacting, sounds as if he were performing the role live; one hears a hypersensitive, damaged Werther stepping back from life, already dead in spirit.

And Beczala? If his colleagues emphasize style and character, respectively, he stakes his claim with a mastery of mood - which we might define as dramatization that's a little short on specifics. He sings the aria with tension, grace and considerable force, well supported by an experienced Werther conductor, Alain Altinoglu, who truly differentiates the phrases and the pacing. But it's hard to hear the vocal climax as anything but a test of force for its own sake. 

The tenor comes closest to vivid characterization in the one excerpt performed with another singer, "N'est-ce plus ma main," from the sacristy scene in Massenet's Manon, in which he is joined by Diana Damrau. Beczala's des Grieux has appealing vulnerability, but the emotion comes in brief protests and outbursts in response to a dynamic tour de force for the soprano. (Damrau's over-aggressive portrayal certainly gives Beczala something to respond to.)   READ THE FULL Opera News REVIEW