Franco Bonisolli: "My Way"
Arias from Norma, La bohème, Manon, L’arlesiana, Les pêcheurs
de perles, Luisa Miller, I pagliacci, Rigoletto, La gioconda, and Il
Plus, “O sole mio.”
Franco Bonisolli, tenor, Munich Radio Orchestra,
Klauspeter Seibel, cond.
Andy Classics 160 495 F (DDD) TT: 50:35
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This CD includes excerpts from a 13 March 1988 Munich concert, starring
Italian tenor, Franco Bonisolli. To be sure, he is one of
the more controversial figures on the modern opera scene. A contemporary
the “Three Tenors” (he was born in 1938), Bonisolli
has enjoyed a highly successful international career, with performances
at most of the world’s great opera houses and several recordings
on major commercial labels.
Bonisolli’s career has, at times, been plagued by a reputation
for erratic behavior, both onstage and off. But at his best, he
brings a combination of talents that are quite rare, if not unique, among
tenors on the recent opera scene. He has sung
a remarkably wide variety of repertoire, including
Classical-era works, bel canto, Verdi, French Romantic opera,
He’s quite capable of singing with style and refinement, as a recent
Opera d’Oro issue of a 1967 Benvenuto Cellini (OPD-1373)
Conversely, the Italian tenor brings a welcome sense of bravado and abandon
to his performances not usually found in the work of contemporaries.
When I interviewed the great Broadway star, Alfred Drake, he made reference
to Yul Brynner’s “animalistic flair” in his performances
of The King and I. Alfred Drake offered these words with the highest
admiration. And I think they are equally appropriate to describe the
singing of Franco
Bonisolli. The tenor’s dark tone, pungent attacks, and ringing
high notes (frequently and happily sung, regardless of whether they appear
the score) provide the kind of electric atmosphere that evokes the spirit
of such predecessors as Mario del Monaco and Franco Corelli.
All of these qualities are on display in the Munich concert documented
on the “My Way” CD. The first two items—Pollione’s
aria from Norma, and Rodolfo’s narrative from La bohème—suffer
from some imprecise intonation, as well as a moment of hoarseness in
the latter excerpt. Still, the overall vigor, admirable phrasing, and
high notes bring much pleasure.
Bonisolli improves for the next two numbers—“Ah! Fuyez, douce
image,” from Manon (featuring excellent French diction) and the lovely
aria from Cilea’s L’arlesiana. Then Bonisolli shifts
gears and scales back his heroic voice for a masterful performance of
Romance from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers. Bonisolli sings throughout
with a honeyed mezza voce, capping the aria with a ravishing high C. It’s
an amazing tour-de-force, and one that earns the ecstatic approval of
the Munich audience.
From here to the recital’s conclusion, Bonisolli moves from strength
to strength, with vibrant renditions of music from Luisa Miller,
and Rigoletto. Encores include “Di quella pira” and “O
sole mio,” both featuring atomic high Cs that elicit cascades of
roars from the audience.
The sound on this disc is first-rate, equivalent to the best studio recordings.
A fair amount of the audience’s reaction to each number is included,
as well as the applause greeting Franco Bonisolli at the start—all
adding to the sense of occasion.
My understanding is that this disc, which has been difficult to locate
for some time, will soon be available through www.amazon.com. I’ve
listened to “My Way” several times, and with great pleasure.
While Franco Bonisolli’s singing is not to everyone’s taste,
I highly recommend “My Way” to those who value the kind of
bravura approach that is not easily found these days.
K.M. (September 2003)