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La Scena Musicale Online Reviews and News / Critiques et Nouvelles

Visit La Scena Musicale Online Reviews. [Index] Critiques de La Scena Musicale Online

Salvatore Licitra makes auspicious Montreal debut

By Joseph So June 9, 2004

“Is this the tenor of tomorrow – the long awaited successor to Pavarotti and Domingo?” asked the New York Times in May 2002, when Sicilian tenor Salvatore Licitra replaced an indisposed Luciano Pavarotti at the Metropolitan Opera. Judging by the way Signor Licitra sang at the l’Opera de Montreal Benefit Concert on Sunday, the answer is an emphatic and unqualified – Si!

Licitra opened with the fiendishly difficult ‘Celeste Aida’. Launching into the recitative, it was immediately apparent to the large Gala audience they were in the presence of a very fine, perhaps even great voice. The sound is a gleaming lirico-spinto, freely produced, remarkably even from top to bottom and capable of many colors, from honeyed piano to thrilling fortissimo. The timbre is beautiful, with the sunny quality of Pavarotti, the burnished tone of Domingo, and the visceral impact of Carreras. The long breath line is impressive, coupled with sufficient volume easily filling the cavernous Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier – an important consideration given the size of modern-day opera houses. At the risk of stereotyping, one has come to expect a certain stylistic excess when it comes to Italian tenors. But Licitra was unfailingly musical, with just the right amount of ‘heart-on-sleeve’ emotionalism but never crossing over to vulgarity. And he had the courage and the security of technique to end the aria with a high B-flat morendo, the likes of which one has to go back to the prime of the great Carlo Bergonzi, who just happens to be Licitra’s teacher and mentor. On this afternoon, the student did the teacher proud.

Also on the program were seven other opera arias, from Rigoletto, Macbeth, Un ballo in maschera, Tosca, Turandot, Carmen, and Andrea Chénier, all dispatched with a winning mix of first-class vocalism, style and grace. The audience greeted each number with generous applause – only in ‘La fleur que tu m’avais jetée’ from Carmen was the response somewhat muted, perhaps due to his less than perfect command of the French language. But with the wonderfully executed diminuendo that capped the aria, it would be unfair to quibble.

Throughout the concert, Licitra demonstrated an ingratiating stage persona, positively oozing charm, bantering with the audience through funny gestures, and appearing genuinely touched by the enthusiastic reception. He was ably assisted by the sympathetic conducting of Eugene Kohn, who led the l’Orchestre Métropolitain with a sure hand in the arias, but less successfully in some of the orchestral selections. Repeated standing ovations led to three encores – the Neapolitan song ‘Catari, catari’, and ‘Parigi, o cara’ from La Traviata, with soprano Marie-Josée Lord a rich-toned but fluttery Violetta. The last of the encores was another Neapolitan gem – ‘Non ti scordar di me’ (Do not forget me). I think it is safe to say the Montreal audience will not soon forget Signor Licitra.

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