This is the first of Cecilia Bartoli's 'mentored by Bartoli' albums and what a joy is this debut recital by Mexican tenor Javier Camarena who must now be considered the pre-eminent Mozart and bel canto specialist of his generation, praised for his burnished tone, gleaming high notes, flawless coloratura.
We have here a celebration of the legendary Spanish tenor, composer and impresario, Manuel Garcia (1775–1832), the original Comte Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia. The collection features five items by García, including three world première recordings, alongside items by Rossini and Zingarelli.
For the programme’s centre-piece, Camarena is joined by Bartoli herself in the ravishing duet, "Amor.. Possente nome!" from Rossini’s Armida. Another highpoint is the exhilarating ease and fearless élan with which Camarena dispatches the final item, the fiendishly taxing aria and cabaletta, "S’ella mi é ognor fedele—Qual sara mai la gioia" from Rossini’s Ricciardo e Zoraide.
Released as part of the 30th anniversary of Bartoli’s relationship with Decca, Contrabandista makes a fine companion to Maria, Bartoli’s own tribute to Garcia’s superstar mezzo soprano daughter, Maria Malibran (1808–1836), issued a decade ago to mark her 20th anniversary with the label.
Reviewer: Paul Foss