In the DELOS CD A Tribute to Gilbert Duprez (DE3532) American tenor John Osborn pays homage to the 19th century French tenor Gilbert Duprez (1806-1896), creator of many roles- Edgardo in Donizetti’s Lucia among them.
Listening to Osborn’s fine singing of rarities from the French repertoire is a pleasure. In sound and in approach he is similar to several favorite tenors of mine, all three, like Osborn, lean of voice and utterly elegant in style: Henri Legay, Alain Vanzo, and Léopold Simoneau. But Osborn’s is a voice destined for bigger roles than those associated with those three artists.
Similar to the beefier French dramatic tenors of the Belle Époque, John Osborn has the needed meat on the bone to take on Arnold’s Asile Héreditaire, with a row of effortless high C’s in the cabaletta that follows the aria.
Oh, and speaking of effortless, take in the top E in alt at the end of Oui, j’irai dans leur temple from Donizetti’s Les martyrs (https://youtu.be/IZx4zDGczjM )
Osborn can also spin out a seamless legato in two Donizetti gems: Seul sur la terre from Dom Sébastien, and in Ange si pur from La favorite.
His French is entirely unaccented, and his elegant musicality unimpeachable – both boons in this particular repertoire.
The ubiquitous Constantine Orbelian is a perfect singer’s conductor, and he leads the Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra with stylistic authority.
Vilius Keras and Alexandra Keriené are the highly capable producer-engineers.
The well-written accompanying booklet by Lindsay Koob, Anne Maley and David Brin provides good information and sensible translations of the lyrics.
NAXOS again keeps the bar high by tapping into unexplored corners of the vocal repertoire. My thanks!
Rafael de Acha
César Vezzani (1888-1951) a Corsican with a mix of French and Italian blood flowing in his veins, belies all our misconceptions about how French tenors are supposed to sound. Just listen to his Rachel, quand du Seigneur (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXnUpmlShUs) Vezzani must have been an impressive Eléazar in his prime.
Then there’s Augustarello Affre (1858-1931), very much a rare specimen: a French heroic tenor. Hear him in an old acoustic recording of O paradis from Meyerbeer’s L’africaine (https://youtu.be/_tA3rDLRyRk), and if you can ignore the scratchy recording you will perhaps agree with this listener that this is a remarkable voice.
There are others. Give two minutes of your time to check out Léon Escalaïs
(1859-1940) in Je veux encore entendre from Verdi’s Jérusalem (https://youtu.be/WShV5QDHTwQ)
Finally enjoy Georges Thill’s (1898-1984) electric recording of Ah fuyez douce image from Massenet’s Manon. (https://youtu.be/ZR-Nw-nIHHU)