Tenore di Forza is the title of the debut DELOS (DE 3571) recording of Lithuanian tenor Kristian Benedikt.
It is also the name of a rare vocal category, better known in these parts as dramatic tenor – a rare voice type that belongs to a sparsely populated group of vocally endowed male singers whose exclusive domain encompasses Verdi’s Otello, Wagner’s heroes, and some of the Verismo repertory including Pagliacci, Cavalleria Rusticana, and Turandot, in addition to a handful of French rarities such as Eleazar in La Juive and the male title roles in Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila and Massenet’s Le Cid.
But of course, what defines a singer is not what he sings but how he sings it, and that includes not only the basic vocal equipment but the capacity to meet the demands of the vocal writing: endurance, range, volume, and cutting power. Add to that the musicianship, the ear for languages, and the stylistic flair expected from all vocal types and the bar goes up several notches. Oh, by the way, vocal beauty – that subjective “thing” also plays a role in one’s predilection for this and not that voice. Here, unarguably I dare say, we have a dramatic tenor that does not bellow but emits a very warm and pleasing sound. In short, Kristian Benedikt is the possessor of a very beautiful voice.
We are happy to report that Kristian Benedikt meets all the demands of the varied repertory he takes on in his debut album. Judging from the sound he produces with no tell-tale symptoms of fatigue or vocal strain, it would be safe to say that this fine Lithuanian artist is now ready to move on to the forefront of today’s go-to male singers that specialize in this difficult repertory.
His Otello, represented here by the outburst that leads to his soliloquy Dio mi potevi scagliar is effectively delivered in a suffocated parlando that opens up at the last minute into a clarion Bb. By contrast Benedikt can spin out a seamless legato in both Nessun dorma and in a feelingly sung Rachel quand du Seigneur.
Benedikt transitions comfortably from Siegfried’s stentorian narrative with the famous long-held Wälse! Wälse! Wo ist dein Schwer (which happily matches just about any in this writer’s memory) to an elegantly sung O Souverain, ô Juge, ô Père. He adds for good measure arias in Russian and Lithuanian, and, intermingled with the to-be-expected tenor warhorses, some rarities, such as an aria from Ponchielli’ I Lituani. His languages all sound good and idiomatic with no crimes committed to the tricky French vowels.
Modestas Pitrenas nobly helms the very fine Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra and the excellent Lithuanian National Opera Chorus. The CD is nicely accompanied by a booklet with the texts of the arias in both the original and English. The engineering by Dainius Versulis is thoughtfully geared to keeping the oversized voice of Benedikt, the large orchestra, and the chorus in balance and at a realistic distance replicating the actual aural circumstance of an opera performance.
Kristian Benedikt is starting to be more present on this side of the pond with return engagements at the MET. For us poor flyovers in the Midwest it would be a welcome gift to see the young Lithuanian pop in for a guest gig at the Chicago Lyric or at the Cincinnati Opera. One can only hope.
Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com