– soprano; Arianna Latartara – vln./vla.; Rocco Nigro –
fisarmonica; Giuseppe Pica – chitarra; Antonio Aprile – vc.; Andrea
Mogavero – fl.; Andrés Jesus Gallucci – pf.; Maurizio
Sacquegno – chitarra brano.
Opera Tango/Valentina Madonna
Valentina Madonna is an Italian Jazz Diva and chanteuse spreading her wings to embrace Cuban zarzuela and songs, French romantic opera, and Kurt Weill’s Parisian cabaret. Good on her, especially for the rare Cuban components. She has chosen to feed the lot through an Piazzolla-style meat grinder, after the manner of fusion bands such as Pink Martini. So far, so good. But the operatic mince that oozes through these tango blades often tastes odd, and sometimes plain peculiar .
First, there’s Valentina. Her voice is something else, an exotic compound of chanteuse gamine and Italian opera diva, precariously perched between fourteen and forty. It’s not without its own fascination, but the problem is that the operatic side is not well supported – which in a program as vocally demanding as this leads to pitch problems and some guttural sounds around the ‘break’. As a singing actress there’s an appealing, sexy defencelessness to Valentina’s work which sometimes makes up for the technical problems, but not always.
Maurizio Sacquegno’s arrangements are capably done. But though forcibly yoking Carmen’s Habanera with her Seguidillas, or Dalila’s aria with The Swan from Carnival of the Animals boosts the Classic FM pops quota, it also creates an air of anything-goes triviality which dilutes focus. It’s really good to hear the Cuban numbers recorded with an instrumental ensemble, but they perhaps suffer worst from the effects of the Piazzolla Meat Grinder. Stretched on the tango rack like so many Latino cardigans they go baggy and shapeless. It just sounds wrong.
Then there’s the playing, which – excepting some subtly moody piano playing from Andrés Jesús Gallucci – hovers around the level of bald competence. I enjoyed the Weill pieces most, the operatic ones least. For me at least the Cuban songs worked best where the arrangements were simplest, so I preferred the unsinkable Mírame Así and Dame de tus rosas to the zarzuela numbers. I salute Valentina Madonna’s bravery in putting together such an imaginative program, and only wish I could be more enthusiastic about the results.
© Christopher Webber 2011
19 September 2011