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Salvatore Licitra’s tragic death in a motorcycle accident last year hit the opera world hard. The tenor was one of his generation’s brightest stars, and at just 43 should have had a long and distinguished career ahead of him.
Now Sony – with whom Licitra recorded a number of operas and solo albums – has released this 2-CD compilation in his honour. It’s a thrilling, poignant celebration of an artist in his prime, his voice bright, muscular and brimming with emotion. Most of the great Italian tenor repertoire is represented here – Verdi and Puccini dominate, along with various verismo favourites.
From the bracing bravado of Di quella pira to a lovely Addio, fiorito asil, Licitra is in magnificent form. It’s repertoire he was born to sing: Cavaradossi, Canio, Manrico and all their brethren fit him ideally. The second disc shows Licitra’s lighter side, with selections from the album Duetto (with tenor Marcelo Álvarez) and previously unreleased recordings of Italian songs. Clearly aimed at the crossover market, the duets are on the syrupy side, but the quality of the singing is exceptional.
Better yet are Licitra’s charming renditions of songs like Funiculi funiculà and O sole mio, sung with unmistakably Italianate panache. They’re a fitting conclusion to this compilation – a testament to the incredible vitality of a singer who left us far too soon.