His Deutsche Grammophon contract may be relatively recent, but Italian bass-baritone Ildebrando D’Arcangelo has been around for quite some time. On this new disc, he’s palpably at ease, singing arias from the Italian Mozart roles which have been his bread and butter for a couple of decades. The program holds few surprises – Mozart basses and baritones are rather less spoilt for choice than their soprano counterparts – but D’Arcangelo’s vocal swagger is enough to keep these familiar favourites fresh.
He’s at his best in the faster-paced comic arias: the Italianate bite of his timbre, coupled with a native speaker’s suave command of the text, allows him to tread nimbly and engagingly through Figaro’s Aprite un po’ quegli occhi, Leporello’s catalogue aria and Count Almaviva’s Vedro mentr’io sospiro. In Don Giovanni’s serenade, he’s muscular if not massively seductive, but Finch’han del vino is energetically delivered, as is Se vuol ballare.
Differentiation between characters could be stronger, but each aria in itself is vivid enough, and one imagines that a stage could easily elicit the charisma occasionally lacking on disc.
No doubt for variety’s sake, D’Arcangelo also includes a few lesser-known concert arias. These free-standing showpieces, with their generic texts, haven’t quite the magic of the Mozart opera material, but they’re interesting nonetheless, and mostly strongly sung by D’Arcangelo. The Orchestra of the Teatro Regio di Torino bounces along nicely under the command of music director Gianandrea Noseda, but ultimately this album is D’Arcangelo’s show, and quite a fine one at that.