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American Record Guide, October 2006

This program of 16 Donizetti songs appears to be a reissue of Collins 1510 (M/J 1998). As Mr. Lovelace pointed out, "the subjects tend to be death and passionate love and nothing in-between" so the songs often sound like arias, with concluding high notes. For example, 'Una Lagrima' starts off like a prayer but suddenly turns into an operatic outburst, and 'La Mere et l'enfant' is an operatic aria with the high notes that tenors die for. O'Neill's top notes are all there, but they don't have the brilliance of Pavarotti's or Di Stefano's. Several of these songs are ballads, for example, 'Il Pescator' (The Fisherman), a long piece based on a Schiller poem that has several voices (like 'Erlkönig'). 'La Crepuscule' (Twilight) is a poem by Victor Hugo; it has a nice melody (I almost wrote"aria") but, again, an operatic climax. The program also includes some Neapolitan salon pieces like 'Amor Marinaro'. Several selections include decorative frills like scales and trills, which O'Neill manages quite weil. I liked 'Il Sospiro', a romantic song with a long· breathed cantilena, and 'Giuro d'amore', a passionate declaration of love.

As noted, O'Neill isn't my ideal of an Italian tenor; his voice lacks tonal richness and body, and he sings without much emotion. Yet, given his vocal resources, he does well. Ingrid Surgenor is a very supportive accompanist.

A major fault in this release is the absence of texts and translations; Naxos refers to a website where these are available. I checked it and it's all there, but it is not convenient.

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