various artists,
Norman Rockwell: A Tenor's Christmas
(St. Clair, 2005)

If you are specifically looking for the works of Jose Carreras, this is a good buy. But if you are looking for general opera and you do not enjoy poorly recorded live performances complete with a coughing audience, do not buy Norman Rockwell: A Tenor's Christmas.

This CD contains 17 selections performed by Luciano Pavarotti (7), Jose Carreras (6), Placido Domingo (2) and the Royal Music College (2). Do not be impressed by the number, because some selections are extremely brief.

There is a remarkable difference in the recordings of Pavarotti and Domingo and those of Carreras. The first two sound like they were recorded from the very back of an auditorium. Carreras sounds more like he was in a studio. We will not concern ourselves with the selections by the Royal Music College because they are not long enough to warrant any discussion, except to note that "A Christmas Medley" ends so abruptly that it is startling.

"Misericordia" by Carreras is magnificent. What a moving number! What a moving voice! I do readily admit that I am biased. I love Carreras' baritone voice -- the pitch and tone. On top of preferring his voice, I am fascinated by the way he makes every syllable distinct and even adds his tongue rolls. Pavarotti and Domingo both soften their syllabics and even slur them completely. Unless the music calls for slurring, it should not be done, lest listeners believe you are less skilled than the person who can maintain vocal quality while enunciating the syllables.

"Silent Night" is a real treat. Carreras does the second verse in English. Unfortunately, that is all he did -- two verses.

Did we really need "Ave Maria" twice? Is once not enough for the entire season? Did they really wish us to compare the voices and quality of recordings of Carreras and Pavarotti?

For me, Norman Rockwell: A Tenor's Christmas was worth the money for the pieces by Jose Carreras. But I did feel like there should be a disclaimer somewhere on the cover that the pieces by the other artists sound like they were recorded from the bottom of a well and the loudest part of the recording is the coughing. The only reason to buy it for Jose Carreras. Otherwise, leave it on the shelf.

review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

13 December 2008

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