Thursday, November 22, 2012

Napoli, Napoli, Napoli!

Through the generosity of GPR Records I have once again been afforded the opportunity to preview a CD before its release.  This time it is a delightful recording by handsome rising tenor Charles Castronovo, entitled Dolce Napoli: The Neapolitan Songs.

Courtesy GPR Records
In recent years Mr. Castronovo has risen from obscurity to the ranks of singers at the very best opera houses in the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Berlin State Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, and more.  It's no surprise with his beautiful singing and good looks.  I will freely admit that Neapolitan songs are not my area of expertise, but I can say without hesitation that young Charlie, as he insists in the liner notes we call him, sings these songs with consistently beautiful tone and deep feeling.  It is clear songs like these are part of his upbringing, and that he loves the genre and the culture.

What is a Neapolitan song, ask the liner notes by Charlie himself.  Although he references a mid-19th century song contest, one could easily imagine some of these songs predate that time.  These are the folk songs, music hall songs, pop songs of ages ranging from the 1830s through the mid-20th century.  They sing of the same topics as nearly any songs--love won, love lost, jealousy, and even the occasional song that is not about love!  Neapolitan songs have been recorded from the early days by tenors like Enrico Caruso, Beniamino Gigli, and Tito Schipa, and have become popular to many for their universally understood stories and their beauty. This CD includes 20 songs with a wide range of character.  I can't describe them all, of course, but will gladly discuss a few favorites.

The most familiar tune on the CD is Santa Lucia, the well known song to, as you might guess, Santa Lucia, sung by the fishermen who enjoyed her patronage.

Malfemmena, about the two sides of love, passion and pain.  The notes state this is among the most recent of the songs, written in 1951, and was instantly made into a hit by Neapolitan singer Tot├│.

U Sciccareddu is a song of love, dedicated to the poet's donkey!  A bonus track, the only Sicilian song on the CD, this song highlights the Sicilian talent for irony, making a sad song lively and a happy song sound sad.  

Io, ‘na chitarra e ‘a luna! is one of several songs that features English verses by recording producer Glen Roven. The poet sings of how lovely and complete his life is with moonlight and his guitar, and maybe a love, should the heavens send him one.  

O surdato ‘nnammurato is a lively song that describes a WWI soldier away from his love, thankful that she thinks of him alone.  Charlie relates this to his own grandfather, who was a prisoner of war in WWII.  

This is a beautiful CD. I've had it on random repeat play for hours at a time recently while working at home, and never tired of it.  I would recommend it for afficionados of Neapolitan songs and lovers of good singing.  

Don't miss Charlie's shows featuring these songs at 54 Below on Dec. 1, Dec 6, and Dec 8. I'll be at the Dec. 6 show! (Because, well, Dec. 8 is your intrepid reporter's birthday.) Click here.

1 comment:

Idyll said...

What a fabulously rich voice!