Sports is as much of a meritocracy as can be found. Opera, alas, does not come near to sports in using skill and ability as the determinant of success. If opera were anything close to a meritocracy Raúl Giménez would have sung more than just 11 performances at the Met – Almaviva in Rossini’s Barber in 1996 and Ramiro in the same composer’s Cenerentola in 2000. And Luba Orgonosova would be above zero at the same house. Fortunately the two got together for a concert performance of Bellini’s La Sonnambula with Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw Orchestra more than a dozen years ago. Naxos recorded the opera live and has it available at a much lower price than the competition.
Orgonosova, born in 1961 in Bratislava, has enjoyed considerable success in Europe. She is particularly known for her work in Mozart’s opera’s though she sings Bellini, Verdi, and Puccini as well. She has a beautiful lyric voice that handles coloratura passages with great ability.
Giménez is a decade older than the soprano. He was born in Buenos Aires in 1951. He is widely recognized as a bel canto specialist despite his brief New York career. You can put him on the list of outstanding tenors who made very little impact on the New York house. You can go back to the 20s when Aureliano Pertile sang only one season at the Met. Other fine tenors slighted by the Met include Salvatore Fisischella, Fernando de la Mora, and Bruce Ford – the last is returning to the Met this year as one of an army of tenors needed to help Renée Fleming get through Rossini’s Armida.
When you listen to the excerpt below you’ll be struck be the beauty of Giménez’s voice and the elegance of his vocal line. His younger South American coeval who has taken New York by storm may have a little more in the fireworks department, though not by very much, but he can’t match the Argentine’s legato. It’s a shame that American audiences didn’t get a chance to hear more from Giménez. At 59 his career is either over or soon will be
Here is the duet from Act 1 beginning Prendi: l’anel ti dono. The enthusiastic reception this singing elicits from the Dutch audience is obviously deserved. If you relish Bellini’s music you’ll definitely want this album. It will also help to remind that there’s more to operatic success than ability. In that regard, unlike athletics, it resembles life.