You may know that I am a particular fan of the great Renato Bruson. The more I listen with my current ears and sense, the more convinced I am that Bruson is perhaps the ultimate model for the young baritone singing Italian repertoire. His voice seems very dark at first (it is), but that quality may be wrongly interpreted as forced or “manufactured.” Quite the opposite is true, though, in my opinion. Remember, my own opinions are the ones I generally write! That’s why people blog.
I was in a barber shop, about a block from the Duomo in Florence, enjoying my first Italian haircut (what singer doesn’t want “Italian hair?!”). The 2 barbieri were playing cassettes of Sinatra and Perry Como; Como, at least, was a shocking choice. In my best Italian, I asked, “Who is the greatest Italian baritone?” Immediately, without the slice of an ear, the answer rang out: “Bruson!”
I have a CD of Maestro Bruson singing hits from the 17th and 18th Century “yellow book.” (He even does an impressive performance of “Se tu m’ami.”) The first time I heard the disc, I began to sing along. My Bruson education accelerated when I realized that he was actually singing in medium high keys much of the time–quite higher than his timbre had led me to believe. Knowing that warmth and darkness of tone result from so-called “head resonance,” I have reconsidered my younger (less seasoned) opinions of his singing, and I now realize that Bruson is a superb and lyrical singer, a master of Bel Canto technique. It feels fabulous to empathize with this singer!
I find the following quote to be very illuminating as to how Maestro Bruson employs his athleticism to wonderful effect, delivered through the medium of artistic imagination: “I am self critic enough to understand what I can get at. Since I knew I did not have a thundering voice to make coarse effects, I sought the interpretation since I think it is more important that the public go home with something in their hearts than some sounds in their ears.”
This YouTube excerpt of Bruson’s Rodrigo (Don Carlo, the death scene) demonstrates visually and aurally the strength and coordination that this monumental artist has developed. Viva Bruson!
ps — One of my regrets is that I never heard Bruson sing live; to my knowledge, he has retired from singing. In summer of 2002, I was in Verona, at a performance of Nabucco in the Arena. The program book listed him in that role the previous summer, 2001. Timing is important.