In review: Ivan Magrì at Wigmore HallReview
It’s not hard to understand why so many singers point to recital work as some of the most nerve-wracking moments in their professional lives - far moreso than performing for thousands in an opera house. Sicilian tenor Ivan Magrì, in his Rosenblatt Recital with pianist Iain Burnside, proved himself a true product of the operatic stage; his biography is littered with enviable tenor roles like the Duke of Mantua, Rodolfo, and Alfredo, and his training is firmly rooted in the Italian school.
The intimate space of Wigmore Hall, seemed to act like a magnifying glass to Magrì’s throaty, robust sound; it’s a voice with options and thrill, qualities that the stellar acoustic brought out, albeit alongside what felt like the nuts and bolts of Magrì’s technique. He had a hearty, soloistic partner in Burnside, who seemed to challenge the tenor with his unashamed sound at the piano. Burnside, whose name is synonymous with the likes of Vaughan Williams, Britten, and Finzi, seemed less at home in the fluid Italian music that filled their programme; curiously, it was in these moments of insecurity when we truly heard Magrì’s familiarity with the Italian abandon and fun.
You could argue that the recital, packed with songs and arias by Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi, Puccini, and Tosti (with some Massenet for variety), was a one-flavour kind of deal. Yet like the familiar flavours of steak frites, chocolate truffles, and good red wine, what sort of party-pooper could complain?
Perhaps you could also argue that Magrì brought little to his Wigmore recital that he doesn’t already bring to the big stage; he sang the same composers, and often the same arias, that build his operatic career. Admittedly, it’s exciting to hear an opera singer show a new side on the recital stage, and we’re curious why Magrì didn’t offer something like Dvořák (his Gypsy Songs might have been delicious) or even some Mozart (Tito, maybe?).
Still, there’s something to be said for knowing one’s strengths, and Magrì curated his recital around what he does best. Plus, it’s clear that Ian Rosenblatt, founder of the Recitals Series, is a devout fan of the Italianate tenor sound, and Magrì’s place on this year’s season line-up might have been to deliver exactly that.