Bereft. That’s the word I’m using to explain how I feel today when I realise that there are no more Alfie Boe’s Opera Heroes to look forward to on Monday evenings. Last night saw the final episode, and featured, to my mind, the best voice of the three, Enrico Caruso. The programme on Maria Callas moved me more but that was due in part to the emotional connection with my father, rather than the voice itself.
Of the three singers, Caruso’s was the story I was least familiar with and Alfie fans may well have felt that there are some easy comparisons between the two singers’ early lives. Caruso seems to have had more difficulties with women than Alfie though!
I feel that the arias chosen really complimented both his career and voice. In many cases, they were very familiar from listening to Alfie’s own recordings. For me personally, it was a treat to hear so much about the productions Caruso appeared in, rather than focusing just on the recordings, magnificent though they are. Hearing Puccini’s reaction to Caruso singing Che Gelida Manina was a little gem although that moment was nothing compared to the even better gem about Nellie Melba’s hot sausage in La Boheme! Like Alfie, I so hope that was a true story (thanks to Annie for sharing the video):
I found Alfie’s comment on Caruso’s recording of Over There interesting as well although I’m afraid all I could hear over the tune was Alfie’s fellow tenor Wynne Evans and Go Compare. Sorry! My favourite track from the programme was Recondita Armonia:
Overall, Alfie on opera has been great and I’m sure that he has many more favourites than the three featured; he always seems to choose a different favourite when asked in interviews. Let’s hope that another series might be on the cards at a later date. It has also been refreshing to hear operatic arias on Radio 2 rather than their usual home of Radio 3, which tends to come across as rather elitist and snobbish about opera. A channel for the opera purists is how I think of it and of course that is what it is and should be as there are precious few radio channels available that air operas in full. If full operas are not your cup of tea but you do like tenors and sopranos singing certain arias, having them presented knowledgeably and enthusiastically on Radio 2 by a tenor who ‘sings a bit’ is a great introduction and will hopefully mean a few more people enjoying this wonderful music.
If you have enjoyed listening to Alfie’s opera heroes and want to explore Alfie’s own classical recordings in more depth, click here to find Alfie’s full discography. In the meantime, here is Alfie’s version of A Vucchella which beats Caruso hands down (and I know I’m not the only one to think this way):
Alfie Boe’s Opera Heroes are still available (worldwide) on BBC iPlayer – click here.
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