This is a major release by a major tenor with the type of voice we rarely get to hear. Most recently the now-retired Ben Heppner was the go-to tenor in some of this repertoire, with a grand, substantial sound and fine diction, but he was not a high note expert, as is the New Orleans-born Bryan Hymel.
Beginning with Arnold’s last-act scene from Guillaume Tell, with its pile of high Cs, the CD gets off to a thrilling start, with every note in place and the excitement at a very high level. Hymel can sing a fine nuanced line as well; much of Vasco de Gama’s “O Paradis” is sung gently, making its rarely performed, agitated cabaletta even more exciting, including an interpolated high D-flat at its close. Arrigo’s aria from LesRead more Vepres Siciliennes is handled with a smooth, entirely Verdian legato, with the text intelligible and thought through, while the aria’s final allegro has passion, and again, a spectacular D-flat. Hymel has sung Aeneas in Berlioz’s opera on stage to great acclaim, and while he may lack Jon Vickers’ wild-eyed expressivity and his ability to croon the middle section as if in a dream, it’s a stunning performance nonetheless.
Faust’s invocation of Nature from Berlioz’s Damnation is heartfully, beautifully sung, with a legato to die for, and here Emmanuel Villaume’s leadership and the playing of the Prague Philharmonia reaches its peak. The opening recit and Gaston’s aria from Verdi’s Jérusalem (a re-working of I Lombardi…), better known to us as “Oh, madre mia…La mia letizia infondere”, are sung with utmost tenderness. I must admit to ignorance of both Alfred Bruneau and his opera L’attaque de Moulin, but the aria recorded here, a farewell to the character’s youth, the forest he recalls, and his love Francoise, is a handsome piece, well sung, as is the equally unknown (to me) adieu to a garden by Henri Rabaud.
There may be a couple of issues with this release that could spoil one’s fondness for it. Hymel is recorded very closely, and with tenors whose voices are produced in what is known as “the mask” (i.e: it’s not a chesty or throaty sound–think Alfredo Kraus, or even Pavarotti), although it produces a clean, direct line from the front of the face, the sound can come across as more steely or nasal than it actually is. There’s certainly some truth to both designations, but it is exaggerated here by the microphone placement. A couple of the high notes sound somewhat squeezed as well, but overall, as I stated above, this is a remarkable voice, and this CD is a mighty debut recital, with the content as varied as the singing. Bravo!
No Hype; This IS HeroiqueJune 9, 2015By Kevin Kampschroer (Falls Church, VA)See All My Reviews"The voice is quite beautiful, which is a quality that in this repertoire is hard to find. His facility with the legato is perhaps the most consistently satisfying aspect of his singing, even though the climaxes and the high notes are unarguably thrilling. In particular, Mr. Hymel seems to have an inexhaustible supply of breath that enables him to spin out long phrases in such a relaxed manner that you will marvel. Highly recommended!"Report Abuse