Bass recitals can be a bit of a luxury due to their comparative infrequency, and the chance to hear Nahuel di Pierro – an up and coming singer on the continent and a typical Rosenblatt recitalist – was much to be welcomed. Di Pierro’s programme was wide-ranging: featuring Baroque, Bel canto and French Impressionism, it was an attractive combination of song and opera.

Nahuel di Pierro © Alvaro Yanez
Nahuel di Pierro
© Alvaro Yanez

Di Pierro is new to me, but on the strength of this recital, he is a singer to watch and the Royal Opera House would be wise to develop its association with him (he has sung La bohème and Don Giovanni there in the last five years). Di Pierro’s voice is characterised by a distinctive purr in the lower register, which came out at first in a strong performance of “Sorge infausta una procella” from Handel’s Orlando and was particularly emphasised in “Una voce m’ha colpito” from Rossini’s L’inganno felice. Breath control appeared to be extremely developed and phrasing was long and sinuous; this was immediately noticeable from the start of the recital in “Orribile lo scempio” from Vivaldi’s Tito Manlio. Technique was strong, with good diction in three languages, fine pianissimi in the other aria from Tito Manlio, “Se il cor guerriero”, and excellent patter singing in the “Catalogue” aria from Don Giovanni, though the former was the only piece that suffered from a slight absence of colour. Di Pierro showed a particularly fine attention to text in “Puisque Pluton est inflexible” from Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie, delivered with velvety, rich timbre.

Much of the first half was given over to tragic and serious music – the aria from Don Giovanni, a late addition to the programme, showed di Pierro’s obvious flair for comedy. Sung in tones of barely-controlled glee, it was a sunny delivery with sharp comic timing. There’s little doubt that his Leporello will be worth seeing in full, though a convincingly crooned “Deh, vieni alla fenestra” together with matinee idol looks suggests that the Don himself could appear in his repertory. “Era pura, come in cielo” from Donizetti’s Adelia was dispatched convincingly with more showboating of the bottom of di Pierro’s voice, and his performance of “Vi ravviso, o luoghi ameni” was well-coloured, albeit a little strident and youthful for personal taste. I would certainly be interested in hearing him sing some of Bellini’s other bass roles, such as Giorgio from I Puritani.

While the first half of the programme very much showed off his lower register, the French songs in the second part gave di Pierro ample opportunity to demonstrate a lightness at the top of his voice, most noticeable in Debussy’s “Les ingénues”. Less theatrical and more philosophical in this section, he brought an elegance of delivery to “Colloque sentimentale”, with careful tonal shading and thoughtful articulation. Variation was shown in Ravel’s Don Quichotte à Dulcinée cycle, where di Pierro attacked the leaps of the Chanson épique with deft flexibility. He was well matched by Alphonse Cemin’s warm and glossy accompaniment on the piano, who also provided two thoughtful solos from Rameau and Debussy.

It should be mentioned that this was the last ever Rosenblatt Recital. Ian Rosenblatt has been organising and funding this series for seventeen years; the contribution he has made to London’s musical life has been substantial and he has earned the gratitude of singers and attendees alike, facts recognised in a presentation made by the Recorded Vocal Arts Society at this concert. Some small comfort can be taken from the conclusion of the series with such a strong recital.