Tenor Ivan Magrì will shortly be making his Covent Garden as Nemorino in L'elisir d'amore, but true to form, Rosenblatt Recitals zoomed in and were first to introduce this one time student of Pavarotti to London audiences in a programme that showed off a striking technique and keen musical intelligence.

Ivan Magrì © Jonathan Rose
Ivan Magrì
© Jonathan Rose

Magrì’s voice lacks a certain immediate beauty to it that left the first pieces by bel canto composers Bellini and Donizetti a little less bel than some of their great interpreters. He opened with Bellini’s Malinconia, Ninfa gentile, where a certain sense of poetry was absent, while the following song, Ma rendi pur contento, could have done with a little more emotional colour. It was striking, though, moving into two arias by Donizetti, that Magrì came to life and it was obvious that he belongs on the stage - the stance commanding, the gestures open and the face expressive. His rendering of “Una furtiva lagrima” may not have been the prettiest of interpretations, but offered a splendid example of Magrì’s calling card – a strong and thick higher register, reached without strain and easily sustained. Phrasing was strong and there was, as with the first Bellini piece, a touch of Italianate sob, delivered without taking it to Carreras extremes. Breath control, judging by “Angelo casto e bel” from Il duca d’Alba, an incomplete later Donizetti opera, was clearly refined and it was good to hear the tonal clarity at the bottom of Magrì’s voice.

We then moved into Verdi and proceedings really lit up in a repertory for which Magrì seems to be ideally suited. “La mia letizia infondere” from Verdi’s fourth opera I Lombardi saw the high notes almost punch rather than ping. It’s an opera that Magrì has performed in full and I would be keen to hear him in other early Verdi operas (I due Foscari is also in his repertory). His performance of “Parmi veder le lagrime” was ardently sung with smooth phrasing and a fine finish, but “La donna è mobile” needed a little more promiscuous swagger to bring the Duke to life.

Ivan magrì © Jonathan Rose
Ivan magrì
© Jonathan Rose
Tosti is a staple part of the Rosenblatt Recital diet so it was no surprise to see ‘A vucchella and L’alba separa dalla luce l’ombra on the menu. Magrì brought a sense of drama to these songs that blasted away any sense of salon music, the latter in particular delivered with a rich fluidity that can be hard to come by with this composer. Magrì’s articulation and diction was generally very good; switching into French he delivered two arias from Werther with a decent accent, but in the Italian arias, noticeably the Verdi, he showed an ability to use the cadences of the language to ramp up the drama. It was good to see the inclusion of Non ti scordar di me by De Curtis, originally written for Gigli to be used as film music, and Gastaldon’s Musica proibita, and Magrì made the case for hearing these more often.

We ended, as we so often do, with Puccini, in a rousing performance of “Che gelida manina”, the combination of drama, technique and sheer heft suggesting that future ventures into so-called verismo operas could be successful. A single encore of ’O sole mio was sung with a conscious display of Magrì’s stamina at the top of the voice. Accompanying him was the unfailingly excellent Iain Burnside; it wasn’t a recital that allowed for much flash playing, but he gave a particularly evocative introduction to “Angelo casto e bel”.