Giordano Lacà/ Massimo Multari, St. John’s, Smith Square

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The Independent Culture

It’s one thing being a generous sponsor and promoter of musical talent, as Ian Rosenblatt undoubtedly is, but quite another having the instincts and knowledge to back the right talent. The Rosenblatt Recital has become the place to go to hear hot new talent before the rest of the musical universe gets wise. A little unfortunate, then, that the opening concert of the brand new series should have been blighted by ill-health with tenor Antoninio Siragusa struck down with a nasty infection. His eleventh hour replacement, Giordano Lacà, is just about as young as they come – 22 years old – and made quite a splash in last year’s BBC Cardiff Singer of the World where he reached the final.

In Cardiff Lacà’s sunny smile and ample frame, to say nothing of his burnished tenor voice, led some commentators to speak in terms of a pint-sized Pavarotti – and there’s no doubt that the instrument, even in this early stage of its development, is the genuine article with a trumpet-toned top displaying none of that pushed-up baritone quality we sometimes hear. But it’s the inescapable fact that Lacà is Italian that in the end makes the world of difference to both the colour, inflection, and intonation of his singing. It’s a hearty, sun-kissed, sound that he produces. That’s the good news.

The not so good news is that it’s all as yet a bit square with none of that enticing, ingratiating, way of phrasing that can have one panting for the next stanza, the next aria. He bounded in with “La donna è mobile”, nailing the pay-off but conveying little or nothing of the playboy Duke’s fatal charm. The words were not playful, the physical presence unsmiling. And then came “Pourquoi me réveiller” from Massenet’s Werther in dodgy French and short-winded phrasing. Even his first Tosti song of the evening felt inhibited with foreshortened phrase-ends and a general lack of freedom in the delivery. The second, “L’ultima canzone”, ended with the first real musical thrill of the evening – an ardent, wonderfully sustained crescendo band in the middle of the voice. Gorgeous indeed.

His Puccini arias – especially “Che gelida manina” from Boheme - went on to capitalise on what he has vocally and, yes, I know he is still a puppy in singing terms. But I’m not sure one can acquire, leave alone be taught, the instinctive musicality that brings words and music to full and glorious fruition. And it would be a shame if such a fine instrument ended up banging out Calaf and Radames at the Verona Arena. We shall see.