RECORDS

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The Independent Culture
Roberto Alagna & Angela Gheorghiu: Duets & Arias. ROH Orch/ Armstrong (EMI, CD). Angela Gheorghiu: Arias. Teatrio Regio Torino Orch/Mauceri (Decca, CD). Alagna and Gheorghiu are the two most bankable young operatic voices of the moment, and the fact that they are emotionally entwined off-stage has magnified their glamour. It has also created problems for their record companies. EMI snapped up Alagna, Decca signed Gheorghiu, leaving an issue to be resolved about who gets the joint-recital albums. The first one has gone to EMI; and the joy of it is that you don't feel an intrusive element of competition between the singers. On the contrary, here are two voices at the peak of youthful purity and brilliance, audibly en fete. As they proceed through the slices of French/ Italian lyric repertory - Boheme, Faust, Manon, Les Troyens, saving the obvious Romeo et Juliette for a separate, complete recording - you realise that the hype about this extraordinary couple is justified. Decca's solo disc is almost equally entrancing, though it hints at a potential hardness in Gheorghiu's tone. As things stand she puts it to good use, to strengthen what can be a slightly tremulant vibrato, and is otherwise sensationally lovely. The disc captures her in the peculiar freshness of a new-found artistry: pliant and tender, but with underlying confidence in what the voice can do. A class act, and a star. Michael White

The Cranberries: To the Faithful Departed (Island, CD/LP/tape). Quick! Call for Jarvis Cocker! Dolores O'Riordan has a Michael Jackson complex. Now that she and the lads from Limerick are Bono-fide international mega- stars she thinks she can solve the world's problems by writing lyrics that sound like the poems that 10-year-old girls read to Bill Clinton on his peace-keeping missions. Maybe she's right. When her grating voice bawls tunes as pompous and po-faced as her words, most war-mongers would lay down their arms as long as she promised to shut up. On the quieter songs, "When You're Gone" and "I'm Still Remembering", the Cranberries can still purvey tinkling, dreamy Celtic-tinted guitar pop. When they set their sights higher, you appreciate how politically sussed and poetic Sinead O'Connor and Bono are. Nicholas Barber

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