Alagna approaches this repertory with obvious affection and devotion, but what is most important is that he communicates his delight without resorting to any cheap effects. He uses all of his voice, with some giddy head notes in 'Mexico' . . . Should he decide to take a vacation from the opera stage, Alagna could become the Sacha Distel de nos jours . . . I have found myself playing it every evening . . . this will be a perfect stocking-filler.
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Opera (London) / 01. December 2005
. . . full of real feeling and there's splendid musical bustle . . . It's Yvan Cassar's arrangements that stick in the ear: swooping violins, thundering Mexican guitars and braying brass.
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BBC Music Magazine (London) / 01. January 2006
Mit Charme, Verve und sprühender Vitalität widmen sich Alagna und seine Mitstreiter Yvan Cassar und das Orchestre Symphonique de Paris diesen . . . Schlagern. Nostalgie pur, aber auch den Nachfolgegenerationen zu empfehlen als Paradebeispiel für die unangestrengte Leichtigkeit des Seins.
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Opernwelt (Berlin) / 01. June 2006
Es gibt wenige Opernstars, die auch im U-Genre eine gute Figur machen. Robert Alagna kann es . . . Alagna adelt die schmissigen Schmonzetten mit einem generösen Augenzwinkern. Er knipst sein schönstes Strahle-Timbre an und lässt die Melodien in Yvan Casars exquisiten, klanglich perfekt ausgeleuchteten Arrangements fließen, glänzen, jubilieren . . . Gelegentliches Schmunzeln über fett geschmetterte Spitzentöne ist erlaubt. Ob Samba, Swing, Musette oder Musical: Heraus kommt eine putzmuntere Hommage mit Herz und liebevoller Ironie. Alagna gibt den Sonnyboy à la Mariano -- mit etwas breiterer Stimme zwar, aber ähnlich biegsam, feurig und traumhaft höhensicher. Vieles bekommt neuen Drive . . . ein jazziges Hörvergnügen der Extraklasse.
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Otto Paul Burkhardt,
Audio (Stuttgart) / 01. August 2006
. . . le célèbre compositeur de musique (très) légère est l¿objet d¿un revival aussi surprenant que fructueux. Le premier artisan de cette résurrection est bien entendu le ténor Roberto Alagna qui . . . a enregistré chez Deutsche Grammophon les plus célèbres tubes de Mariano . . . Le triomphe du disque d¿Alagna ¿ qui ressort actuellement avec des bonus comme « Maman la plus belle du monde » . . . ¿ nous a prouvé qu¿avec Francis Lopez, l¿incroyable est parfois vrai.
A. Tubeuf, N. d'Estienne d'Orves,B. Dermoncourt, J. Rousseau,
Classica - Repertoire (Paris) / 01. July 2006
Moi, j'appelle ça de l'avant-garde. Sans rire! . . . Sa voix est un prodigieux caméléon qui jamais ne se travestit, car sa règle d'or tient en deux mots: le naturel. Il semble même né pour chanter ça, Roberto! Il ne cherche pas à accentuer le kitsch de ces rengaines, ce qui serait mesquin. Il ne les élève pas non plus au rang de chefs-d'oeuvre, ce qui serait ballot. Il se contente de les chanter avec une sorte de tendresse amusée, un brin de nostalgie et une complicité authentique. Il aime ça, et nous aussi . . . Luis Mariano a de quoi être jaloux . . . ce disque enchantera nostalgiques et circonspects, mélomanes et néophytes, ronchons et ravis. A quand Guétary, Tino, Brel, Brassens? A-la-gna, pré-si-dent !
Record Review /
Nicolas d'Estienne d'Orves,
Classica - Repertoire (Paris) / 01. December 2005
. . . Alagna se lo pasa en grande con estas canciones . . . El cantante está exultante ante una selección que le va como un guante a su voz disfrutando al rematar cada pieza con unos agudos impresionantes . . . Degustación aparte, es una verdadera pena que el disco sólo incluya doce canciones . . . Para los incondicionales de Alagna y de . . . ¡Luis Mariano!
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Ópera actual (Barcelona) / 01. November 2005
Alegre y nostálgico, este disco arrancará más de una lágrima.
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Melómano (Madrid) / 01. December 2005
. . . el disco bien vale la pena
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CD Compact (Barcelona) / 01. February 2006
... vocalmente Alagna está soberbio ... el resultado final encantará a quien lo oiga.
Record Review /
Melómano (Madrid) / 01. November 2006
Roberto Alagna: C'est magnifique!
Roberto Alagna replies without hesitation to the question of why Luis Mariano continues to fascinate 35 years after his death. "He possesses all the qualities necessary to be a truly great tenor", he said. "He's got a radiant voice which reaches the high notes with ease, and at the same time, he's musical with stage presence and charm; he's heroic yet vulnerable, and has always thrilled a large public with his popular voice par excellence. Great opera singers - such as Benjamino Gigli and Georges Thill - to name but two - have often ventured into the repertoire of light music. But although Luis Mariano remains an emblem of French music in the 1950s, he became a "truly great tenor" almost without ever appearing on the opera stage, but singing instead the operettas and popular chansons to which his luminous voice predisposed him. Inseparable from a repertoire largely created for him, he became the first overwhelmingly popular performer of his time, one of the first modern stars. "People have often been sarcastic about his personal image, his sequined side; but he did succeed in creating a real personality, as did Elvis Presley with rock 'n' roll."
And it might just be this debate which continues to confuse the Mariano story. On the one hand, there is the legend, with fans religiously protecting their idol's image; on the other, the beauty of a voice that has earned the admiration not only of Alagna but of a great number of artists. On one hand, a style which could be classified as "kitsch", when he combines the Spanish flounces of Francis Lopez, the couplets of Raymond Vincy, and the flowery settings of the Chanteur de Mexico; on the other, Mariano's musical gifts and that toothpaste smile, which, explains Roberto Alagna, "is also a technique. Mariano has a very short upper lip; so he shows all his top teeth, which allows him to have a more brilliant voice. You can see he has good teeth and a lovely smile, but this is also completely well-constructed for his instrument."
It was during his childhood in Clichy-sous-Bois that Roberto Alagna first heard the singer: "I was ten years old when I saw my mother setting up a tape recorder in front of the television one day. I wondered what was going on. It was a film with Luis Mariano: La Belle de Cadix. Obviously, I found it strange that someone should want to record the soundtrack of a film, but when the music started I realized that I knew all the pieces; my father and my uncle often sang them. I was also won over by Mariano's personality and his sublime voice. He became a hero for me, like Robin Hood or Zorro." After having interpreted the great classical roles throughout the world, Roberto Alagna has not lost his admiration of Mariano: "For years I wanted to pay a tribute to him, but at the same time I was afraid, because his style and his repertoire are still so well-known in the French collective memory. Ask anyone to sing Mexico or Rossignol for you. Immediately he'll take on Mariano's accent and create a caricature of him".
Roberto Alagna, however, prefers to pay a personal tribute by singing Mariano's songs in his own way: "I plunged into each piece, giving the songs my own rhythm, and making the words come alive in my own way, without ever thinking of it as a party stunt or a copy. I worked with Yvan Cassar, who was responsible for the artistic realization on this album, to find something elegant, avoiding any accumulation of choirs and special effects, and handling the pieces rather like classical melodies."
The largest part of the program is by Francis Lopez, Luis Mariano's inseparable companion. To those who consider his music a little too alluring and mechanical, Roberto Alagna is quick to reply: "Lopez knows how to compose hits, a gift not given to everyone. It's well written, it's vocal and it's immediately recognizable; in short, it is extraordinarily effective music, and for that I take my hat off to him." It was more difficult to interpret lyrics that are often very stereotyped, with their picture-postcard landscapes and syrupy sentimentality: "Mariano gave preference to the vocal effect and, as a result, the rest was less important. I'm very fond of playing with words. I therefore tried to make these songs come alive again by taking certain liberties: sometimes I shift the tonic accent to obtain different effects. In L'Amour est un bouquet de violettes, where Mariano puts the accent on the syllable I gave it a more jazzy touch. In others, I sang à la Maurice Chevalier, which worked very well." Another difficulty was that Mariano's songs were often made to measure for his light, clear and high-pitched voice. Roberto Alagna approaches them with a different technique, adapted to a more powerful lyrical voice more supported in the lower register: "One of Luis Mariano's specialities, in Mexico for example, consists of his using a falsetto voice. I use full voice before reducing to chest voice; it gives a different effect."
On this recording, a completely new side of Luis Mariano's repertoire will be discovered: he distances himself from the operetta or the cinema to record hits like Salade de fruits (better known today in Bourvil's version) or C'est magnifique! and I Love Paris by Cole Porter. Here again, Roberto Alagna and Yvan Cassar have taken some liberties, occasionally giving a wink to gypsy jazz, as another way of distinguishing between tribute and pastiche. According to Lévon Sayan, Roberto Alagna's manager (himself a long-time Mariano enthusiast), this was "the best way of paying tribute to an artist who valued friendship so highly and who would certainly have appreciated this gesture of recognition coming from an opera singer". As if to complete the portrait of the legendary tenor, so often surrounded by actors and humorists (Bourvil, Annie Cordy, Maurice Baquet and others), Roberto Alagna invited a few friends to join him in this production: Jean Reno, Elie Semoun and Arielle Dombasle complete a 21st-century casting which freely echoes the 1950s in France.
Francis Lopez (1916-1995)
Francis Lopez grew up to the sound of Basque choirs. His parents, whose families had emigrated to Peru and Argentina, had come back to Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Abandoning the violin for the piano, he made his mark as a composer during the Occupation. After the Vichy laws forced the young Lopez, of foreign descent, to close his dental practice in Paris, he was noticed by Raymond Legrand and wrote his first songs for Maurice Chevalier, Tino Rossi and Georges Guétary. He himself appeared in Paris and, during the summer of 1945, at Mayfair, on the Basque coast, where Luis Mariano came to congratulate him. They got on well, saw each other again in Paris at Fouquet's. Francis promised Luis a waltz which would bear the name of his sister Maria Luisa.
The waltz turned out to be an entire operetta, written in two weeks to replace, at a moment's notice, an appearance by Edith Piaf at the Casino Montparnasse. The posters for Mariage gitan, based on a libretto by Raymond Vincy, had already been printed when the composer wrote La Belle de Cadix. Lopez was so convinced that the name of the song and the operetta were both essential to the posters that he paid to have them reprinted. From the first broadcast a sweet smell of success wafted across the radio waves, foreshadowing the triumphant dress rehearsal on 24 December 1945. Thus, when Francis asked Luis what he wanted for the next show, he answered: "Just write me a Lopez!"
The new show, which enjoyed the participation of the celebrated author Albert Willemetz, was premiered on 25 October 1947 at the Gaîté-Lyrique. "There is a chasm between the first little ditties by Francis Lopez and his musical score, so rich, so diverse, so full, even nearly scholarly, for Andalousia", wrote the critic Roger Mahler enthusiastically. "Lopez excels in choruses. He has movement, rhythm, colour. He has everything!" The Spanish soul had entered the operetta. Some of the tunes almost seemed to be conceived for flamenco guitar.
Henri-Georges Clouzot commissioned Lopez to write the music for his film Quai desOrfèvres. Maurice Lehmann opened the gates of the temple of operetta for him and commissioned Pour Don Carlos, adapted from a novel by Pierre Benoît.
Georges Guétary was its star. The premiere at the Châtelet in Paris on 16 December 1950 was a success with the critics and the public. It was the beginning of a myth that would assume the status of a social phenomenon, reuniting Lopez and Mariano: Le Chanteur de Mexico. Launched on 15 December 1951, this 3000-seat "vessel" reached an absolute record: 900 performances! All Mariano's songs became hits, including the famous Rossignol de mes amours and the legendary Mexico, which had actually been rejected by Lehmann.
From then on, for the next 25 years, all of France, from concierges' lodges to the Elysée Palace, would acclaim Francis Lopez's operettas (Méditerranée, La Route fleurie, etc.). In 1952, while recording an operetta by Vincent Scotto, Violettes impériales, for the cinema, Mariano discovered a score written for a baritone. He made an urgent call to Francis, then in Venice on his honeymoon, who got on the next plane. In the Cadillac that drove him from Bourget airport to the studio, Lopez wrote the first measures of the unforgettable L'Amour est un bouquet de violettes.
Mariano sang all over the world; Lopez was in demand in Spain, where his zarzuelas such as El aguila de fuego filled Madrid's Teatro Maravilla. It would be necessary to wait until 13 December 1959, and the moderately successful Secret de Marco Polo, to see Lopez-Mariano on the playbill again at the Châtelet. And they were together once more on 4 March 1967, when Mariano played Goya in Le Prince de Madrid. The show, under the musical direction of Jean-Claude Casadesus, brought them yet another triumph.
The librettist Raymond Vincy had just passed away when Luis Mariano went on stage for the last time. La Caravelle d'or, premiered on 12 January 1970, was filled with the lightness and joie de vivre of Lopez's sunny music, which was inseparable from Mariano's smile. With Luis's death, a few months later, Lopez's work had lost its great voice, perhaps its breath of life, and Francis his faithful friend.
I must have been ten years old when I saw my mother set up the microphone of her tape recorder near the television set one Sunday afternoon. I understood that something important was about to be broadcast. Seeing my curiosity, my grandmother told me they were showing a film with Luis Mariano. The name of this actor didn't mean anything to me, but, from the first bars of the music of the film La Belle de Cadix, everything became familiar. I recognized the tunes that my father had been singing to me for what seemed like forever. This was my first encounter with Luis Mariano. His brilliant smile filled me with joy, the sunshine of his timbre warmed my heart, his half tones enchanted me, the openness and brilliance of his high notes exhilarated me with pleasure. This was a real musical shock. I absolutely had to pay homage to this unusual artist, who has given so much to me all these years!
Today the dream has come true for me with this album in which I take up the repertoire of Luis Mariano, but giving it my own personal touch.
I was very fortunate to meet Luis Mariano at the beginning of the 1950s and to be associated with him later in the course of my career. This "Prince of Operetta" was my first idol, and his singing has never stopped thrilling me. I always promised myself I would produce a tribute to him. I shared this idea with my friend Francis Lopez, who was immediately excited by it.
But I had to wait several years before hearing THE voice worthy of creating such a tribute. When I proposed to Roberto Alagna that he undertake this project, he immediately accepted.
Now it has become a reality thanks to the kind assistance of Pascal Negre - President of Universal Music France - who supported us with great enthusiasm. I am very happy Roberto Alagna is in charge of this adventure.