Charles Castronovo: Neapolitan Songs


Internationally celebrated tenor, Charles Castronovo celebrates his blood-lines with his album of Neapolitan Songs. Accompanied by Sweet Nectar, Castronovo performs some of the best known and most beloved Canzone Napoletana including, Maria Mari, Santa Lucia, Malafemmena, Catari, Scetate, Come Faccette Mammetta. Several of the songs are also sung in new English translations by Glen Roven.



CLICK HERE to see the MUSIC VIDEO of MALAFEMMENA: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_MhThLvAQ8

READ THE RAVE REVIEW from OPERA NEW 2013

CASTRONOVO OPERA NEWS REVIEW

And now Charles Castronovo and Dolce Napoli is conquering London. Read all about it! 

And Hear Charlie on the BBC (around 19:40)

International Treasures

In the 1950s and 1960s there was a generation of great American pop singers that sang Italian standards in English translations or in hybrid versions of English and Italian. These singers included Frank Sinatra, Vic Damone, Connie Francis, Al Martino, Dean Martin and others.

They introduced Italian standards to new audiences and many songs became huge hits. A singer like Frank Sinatra had the selling power to expose millions of new listeners to old Italian standards. What was always missing was an opera singer who could bring justice to the music without much of the occasional schmaltz or crooning that imbued songs like “Luna Mezzo Mare” by Dean Martin or “Mambo Italiano” by Rosemary Clooney. Opera singers like Eileen Farrell had enormous crossover appeal with Broadway standards and popular songs, but rarely did one find an acoustically trained singer who sang classic Italian songs in English.

That’s what makes this album with Charles Castronovo so special. He captures the perfect spirit of Naples in English and Italian, introducing these songs to new audiences in the same manner as the great Italian-American singers of the last generation but with a beautiful operatic voice that does them justice.

Glen Roven has done an expert job in providing English translations to these classic Neapolitan songs. The clever arrangements maintain the Neapolitan spirit while introducing the English text, making this music both enjoyable and accessible to those experiencing them for the first time. For those more familiar with the music, it’s a wonderful way to re-experience some classic favorites.

Charles Castronovo and Glen Roven have combined to take these pearls of Naples and make them international treasures.

Michael Colbruno, Merola Opera Board of Directors

 

My Mother, Mala Femmina

 When the folks at GPRrecords asked if I was a fan of Neapolitan songs,  I wasn’t sure how to answer.  My grandfather was from Naples, but the question seemed somewhat abstract to me as I didn’t know if I had ever heard one.  Then they shared some of the songs that appear on this CD.  As I listened, I realized that not only had I heard these songs before, but these songs were the sound track for many of my childhood memories.  I was instantly transported back to my grandmother’s house, watching her hang fresh pasta to dry and hearing her yell at my grandfather that it was too early for a cocktail.  One should wait at least until lunch!

The music also brought me back to my father’s restaurant in Carlstadt, New Jersey.  Pratos (translates from Italian to “Meadows” in English) has long since closed, and my dad passed away in 1993, but the memories were vivid.  My wife Mary and I had our wedding reception there and I can still hear the house band playing “Mala Femmina”.   My dad for years had told my mom that “Mala Femmina” was their song.  My dad being Italian and my mother being Jewish meant that he knew the translation, while she was in the dark.  One night while the whole family was having dinner at Pratos, the band began to play “Mala Femmina” and my dad glanced over to my mom and said, “hey Phyllis, their playing our song”.  My mom blushed and turned to my grandmother and said how sweet my dad was to remember.  Without missing a beat my grandmother turned to her and said, “Phyllis, what’s the matter with you, Mala Femmina means evil woman!”  The expression on my mother’s face was priceless!

Charles Castronovo brings these classic songs from Italy to life.  His amazing voice and the emotion he puts into his performance are also priceless.   I hope as you listen you experience wonderful memories just as I did and realize that you too are a fan of Neapolitan songs.

 Steve Libutti, M.D., Director of Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care 

 

FIRST REVIEW:  http://www.taminophile.com/2012/11/napoli-napoli-napoli.html

 

ANOTHER GREAT REVIEW:  http://operaobsession.blogspot.com/2013/02/nostalgia-with-grit-charles-castronovos.html

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2012

Napoli, Napoli, Napoli!

Through the generosity of GPR Records I have once again been afforded the opportunity to preview a CD before its release.  This time it is a delightful recording by handsome rising tenor Charles Castronovo, entitled Dolce Napoli: The Neapolitan Songs.
Courtesy GPR Records

In recent years Mr. Castronovo has risen from obscurity to the ranks of singers at the very best opera houses in the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Berlin State Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, and more.  It’s no surprise with his beautiful singing and good looks.  I will freely admit that Neapolitan songs are not my area of expertise, but I can say without hesitation that young Charlie, as he insists in the liner notes we call him, sings these songs with consistently beautiful tone and deep feeling.  It is clear songs like these are part of his upbringing, and that he loves the genre and the culture.

What is a Neapolitan song, ask the liner notes by Charlie himself.  Although he references a mid-19th century song contest, one could easily imagine some of these songs predate that time.  These are the folk songs, music hall songs, pop songs of ages ranging from the 1830s through the mid-20th century.  They sing of the same topics as nearly any songs–love won, love lost, jealousy, and even the occasional song that is not about love!  Neapolitan songs have been recorded from the early days by tenors like Enrico Caruso, Beniamino Gigli, and Tito Schipa, and have become popular to many for their universally understood stories and their beauty. This CD includes 20 songs with a wide range of character.  I can’t describe them all, of course, but will gladly discuss a few favorites.

The most familiar tune on the CD is Santa Lucia, the well known song to, as you might guess, Santa Lucia, sung by the fishermen who enjoyed her patronage.

Malfemmena, about the two sides of love, passion and pain.  The notes state this is among the most recent of the songs, written in 1951, and was instantly made into a hit by Neapolitan singer Totó.

U Sciccareddu is a song of love, dedicated to the poet’s donkey!  A bonus track, the only Sicilian song on the CD, this song highlights the Sicilian talent for irony, making a sad song lively and a happy song sound sad.

Io, ‘na chitarra e ‘a luna! is one of several songs that features English verses by recording producer Glen Roven. The poet sings of how lovely and complete his life is with moonlight and his guitar, and maybe a love, should the heavens send him one.
O surdato ‘nnammurato is a lively song that describes a WWI soldier away from his love, thankful that she thinks of him alone.  Charlie relates this to his own grandfather, who was a prisoner of war in WWII.
This is a beautiful CD. I’ve had it on random repeat play for hours at a time recently while working at home, and never tired of it.  I would recommend it for afficionados of Neapolitan songs and lovers of good singing.

Don’t miss Charlie’s shows featuring these songs at 54 Below on Dec. 1, Dec 6, and Dec 8. I’ll be at the Dec. 6 show! (Because, well, Dec. 8 is your intrepid reporter’s birthday.) Click here.

 

A first-rate cast triumphs in Met’s “Don Giovanni”

November 29, 2012
By Marion Lignana Rosenberg

At some point in the mid-1800s, the legendary diva Pauline Viardot-García obtained Mozart’s autograph score of Don Giovanni. According to a recent history of opera, she commissioned a reliquary for it and invited visitors (including Tchaikovsky) to kneel in its presence.

For all the veneration it rightly inspires among musicians and audiences, Don Giovanni has had a checkered history on stage, proving as tricky to get “just right” as its leading man is slippery and ambiguous. When it bowed in 2011, Michael Grandage’s Metropolitan Opera production was both fussy and vague. Midway through, for no discernible reason, Don Giovanni lost the use of a leg, prompting concern for the health of the singer portraying him and all manner of tortured histrionics. Last night the show returned to the house much improved, largely intact but streamlined by the stage director Louisa Miller, and with a worthy cast and conductor.

Charles Castronovo of Queens made a star turn of Don Ottavio. Donna Anna’s fiancé is often portrayed as a drip, but the tall, dashing tenor looked marvelous, moved with aristocratic grace, and sang like a dream. His Dalla sua pace was a thing soulful and rapt, the reprise of the main melody couched in a velvety pianissimo, and he unfurled the long phrases in Il mio tesoro with panache and determination. The stuff of Castronovo’s dark voice is not the last word in opulence, but like Juan Diego Flórez or the late Alfredo Kraus, he bewitches with suave, musicianly singing. If audiences are lucky, he will follow their example and build his career with care. (The casting gods clearly smile upon the Met when it comes to Don Ottavio, because last season Ramón Vargas also sang the role divinely.)

Castronovo might have stolen the show without a bold, charismatic Don Giovanni. In the event, the Met had a winning duo in Ildar Abdrazakov as the dissolute nobleman and Erwin Schrott as his servant Leporello. Similar in stature, both endowed with firm, ebony voices, they pulled off their characters’ swapped identities credibly, and their marked physical resemblance made the abusive relationship of master to flunky all the more unsettling. Schrott’s tendency to mug undermined his substantial strengths, including rare nimbleness on stage and an alert, intelligent way with words. He sang well and mimicked Abdrazakov’s faintly Slavic, sagging vowels with flair when wooing Donna Elvira in the guise of Don Giovanni.

As for Abdrazakov, it was hard to believe that someone who only months ago had so powerfully portrayed the austere Dosifei in Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina would be able to summon the oily, predatory charm needed for Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte’s young cavaliere. But Abdrazakov did just that, a tribute to his talent and steady, admirable artistic growth. With gestures large and small Abdrazakov conveyed Don Giovanni’s depravity. He sneered as he called Leporello a marrano. (The word, meaning “swine,” was a term of derision used against Spanish Jews.) At his last debauched banquet, he lifted two girls at once, their tiny, delicate bodies indicating that they were among the “young beginners” in whom Don Giovanni took particular pleasure. He scaled down his voice beguilingly for Deh, vieni alla finestra and nailed the blistering patter of Finch’han dal vino. While not yet a great Don Giovanni, Abdrazakov is a very good one, more than holding his own in a strong company.

 

I have never heard a more involved and involving performance of the long accompanied recitative before Or sai chi l’onore than that given by Susanna Phillips Wednesday night. Many sopranos scramble through it to get to their big aria; Phillips understood that it is key to Donna Anna’s opera seria gravity and sang it accordingly, with passion and imagination. With a bright, somewhat girlish sound and a fluent technique, Phillips needs only a touch more bite in her delivery of the text to command this great role. She had real chemistry with Castronovo’s Don Ottavio and for once played Donna Anna as a woman violated and sincere in her quest for revenge.

Ekaterina Siurina was delectable in every way as Zerlina. She, too, sidestepped the modern clichés that make her character a conniving minx instead of a flawed but good-hearted country girl. Her voice only really bloomed in the highest reaches of the role, but she seemed genuinely torn in Là ci darem la mano and brought sweetness and warmth to Vedrai, carino.

FROM CHARLIE’S SENSATIONAL CONCERT AT 54BELOW

Another rave review:

 

By
Grady Harp (Los Angeles, CA United States) – See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)
This review is from: Charles Castronovo: Dolce Napoli: The Neapolitan Songs (Audio CD)

Ah, Napoli! How many areas have produced so many heartfelt folk songs as this region of Italy? Once the prevue of popular singers Vic Damone, Dean Martin, and Mario Lanza these passionate songs have been embraced by opera singers for some time now but few can deliver them with the honest beauty as American tenor Charles Castronovo does on this immensely successful collection. And in addition to his perfectly shaped and sensitive tenor voice he adds the soul of these ballads – in both the original Italian and in new, excellent translations by the gifted composer/all around musician Glen Roven.

The warm yet sophisticated arrangements maintain the Neapolitan spirit while introducing the English text, making this music both enjoyable and accessible to those experiencing them for the first time. These are the folk songs, music hall songs, and pop songs of ages ranging from the 1830s through the mid-20th century. They sing of the same topics as nearly any songs-love won, love lost, jealousy, and even the occasional song that is not about love! In the manner in which these songs are presented they retain their Neopolitan spirit but now become international favorites, thanks to the collaboration of Castronovo and Glen Roven. And to make sure that nothing is lost in the sense of heart on the sleeve, the accompaniment is provided by Sweet Nectar five young musicians who play the instruments meant for Neapolitan music – accordion, guitar, mandolin, percussion and bass.

Having had the pleasure of seeing and hearing the handsome young Castronovo at the LA Opera production of `Il Postino’ where he share the stage with Placido Domingo, it is even more a pleasure to see that this very fine operatic tenor can enter this avenue of music so comfortably. Castronovo was born to a Sicilian father and an Ecuadorian mother in Queens, New York but grew up in Southern California. He attended California State University, Fullerton for undergraduate studies in classical voice. He began his professional career as a resident artist with the Los Angeles Opera, as a participant in San Francisco Opera’s prestigious Merola opera program, and later joined the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. Now he has performed major roles at the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera Covent Garden, Staatsoper Berlin, Vienna State Opera, San Francisco Opera, Salzburg Festival and Santa Fe Opera. He is clearly on the move.

On this CD Castronovo celebrates his bloodlines with his album of Neapolitan Songs. Accompanied by Sweet Nectar, Castronovo performs some of the best known and most beloved Canzone Napoletana including, Maria Mari, Santa Lucia, Malafemmena, Catari, Scetate, Come Faccette Mammetta: some of the songs are also sung in new English translations by Glen Roven. That’s what makes this album with Charles Castronovo so special. He captures the perfect spirit of Naples in English and Italian, introducing these songs to new audiences in the same manner as the great Italian-American singers of the last generation but with a beautiful operatic voice that does them justice. This album is a complete success and only serves to whet our appetites for more. Grady Harp, December 12

Comments are closed.