Given all the top flight vocal talent gathered together for Inspirato, the latest album from composer/pianist/producer Yanni, it would be difficult to come up with a bad album. Given that they are singing newly written lyrics for some of the composer’s best loved material, it would seem to be nigh on impossible. On the other hand, great talent doesn’t necessarily guarantee a great album; the parts are at times greater than the sum.
Besides, although this is not the first time Yanni has worked with vocalists, there are those hardcore “Yanni-ists” who prefer their Yanni straight. The very idea of tampering with the composer’s music by adding lyrics, even if the lyrics are written by the likes of Placido Domingo, Jr., is enough to raise hackles. Then, of course, there are those who bridle at the very thought of serious operatic voices wasting their talent on Yanni’s music. After all, no matter how you decorate a sow’s ear, you still have a sow’s ear.
Still, while for those of us who are neither great Yanni lovers, nor Yanni haters, adding voices tried and true like Domingo and Renee Fleming can’t be a bad thing. And if you add some of the vibrant young voices currently making names for themselves, you may well have something going for you.
What all this amounts to is that Inspirato is a fine album, but somehow it isn’t quite the great album I wanted it to be. There is some great music performed with passion and artistry; there is some that seems merely mechanical, never bad, but not quite what one might have hoped for. Luckily, in the age of digital music, we can pick and choose among them.
Hands down, the best track on the album is youthful South African soprano Pretty Yende’s rendition of “Ode a L’Humanite,” based on Yanni’s take on the “Flower Duet” from Delibes’ Lakme. The singer is one of those newer voices busily making a name for herself, and this performance shows why. Mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins delivers a lovely performance of “L’ Ombra Dell’Angelo,” as does tenor Vittorio Grigolo with “Come Un Sospiro.” A fine Jenkins and Nathan Pacheco duet, “Nello Specchio” closes the album, and Pacheco, who has sung with Yanni on earlier albums, works some magic with “Amare Di Nuovo.”
Fleming opens the album with “I Gentori,” and Placido does “Ode Alla Grecia.” The two join for a duet on “Hasta El Ultimo Momento.” Other artists featured on the set are Rolando Villazon, Russell Watson, and Lauren Jelencovich.
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