It ain't necessarily so. Bryn Terfel is, however, an extraordinarily chameleon-like performer, whose unmistakable timbre is used on his latest CD to evoke a remarkably diverse cast of unsavory characters. I treated myself to Terfel's Bad Boys CD in the holiday mood inspired by the unexpected chance to hear his Scarpia last month; I've been enjoying it as much as I had hoped. What I had not expected was for listening to it to be a feel-good experience. It is impossible for me to hear Terfel's Dulcamara brazenly charming Donizetti's rustici without doing a little dance step around the apartment. "When the Night Wind Howls" from Ruddigore is simply a treat (and I think it would be even if I did not have a sentimental fondness for the piece, which I tried to make my father teach me by rote when I was about seven.) Even in the portentous finale of Don Giovanni--sung by Terfel, Terfel, and Terfel, with the help of good sound engineering and great voice characterization--Leporello draws a chuckle. In Terfel's hands, the Devil--whether from Gounod's Faust or Boito's Mefistofele--is a perfect charmer.
I don't mean to imply a lack of effective characterization in keeping the various villains distinct; in this I think Terfel succeeds remarkably well. Moreover, I was quite impressed, on the whole, with the organization of this musically eclectic album (for complete track listing go here.) A few of the arias do inevitably wrest one into the world of the opera and then drop one unceremoniously out again. "Tre sbirri, una carrozza, presto," purrs Terfel, and I'm in Sant'Andrea. Iago's credo is another such piece for me. I thought the tempo for "Ha! welch ein Augenblick!" fast--shouldn't Pizarro be luxuriating in sadistic pleasure?--but loved the smooth snarl Terfel brought to it. A special treat is Anne Sofie von Otter (no less!) as Mrs. Lovett in "Epiphany" from Sweeney Todd. I'm not really an enthusiast for Sweeney Todd (Really Shameful Confession?) but with their vivid and subtle and intensely human characterization, the scene comes across brilliantly. I'd say I'm getting as much enjoyment out of the CD as those involved in its creation did, but the competition looks stiff: