Last month, I heard veteran baritone Lado Ataneli, from the Republic of Georgia, sing Iago in Verdi’s “Otello” to inaugurate the Dallas Opera’s wonderful new Winspear Opera House. Onstage, the most engaging and lyrically Italianate voice belonged to Ataneli. Alongside Clifton Forbis’ Otello and Alexandra Deshorties’ Desdemona, Ataneli was the most theatrical of the bunch — where destroying the Moor was done more for sport and the pleasure of gamesmanship than out of pure evil. (Below: Ataneli, right, manipulating the Moor. Photo from Dallas Opera.) Live in the theater, the sociopath was scary and fun, all with a sense of style.
Ataneli’s new CD, a mix of repertoire with Lodovico Zocche conducting the Württemberg Philharmonic, includes no “Otello” but three other Verdi arias, and they’re the best things on the disc. Dramatically persuasive, his voice and emotions flow molten in “Dagli immortali vertici” from “Attila” and arias from “Ernani” and “Vespri siciliani.” The voice is big, beautiful, rounded and exuberant. Singing French, he pays attention to diction and is enticingly nasal and expressive in the “Toreador” song (from Bizet’s “Carmen”) and “Vision fugitive” (from Massenet’s “Hérodiade”).
Elsewhere, he sings just a hairline out of tune, or with a flattened delivery, which makes repeated listening on CD a burden. Ataneli’s ”Champagne” aria (Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”) and “Largo al factotum” (Rossini’s “Barber of Seville”) can’t compare with a dozen or two other available versions. But he’s got a memorable voice and, in the right repertoire, he’s a treasure. Available from naxos.com