Eduardo Villa possesses a beautiful voice and an ample stock of disarming tenorial bonhomie. Alas, as clearly demonstrated Monday night in his Ambassador Foundation Gold Medal series recital, this young native Californian hasn't yet developed enough technique to protect his gift or to convey exactly what it is he wants to say with it.
Villa overweights his voice to a stentorian, ringing top, leaving much to chance in the area below, where most of the music lies.
The basic burnished vocal color he owns retains appeal even when the middle voice goes foggy and the bottom disappears. He dares to sing very softly, in a detached, unsupported, barely focused falsetto bearing no relation to his full voice, but nonetheless effective.
Like many young American singers, Villa appears to have been overcoached, the flow of individuality stanched. In an obligatory exposition of art songs, his words and rhythm emerged correct, sterile, without spontaneity. Even three sure-fire Tosti songs ("La Serenata," " 'A vuchella," "Aprile") lacked poetry and strong expression, with portamento avoided like the plague.
His use of scores impeded communication but didn't prevent contretemps in Turina's "De los alamos venga"; nor did it produce solid, secure musical outlines in Duparc, Faure and Hahn songs. The ringer before intermission was Lenski's aria from "Eugene Onegin," sung with sensitivity and understanding.
Singer if not voice loosened up considerably for arias from "Lucia di Lammermoor," "Il Trovatore" and "Macbeth," rendered with ardor and mettle. Though the stylistic touchstone was verismo , not bel canto, and vocal stamina ran out just before the end of each aria, there was ample aural incitement to audience enthusiasm.
To distinguish "Broadway" from so-called legitimate sound, Villa employed an unhealthy, throaty pop vocal technique, alternately brassy and croony, in four "West Side Story" songs. Raspiness was his reward, ours a performance charming, eloquent and impassioned where appropriate, with "Maria" memorably done.
Pianist Frank Fetta had worries of his own dealing with orchestral reductions, but furnished sympathetic support throughout.