Ave Maria, the new album by Vittorio Grigòlo, is emblazoned with testimonies of authenticity. The Italian tenor, we are told, ‘learned his craft as a chorister in the legendary Sistine Chapel, at the very source of western sacred music.’
‘I want to let people know where I come from,’ declares Vittorio. ‘It’s a tribute to all the people who helped me, to the hours we spent studying and practising in those little rooms inside the chapel.’
All well and good. But at the time Vittorio was learning his craft women’s voices were not permitted in the Sistine Chapel (the ban was eased in 2000). So what is he doing here singing O Holy Night with the American ex-child star, Jackie Evancho? What are her Sistine credentials?
It gets more complicated. Vittorio, you can read in the credits, was recorded in Rome with the Chapel chorus and a production team led by the estimable ex-DG man Chris Alder.
Jackie is recorded in Prague by Nick Patrick and William Hayward. The two tracks are apparently stitched together. The singers may never have met.
Then there are issues of style. Vittorio sounds at home in the Sistine Chapel. Jackie sounds at home in American popular media. They are scarcely on the same planet. The only tangible presence in this performance is that of Sony Classical executives, playing fantasy records.
Judge for yourselves. To my ears, the recording defies belief.