Heartbreak sounds sweet when sung by Giuseppe Filianoti

Italian lyric tenor Giuseppe Filianoti sang music from a bygone world at the final 2012 Harriman-Jewell Series concert Saturday night at the Folly Theater.

Filianoti sang a program of music by Richard Strauss, Ottorino Respighi and other verismo period Italian composers whose overarching theme was heartbroken men mourning their deceased wives, muses and loved ones.

Their sorrow was drawn out to the bitter end here and there, and Filianoti had a couple of phrase and breath photo finishes Saturday night.

And while he has successfully pursued an A-list grand opera house career, he is not really possessed of a big, fog-piercing, train-calling tenor.

Instead, Filianoti brought the perfect voice and aesthetic to this music — beautiful, lyrical, expressive, refined.

Perhaps even aristocratic, in being restrained while still giving full expression to the repertoire’s many emotional conventions — big pathos, whispered pathos, sunny optimism, hushed respect, the works.

Several songs drew this voice out of Filianoti again and again. “Tristezza” and “Ideale,” the latter being the most famous song by Gabriel Faure’s exact contemporary, the obscure but tuneful Italian Francesco Tosti (1846-1916), were especially effective at displaying Filianoti’s impressive range and vocal control.

And the bravura ending of Giuseppe Pietri’s “Io conosco un giardino” allowed Filianoti to pull out all the vocal stops to conclude the first half of the program.

The evening’s best music and Filianoti’s best singing came in the second half in Ildebrano Pizzetti’s “Tre sonetti di Petrarca.”

Program annotator Anne Evans wrote that one song in the program “creates a dark and intense mood” and that the “voice expresses a landscape of loneliness, desolation and hopelessness in a very dramatic way” — a fair description of most of the evening’s music.

Not so with Pizzetti. His Petrarch triptych had a much wider emotional compass, of which Filianoti took full advantage.

Saturday night’s high point was “Quel rosignuol” (“that nightingale”), the middle of the three songs. As performed, it was a beautiful four-way meeting of Petrarch’s immortal Renaissance poetry, Pizzetti’s luminous music, Filianoti’s spotless singing and Craig Terry’s sensitive and tasteful piano accompaniment.

Filianoti also sang music by Ottorino Respighi and Richard Strauss, in both cases songs written by and about young men grappling with the sorrows of life and love.

A great voice, a great piano and great song — this is what the Folly was built for best more than100 years ago. It never sounds better.