The Bay Area Reporter, 8 October 2015
by Tim Pfaff

Spectacular operatic voices on disc (Aida)
..... They're back at it in a new studio recording of Verdi's Aida (Warner Classics) that comes as a reminder of how tall the endangered species of studio recordings once stood. It makes good on Pappano's claim that the opera is "an intimate opera for grand spaces."

The engineers' evocation of intimate spaces is at its most telling in the tomb of the lovers' final scene. In its multi-layered playing areas, the culmination of the entire drama – shimmering strings, full chorus, the devastated Amneris lamenting above the expiring Radames and Aida – makes the impact the entire opera has led up to. What Kaufmann has most in common with Domingo is his almost uncanny ability to remain an ensemble performer. Exquisite as his contribution to that final musical tableau is, it's also in perfect proportion. That his Aida, Anja Harteros, one of the finest on record, is a regular colleague in Europe will come as no surprise.

No singer at Kaufmann's level of achievement is spared the brickbats of naysayers, and he'll be charged with crooning and scooping and vocal grandstanding in one of the most remarkable versions of "Celeste Aida" on disc. No one else has so fully realized the swell and diminuendo on its final note as Kaufmann has. But it's all part of the long, perfect line of the aria, and the characterization of Radames as a whole. Only a mastersinger can manage the repeated notes at the beginning of the tomb scene, with the lilt on the name "Aida," the way he does, aching with emotion. Lest anyone think this is the work of the engineers, a just-published recording, surely by a cellphone, of the recent Munich premiere of his stage debut as Radames, under less-than-ideal conditions, makes it clear he can do this in the house. Lucky that house.

 back top