Jonas Kaufmann impresses with his finely judged phrasing, psychological acuity and seductive swagger
The Arts Fuse, 17 Oct 2017
By Jonathan Blumhofer
Jonas Kaufmann’s “L’Opera”
Tenor Jonas Kaufmann’s been in the news of late for his cancellations as much as (or maybe even more than) his singing. L’Opera, his new disc of arias from the French stage, helps you to forget about all that: it’s a reminder that his voice is one of the most thrilling before the public and that, in his prime and in good health, he’s as brilliant a singer as they come.

You get a sense of this on the disc’s very first aria, “L’amour! …Ah! léve-toi, soleil!” from Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette. Here, all the Kaufmann trademarks – the burnished warm tone across his whole range, the impeccable diction, the captivating force of the high notes – are on full display.

More of the same is to be found in the album’s substantial numbers – “C’est toi, toi qu’enfin je revois!” from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers, “Toi! Vous!” from Massenet’s Manon, “Rachel, quand du Seigneur” from Halevy’s La Juive, and Enée’s “Inutiles regrets!” from Berlioz’s Les Troyens. But there’s much to admire in the shorter selections, too, especially the fervent drama Kaufmann mines in “Traduire…Ah! bien souvent” (from Massenet’s Werther), or the tender lyricism showcased in “Elle ne croyait pas” (from Ambroise Thomas’s Mignon).

On a couple of tracks, Kaufmann’s joined by some all-star colleagues. He and baritone Ludovic Tézier engage warmly and rather robustly in The Pearl Fishers’ aforementioned duet. And the Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva makes a wonderful counterpart in a pair of duos from Manon. Bertrand de Billy leads the Bayrisches Staatsorchester in a series of pliant, supple accompaniments.

In short, then, this mightn’t be the most off-beat of vocal recitals (though there’s some welcome Lalo, Meyerbeer, and Fromental Halevy on offer), but it’s sung with spectacular precision, a terrific sense of the musical line, and there’s not a complacent phrase to be found in any of it.

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