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.