Event, The Mail on Sunday, 6. September 2015
David Mellor
Jonas Kaufmann, Nessun dorma, The Puccini Album
Album of the week
This Puccini album is a huge success for a number of reasons, beginning of course with the exceptional vocal artistry of Jonas Kaufmann , but not ending there. Kaufmann's finest CDs - the early, German, Romantics arias album with Claudio Abbado, and the multiple award-winning Wagner disc with Donald Runnicles - always involve a partnership with a major conductor, not the sort of mediocrity most recital albums, including some of his, are lumbered with.

Here it's Antonio Pappano, surely our finest living Puccinian, and his extraordinary Santa Cecilia orchestra and chorus.

Kafmann in this recital finally banishes any hint of a German tenor trying to sound Italianate. His vocal mannerisms are impeccably Puccinian, with each piece presented with some exquisitely nuanced singing. He also avoids the excesses of some Italian tenors in Puccini, a composer who needs no spray- on added emotion. Everything required by way of feeling is already in the score.

I'm sure the relationship with Pappano added a new maturity to his singing here. Another great strength of this album is the choice of arias and duets, with extracts from 11 of Puccini's operas, including rarities such as "Edgar" and "Le Villi".

We don't get 'Che gelida manina' from "La Bohème", just the concluding Act I duet 'O soave fanciulla', with Kristine Opolais. Instead, there are four items from Puccini's only instant big hit, "Manon Lescaut", as well as interesting stuff from "Il tabarro", from Puccini's cowboy opera "La Fanciulla Del West", and from his problematic operetta, "La Rondine".

Pappano, I'm sure, also had a hand in ensuring that Dick Johnson's aria from "Fanciulla", as he waits to be strung up, includes earlier passages that give us a contest for 'Ch'ella Mi Creda', one of Puccini most underrated creations. Here, too, the big string melody is beautifully phrased by Pappano and the band.

It's fascinating that so many of the less known pieces are the ones that linger longest in the memory, such as the aria from "Gianni Schicchi", where, among some memorable moments from Kaufmann, 'O Mio Babbino Caro', is beautifully reprised by the orchestra.

  www.jkaufmann.info back top