Opera Now
Reviewed By Della Couling
Jonas Kaufmann: Arias by Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Wagner
When German tenor Jonas Kaufmann turned up at Decca’s door, those inside must have thought all their birthdays had come at once. He is young, slim, drop-dead gorgeous, intelligent and – not to be sneezed at – has a glorious voice. He is already singing in the world’s top houses, in a wide repertoire, but in this recording he shows us what he can do on home ground, with a selection of Wagner (Lohengrin, Walküre, Parsifal), Mozart (Zauberflöte), Schubert (Fierrabras, Alfonso und Estrella) and Beethoven (Fidelio).

For a young singer with such a slight figure, the voice, particularly in the lower register, is very powerful, with a burnished baritonal resonance in the maschera reminiscent of Domingo. Very occasionally, when the voice is being pushed, the throat sounds a little tight, which is something I hope he is keeping a watch on.

There is tremendous energy and commitment in the singing (assisted here by the top-quality support provided by Abbado and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra), and it is useful that, other than the Schubert, the arias are all well-known, making it easy for us to compare his forebears in these roles.

In Florestan’s ‘Gott! Welch Dunkel hier!’ he begins with a pianissimo, which swells as the aria proceeds, drawing in our sympathy right from the outset, and showing he is thinking a lot about interpretation. In the Mozart, we get, inevitably, ‘Dies Bildnis’, and then quite a long excerpt, with other singers, from later in the opera, beginning with ‘Die Weisheitslehre dieser Knaben’, in which he acquits himself well. But I predict a main career in Wagner (how wonderful to have a Wagner hero who looks like a hero!), and the heavier Verdi roles.

The CD cover, with Kaufmann standing on a crag dressed in black, in a parody of the famous Caspar David Friedrich painting, qualifies as naff cover of the month, but I suspect Kaufmann saw the funny side.

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