La Scena Musicale, 15 August 2013
The Verdi Album Jonas Kaufmann, tenor
****** (6/6)
This just released Verdi arias album is tenor Jonas Kaufmann’s debut solo disc for his new label, Sony Classical. Thirteen arias and duets from the heart of the Verdi repertoire, all sung with resplendent and virile tone, exemplary musicality and a keen sense of drama. It solidifies the German tenor’s position as not just the best heroic tenor before the public today, but also the most versatile, equally at home in the Germanic and Italian repertoires. From the lyric Duke of Mantua to the spinto Don Alvaro and ultimately the dramatic Otello, Kaufmann sings every aria with a thrilling top and plenty of chiaroscuro. For example, the high B-flat that ends ‘Celeste Aida’ has defeated many a tenor, with most unable to risk a dolcissimo, let alone diminuendo. But it holds no terror for Kaufmann, who sings it morendo as per Verdi’s instructions, not falsetto but with a beautiful head voice. The opening phrases of the aria from Luisa Miller, sung with honeyed mezza voce, are gorgeous. “Dio! Mi potevi scagliar” from Otello is declamatory but Kaufmann’s version is musical and without exaggeration. It’s interesting that Alfredo from La traviata – an early Kaufmann success and his Met debut – is left out. A wise decision as his voice has matured in the intervening years and the lyric Alfredo no longer suits him. As is often the case, the supporting singers here don’t have the best voices, with the exception of baritone Franco Vassallo (Iago), who is, of course, a fine singer. Recorded in Parma (Verdi’s birthplace), the Orchestra dell’Opera di Parma sounds suitably idiomatic under the baton of Pier Giorgio Morandi. This is an auspicious debut album for the tenor with Sony Classical and likely the first of many to come.

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