Juan Antonio Muñoz H. - EL MERCURIO, Santiago de Chile
Release of his new “Verismo Arias” CD: Intruding into Jonas Kaufmann’s intimacy

“It is hard to remain the same after singing this repertoire” says the German tenor about the verismo he deals with in his last album

On April 14th, Jonas Kaufmann became the first German tenor in 103 years to sing Cavaradossi (from Puccini’s “Tosca”) in the New York Met. On November 18th he will be the first to play the role of Maurizio in “Adriana Lecouvreur” (Cilea) which has not been performed in Covent Garden since 1906. In midst of all these landmarks appears the “Verismo Arias” (Decca) album, which has been qualified as one of the most extraordinary opera recitals recorded in recent years. The repertoire does not include Puccini because, in Kaufmann’s words: “Italians separate Puccini from verismo. There’s a certain delicacy and elegance in him which are not to be found in verismo which is rougher and more violent.”

The album starts with “Giulietta e Romeo” by Riccardo Zandonai. This is Romeo’s great scene and aria, “Giulietta, son io”, in which the young Montague weeps over his lover’s tomb. “I doubt that more personal feelings could ever be put into music. To listen to it is like intruding into someone’s intimacy”, says Kaufmann, who reaches a straining point with a devilish fiato in an obscure music which allows him nevertheless to deliver very moving subtleties. After hearing this, it’s not hard to foresee what he will do with the final scene of “Otello” (Verdi).

The breadth of his crescendo, the internal vibration of each word, the vigor of his “recitativo”, his multiple tones, his torrid sensuality which becomes lyricism, his nuances and pianissimos, and his huge range make one wonder whether there is something that Kaufmann should not sing. “He has everything,” wrote The New York Times in its review of the album.

Kaufmann never dreamt of one day being able to do “Vesti la giubba” (“I Pagliacci” by Leoncavallo), in which he highlights Canio’s bitterness and brutality, or the “Cavalleria Rusticana” (Mascagni) arias, with Turiddu transformed into a frightened little boy in “Mamma, quel vino è generoso”, but now both operas form a part of his Metropolitan risky double programme. “This music not only causes physical and emotional weariness, but it is also mentally tiresome. It is hard to remain the same after singing this repertoire. One has to abandon oneself to the music,” he says.

As occurs with Zandonai’s Romeo, it seems as though one were prying into the intimacy of Kaufmann himself. It happens with “Amor ti vieta” (very brief and brimming with passion); in the arias of Maurizio (elegant as rarely to be seen in verismo, specially “La dolcissima efigie”, in which the main character compares Adriana’s beauty to his flag… and also in the weariness and despair of “L’anima ho stanca”), and particularly in the fragments of “Andrea Chénier” (Giordano): his “Improvviso” is of an overwhelming and overpowering eloquence, and contrasts with the lyrical rapture with which he performs “Come un bel dí di Maggio”. In the duet “Vicino a te” he forms an ideal couple with Eva Maria Westbroek, who has a huge and gorgeous voice.

The record also includes “Lamento di Federico” from “L’Arlesiana” (Cilea), which Kaufmann has transformed into a memorable part of his recitals by proposing a trip from the initial intimate confidence of “ (…) e s’addormi” to the despair of “Mi fai tanto male! Ahimè!”; the interesting “Testa adorata” from Leoncavallo’s forgotten “Bohème”; two fragments from “Mefistofele” (Boito); “Sí, questa estrema grazia”, from “I Lituani”, and “Cielo e mar!”, from “La Gioconda”, both by Ponchielli, and another rarity, the lovely song “Ombra di nube” by Licinio Refice. Antonio Pappano conducts the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia of Rome. It was Pappano likewise who conducted Kaufmann in his much awarded “Madama Butterfly” (Puccini) with Angela Gheorghiu (EMI) and who prepared for the same record company, once more with Kaufmann and Gheorghiu , a new “Aída” (Verdi). These projects show an unstoppable career to which we may add on October 25, the release of the Paris “Werther” DVD, and within a few weeks, the “Fidelio” (Beethoven) album, recorded in Lucerne, with Claudio Abbado as conductor and Nina Stemme as Leonora.


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