Sunday Times, 24 Oct 2010
CD of the week - Verismo Arias
It's hard to think of another tenor with the stylistic versatility of Jonas Kaufmann. Here, he is getting his teeth into the raw meat of late-19th- and early-20thcentury Italian opera. One day he's Fritz Wunderlich, the next he's Franco Corelli. Well, actually, he's a unique singer, in my experience, who transcends all attempts to pigeonhole him. He perhaps doesn't have the trumpety clarion ring of Corelli or Mario del Monaco, the most celebrated examples of the dramatic Italian "tenore di forza" of the modern age, and his timbre is darker, more gravelly in sound, and a size or two smaller. Arguments continue to rage about his suitability for Italian repertoire, but Canio's famous Vesti la giubba from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci here sounds pretty convincing — both grimly sardonic and grief-stricken. Perhaps he mimics some Italian-tenorial bad habits — gulps and sobs and long-held high notes — in such potboilers as Amor ti vieta (Giordano's Fedora) and La dolcissima effigie (Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, in which he is soon to appear at Covent Garden), but there is rare sensitivity to the words in his Lamento di Federico (Cilea's L'Arlesiana) and Turiddu's Mamma, quel vino è generoso (Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana). The best news is Kaufmann's thrilling Andrea Chénier (Giordano): a gripping Improviso is followed by a soaring Come un bel dì di maggio, and the disc ends with the Act IV duet with Eva-Maria Westbroek. One hopes this might be a taster, too, for a Covent Garden production.

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