Gramophone, December 2010
Mike Ashman
Verismo Arias

Kaufmann and Pappano return with more Italian Romantic arias

No Puccini (Kaufmann gave us some Cavaradossi and Rodolfo on his 2008 “Romantic Arias”, 4/08) but a wider than usual examination of his contemporaries in a snapshot of the unhappy heroes of late-19th-century Italian Romanticism.

The accompaniments are special. Pappano, with his “other” orchestra, is hugely alert to detail, weighting and what’s happening on the imaginary stage around the singer. The inevitable sequence of dawns, sunsets and lurking deaths maintains interest without becoming tiringly melodramatic.

Kaufmann has entered this world most completely. His Italian is good, as are his desire and ability to project clearly differentiated characters. He is never afraid to sing softly – and does it most beautifully – and there is plenty of power when needed. He finds an unhackneyed variety in the purely romantic numbers – the Cilea, the Boito (a reminder of what a neglected masterpiece Mefistofele is), or “Ombra di nube” by Licinio Refice, a kind of verismo partner to Strauss’s orchestral Lieder.

The darker items are delivered with a heavier hand that does sometimes point towards a more German than Italian colour. This Turiddu summoning his friends to drink knows that his number is up, his farewell to Mamma Lucia is a definitive foot in the grave and his Canio is already thinking of murder. All this is playable dramatically and singer and conductor are as one in their realisation of it, but the wider colours of the love songs are not always attained here.

None the less, this is a perfectly recorded and stunning recital, with the merited bonus item of Eva-Maria Westbroek as partner for the final few-holds-barred duet of Chénier.


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