Gramophone, September 2008
Editorial: The Golden Guys
From next to nothing, suddenly we have much to get excited about. Five, six years ago the talk was all of the golden generations of yesteryear and how a great tradition of tenor singing was dying out. Never mind that there were already arguably more fine singers of Handel, Mozart and some other areas of the repertoire than ever before - these things still tend to be judged largely on the central Italianate tradition. And, as the likes of Pavarotti, Carreras and Aragall waned (and one day, some believe, even Domingo must succumb to the passage of time), there were next to no convincing successors. José Cura? Good, but erratic and undisciplined. Alagna? More a French sound. Marcelo Álvarez? Has all but worn away a gorgeous voice. Salvatore Licitra? Ungainly.

Then, a few years ago, two things happened. Juan Diego Flórez, the Peruvian Rossini specialist, suddenly got markedly better. The nasal lower voice that supported those always-gleaming high notes started to fill out, so that its owner is now no longer a tale of two tenors (one below and one above the stave). Then we witnessed the rise of Rolando Villazón, a chip off the Domingo block. Now, from Germany, comes Jonas Kaufmann.

His early vocal difficulties mean that he has burst upon the international scene as a fully mature, major artist. And "artist" with Kaufmann means the full deal - the man can sing, with a full-bodied ardour that recalls the great Ramón Vinay, and act with the commitment of a Jon Vickers. Without wishing to second-guess our forthcoming review of his new Carmen DVD, I'll go out on a limb and say that his stunning Don José is the most thrillingly acted on film since that of Luis Lima (also at Covent Garden, in 1997) and perhaps the best sung of any. It is good news indeed that this film and his recent Decca arias disc will be followed next year by a German-themed recital and, for EMI, a new Madama Butterfly opposite Angela Gheorghiu.

And so there were three. But we can move past that quasi-mystical tenorial number as we survey a few others. Joseph Calleja has progressed far since his last Decca recital and deserves wider fame. And hard on the heels of these gentlemen comes the young Russian from whom we all expect great things, Maxim Mironov (his recent Rosenblatt recital in London created one heck of a buzz). The golden years? Pah! The golden years are, suddenly, now.

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