CD: Jonas Kaufmann – Romantic arias
In spite of the current crisis in the market of recorded music, and for the audio supports in particular, the first CD with operatic arias recorded by one of the emergent tenors, Jonas Kaufmann, born 1969, certainly awakes interest. Kaufmann is today flying from one to another of the grand theatres in the world with an ever widening, soundly selected repertoire. “Toute mon âme est là” (My entire soul is there), Werther sings, and it could stand as a motto for the recital. It is rare to find an interpreter with such a richly faceted personality and who is so obviously “at home” in a very varied repertory. Or perhaps it is varied only apparently and permits a versatile, intelligent and sensitive artist to find the similarities and use his voice to express one sentiment here and another there. What tenor would include in the same programme Don Carlo and the Meistersinger together with Manon and Werther?

Kaufmann sings in three languages, Italian. French and German, all of which he is mastering with a clear pronounciation and appropriate expression, always finding the inherent musical qualities of each language (you will rarely find a German singer who pronounces the Italian word “quaggiù” correctly!)

As the photos in the booklet testify – a modern style of posing, not the conventional tenor stances – his beautiful figure and expressive face are perfect for the romantic hero. What sickly girl wouldn’t hope that a similar poet came to warm her hands on Christmas Eve? The timbre is dark, nocturnal, “ma per fortuna è un notte di luna” and the caressing tone spreads light and fascination right up to the resplendent “speranza”, The sound is that of a Heldentenor, but the atmosphere is all Puccini. Tenderness, melancholy and a sense of culpability find expression in Don José’s “Carmen, je t’aime!”.

Kaufmann is always entirely convinced, consequently also convincing, in all his interpretations. You don’t only listen to arias. You can almost see the face of a person. It is rare – not only for Italians – to hear the famous aria from Martha – “Ach so fromm” - sung in the original language according to modern taste, far from the languors unsuited to this opera, which – although romantic – is above all a comedy.

We note that Marco Armiliato with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra manages to find beautiful orchestral timbres when the score demands it (one example to serve for all: La Damnation de Faust), but on the whole he is content to offer a good accompaniment and nothing more – prize and defect of the recital.

We are not going to comment on all the items included, but inspired by the emotion awaked by the listening, it is impossible not to comment on the luminosity of Walther von Stoltzings youthfully heroic outpouring, so far removed from Don Carlos dark depressive mood or from the mystical romanticsm of Der Freischuetz. The recitatives are beautifully sculpted, the singing “takes wings”. The play with light and shade fascinates and every single track of this CD would in itself motivate the purchase of the disc. But everything is of interest. We don’t feel the tediousness of arias heard much too often. Instead we detect new aspects of roles well known: Alfredo’s shifting moods. His youthful ardour so different from the sincere, always aristocratic accents of the fascinating Duke of Mantova. And finally we note how sensuality and desperation overcome Cavaradossi in his last hour of life.

In the accompanying booklet - which Decca presents in English, French and German, but not in Italian - Kaufmann himself states that he is not consciously seeking new interpretations , but aims at giving spontaneous interpretations coming from “the inside”. This can be felt not only in the original use of mezzavoce and tonal colours. The roles have already been performed on the stage or are ready for the first scenic performance. There is in everything here a deep seriousness and it is only apparently a paradox – confirmed by many other examples – that the most natural results derive from the most serious studies.

To summarize: Welcome CD’s which give us the comforting certainty that there are still young artists who mange to confer strong emotion with means adapted to the tastes of our time!
Translation from Italian into English, original article back top