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5.0 out of 5 stars DEUTSCHLAND DIVO JONAS KAUFMANN, 12 Dec 2011
This review is from: Verismo Arias (Audio CD)
Every once in a while the recording career of a singer of classical music attains the status of a superstar. At this point `overnight stardom' is usually proclaimed, belying the long years of slog and grind that lie behind the public glare of mass adulation. Some years ago, the popularity stakes of American soprano Renée Fleming, then in her mid `40s, seemed to be reaching their zenith, as the world embraced its quintessential diva, whose glamorous looks and marvellous vocal estate left little to be desired. Inevitably today, while Fleming's flame continues to illuminate her unique artistry, the pace of her international recording commitments seems to be easing in favour of a clutch of singers a decade or so younger, among them the Russian diva Anna Netrebko and Deutschland's Divo Tenor, Jonas Kaufmann. In a parallel situation to the Decca album of Verismo items Fleming launched two years ago, Kaufmann's latest recital for the same label is devoted to late 19th and early 20th century Italian Verismo arias. This has recently been accorded the prestigious Gramophone Prize for best recital of the year.
As did Fleming, Kaufmann artfully mixes lesser known arias and scenes with well-tried war horses. Following the current bent of putting together tributes to icons of previous generations, Kaufmann's programme, conducted by Antonio Pappano, might legitimately have been subtitled `A Homage to Caruso'. Its roster draws on pieces that were among the famed Italian tenor's 290 commercially released recordings issued between 1902 and 1920. Alongside chestnuts such as `Cielo e mar!' from Ponchielli's La Gioconda, `Mamma! Mamma, quel vino e generoso' from Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana, `Vesti la giuba' from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, `Amor di vieta' from Giordano's Fedora, `Dai campi, dai prati' from Boito's Mefistofele, and the ubiquitous but ever haunting `E la storia del pastore' (otherwise known as `Federico's Lament') from Cilea's L'Arlesiana, there are extracts, among others, from Leoncavallo's (not Puccini's) la Boheme (a Caruso speciality), and the once famous aria `Ombra di nube' by Rifice. Interesting programming aside, what puts Kaufmann's singing way above the norm, is the fact that he is not afraid to sing softly with exquisite effect, while there is always plenty of power on tap if needed.
The latter phenomenon thrilled cinema audiences during last season's Met HD broadcast of Die Walküre when the tenor, as Siegmund, unleashed the full frontal force of his huge instrument, overriding Wagner's superhuman sonic tidalwaves with apparent ease. Another aspect of Kaufmann's arsenal of strengths that sets him aside from other tenors of this or virtually any other age (besides the indefatigable Domingo, perhaps) is his astonishing versatility. This enables the singer to morph convincingly into any vocal fach he chooses to embrace. Kaufmann's burgeoning discography of CD's and DVD's over the past decade defies pigeon-holing. Alongside his bench-mark renderings of Wagner's Lohengrin, Beethoven's Florestan in Fidelio, Puccini's Cavaradossi in Tosca and Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, and Massenet's Werther, for instance, are a gloriously sung Huon in Sir John Eliot Gardiner's recording of Weber's Oberon, and a fearlessly realised title role in Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito. The latter two parts' formidable coloratura passages are despatched with all the bravura of a true virtuoso. To sample the magic of this unrivalled star and marvel at the sheer beauty of his burnished tenor, tinged with a dark-hued baritonal timbre, invest in some of his recordings, starting with the disc touched here, as well as his two earlier Decca recitals, the one a cross section of famous tenor highlights entitled Romantic Arias, the other simply called Jonas Kaufmann, essaying German arias by Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven and Wagner.

- William Charlton-Perkins, Durban, South Africa, December 2011
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 6 Mar 2014 03:30:14 GMT
A. F. S. Mui says:
'is his astonishing versatility' -
In French, Italian, German romantic operas.
Not in terms of singing capabilities.
Nay, I would not say that Herr Kaufmann is a very versatile tenor. This category is reserved to the likes of a Nicolai Gedda, Francisco Araiza. Not even Placido Domingo.
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