The Verdi Album
The star German tenor’s Verdi collection may not be consistently ideal, but taken as a whole it’s an outstanding undertaking. To get some oblique criticisms out of the way: though he has regularly won well-deserved success in Italian roles, Jonas Kaufmann falls just short of a fully enriched Latinate tone quality, and his voice is now a little mature for the Duke in Rigoletto.
Thereafter, as he moves into extracts from the bigger tenor assignments of Un ballo in maschera, Simon Boccanegra, Don Carlo (sung in the standard Italian translation), La forza del destino, and even the ultimate challenge of Otello, his musicianship melds with his keen interpretative intelligence to achieve real and extraordinary success.
He brings all his skills to bear, for instance, on the interior monologues of Alvaro in Forza and Rodolfo in Luisa Miller – the latter suffused with misery encapsulated in a perfect legato. The tricky barcarole from Ballo is delivered with a striking sense of character – even, arguably, double character, as here the governor is pretending to be a common sailor – and Kaufmann’s technical skills allow him successfully to negotiate its huge downwards leaps. Otello on stage may still be ahead of him, but he explores the depths of ‘Dio mi potevi’ and ‘Niun mi tema’ with a purpose many distinguished Latin tenors would struggle to summon up. There’s visceral excitement as well as technical accomplishment to his ‘Di quella pira’, and he even manages the notoriously difficult pianissimo ending to ‘Celeste Aida’.