Insieme – Opera duets
Ponchielli: from La Gioconda; Puccini: from La Bohème; Verdi: from Les vêpres siciliennes, Don Carlos, La forza del destino and Otello
Jonas Kaufmann (tenor), Ludovic Tézier (baritone); Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia/Antonio Pappano
Sony Classical 19439987002 71:34 mins
Insieme for sure: Jonas Kaufmann and Ludovic Tézier ‘together’ as the ‘heroic’ tenor and baritone that Verdi and later Italian composers wanted to write for – brothers and rivals, friends and enemies, joined at a Freudian hip.
They begin with Puccini – a passionate Rodolfo and a quick-tempered Marcello – and end with a chilling Otello, Tézier’s Iago dripping poison into Kaufmann’s ear in the Act II duet, with Antonio Pappano throwing up a terrifying barrage of sound with the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.
The doubts come in between. Kaufmann is an almost baritonal Infante in Don Carlos, seeming to sidestep the passion that is at the heart of his friendship with Posa while overdoing the portamento. When we reach the three duets from La forza del destino, carefully planned soft singing gives way to that familiar ‘covered’ sound.
As for the expressivity that Verdi demanded, listen to Tézier in ‘No, d’un imene il vincolo’ from La forza del destino as he swears to kill Kaufmann’s Carlo and his own sister Leonora. You fear for your own life as he rips into the music.
He lashes out as Montfort in Les vêpres sicilienes too, but there is an unexpected tendresse in his soft singing in the Act III aria when he reveals that he is his rival Henri’s father, with Kaufmann raising his game here. Yet Pappano has the last word, with the orchestra braying through the angry stretta section after a masterclass in how to use silence in performing Verdi.