ALBUM TITLE: Nessun Dorma: The Puccini Album
WORKS: Nessun Dorma: arias from Manon Lescaut, Tosca, Turandot etc
PERFORMER: Jonas Kaufmann (tenor), Kristine Opolais (soprano), Massimo Simeoli (baritone), Antonio Pirozzi (bass); Orchestra e coro dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia/Antonio Pappano
CATALOGUE NO: 88875092482
If you want a Puccini tenor bulging with Italian vocal muscle, or a voice with top notes that ping off his dress studs, then Jonas Kaufmann is not your man. But for an artist working with a conductor who makes you rethink Puccini’s heroes as deeply flawed individuals, then this is the album. Kaufmann is not a natural Puccini tenor; but listen to his Des Grieux overwhelmed by Manon Lescaut, or Dick Johnson in ‘Una parola sola!’, and your doubts disappear. Kaufmann and Antonio Pappano relish the lushness of Manon, and those nuggets of melody with which the composer colours the score of La fanciulla del West. Then there’s Luigi’s bleak view of human existence in ‘Hai ben ragione’ from Il tabarro, which puts the opera firmly where it belongs into the 20th century. Kaufmann’s diction is peerless: you listen to every sweat soaked word too.
There’s the Kaufmann croon with its hints of the matinee idol in the aria from Le Villi, and the voice is now as much dark chocolate as light caramel: but for intelligence and commitment, is there another tenor nowadays who can hold a candle to Kaufmann’s thoughtful Calaf, repentant Pinkerton and damned Des Grieux? And for once the bonus DVD is just that with Nina Stemme singing Minnie to his Dick Johnson. Christopher Cook