LABELS: Sony Classical
ALBUM TITLE: Puccini
WORKS: An Evening with Puccini
PERFORMER: Jonas Kaufmann (tenor); Filarmonica Della Scala/Jochen Rieder
CATALOGUE NO: 88875130249
Jonas Kaufmann probably needs little introduction – just as well, as the booklet supplies endless absurd credits but there’s nothing about man or music. This glitzy, hype-ridden concert at La Scala, Milan, represents a confrontation not unlike the Last Night of the Proms – a German tenor performing intensely national music to a native audience. But, hype or no, Kaufmann’s well up to it. He’s undoubtedly Plácido Domingo’s closest successor, a charismatic, versatile tenor equally capable of Italianate spinto and Germanic heroics while still retaining footholds in more lyric repertoire. Slighter and less physically dominant on stage, he also has a leaner, darker, more baritonal voice with less golden squillo, that deceptively effortless ring; and, though it’s not apparent in concert, less sheer volume. He still unleashes ample tone and passionate intensity, enhanced by excellent diction (always Domingo’s weakness) and language skills. He’s also a compelling actor, with gaunt good looks and fan-devastating gaze, smouldering and soulful, though this hardly comes across in concert.
Still, he makes a strong impression, introducing composer and programme in a choice of five languages. Jochen Rieder conducts the eight-aria programme, padded out with overtures and intermezzos with easy lyricism. Nevertheless a certain sameness, the bane of one-composer concerts, creeps in; Kaufmann’s opening Le Villi and Edgar arias don’t sound as different as they should from the more nuanced ‘Nessun dorma’. The audience is wildly enthusiastic, nevertheless, and Kaufmann’s generous with encores; in the fifth, ‘Nessun dorma’ again, he lapses, exhausted, and disarmingly recovers.
Some viewers (not to mention devotees) may enjoy its sheer sense of occasion, vividly captured by master-producer Brian Large. But many of us would rather turn to one of Kaufmann’s many full performances or Covent Garden’s Tosca and Bizet’s Carmen.
Michael Scott Rohan