Jonas Kaufmann, Sonya Yoncheva and Ludovic Tézier perform in ‘L’Opéra’

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Berlioz et al,Bizet,Gounod,Massenet,Offenbach
LABELS: Sony
ALBUM TITLE: L’Opéra
WORKS: Works by Gounod, Massenet, Bizet, Offenbach, Berlioz et al
PERFORMER: Jonas Kaufmann (tenor), Sonya Yoncheva (soprano), Ludovic Tézier (baritone); Bavarian State Orchestra/Bertrand de Billy
CATALOGUE NO: 88985390762

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Jonas Kaufmann stretches for top notes now that he used to pull out of the air effortlessly. The lyric tenor is sliding into baritone and rarely if ever sounds like the Georges Thill whom he professes to admire in a sleevenote interview. And while Kaufmann may have worked hard at his French there are moments when it comes from the East bank of the Rhine.

Yet Kaufmann is a consummate artist who rethinks everything that he sings. His Des Grieux in Manon is less the love-struck adolescent than an aspiring priest caught up in the obsession of profane love; Werther is a man and a mind at the end of its tether; and Vasco in ‘Pays merveilleux …O paradis’ from Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine a traveller who has stumbled upon Eden. You can almost forgive the hooded, crooner-like tone that Kaufmann favours when his characters are interrogating their souls.

At last comes the best. Two magnificent numbers from Berlioz: Faust magicked by Marguerite in ‘Merci, doux crépescule!’, and Aeneas certain that he must leave Dido. Bertrand de Billy and the Bavarian State Orchestra are with their soloist every bar of the way, with handsome woodwinds and opalescent string tone. You can happily exchange a slightly uncertain opening phase in the aria from Les Troyens for the muscular hero caught between love and duty who emerges a moment later. 

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Christopher Cook