Puccini in Love
Duets from Tosca, La bohème, La rondine, Il tabarro, Madama Butterfly, Manon Lescaut, La fanciulla del West
Aleksandra Kurzak (soprano), Roberto Alagna (tenor); Sinfonia Varsovia/Riccardo Frizza
Sony 19075859832 62:52 mins
This album, which contains much beautiful singing, is based on a false premise, introduced by Alagna in a prefatory note: that all Puccini heroes are essentially the same, while it seems to me the amazing thing is that within a limited idiom Puccini manages so brilliantly to differentiate the heroic, the supplicatory, the purely seductive, and so on. To increase the plausibility of Alagna’s claim – he doesn’t say whether all Puccini’s heroines, sung here by his wife Aleksandra Kurzak, are the same too – the ten excerpts here are performed without a break, as if belonging to a single opera. The texts, laudably given in four languages by Sony, are connected by a narrative thread which is entirely specious.
All that apart, there is a lot of pleasure to be had from this disc, which finds Alagna, now approaching his late fifties, in mainly excellent voice, though he tend to sing loudly throughout. He is, however, an intelligent artist making the most of his words. The same can be said of Kurzak, though she tends to be the nymph/seducer, both in her vocalising and in the accompanying pictures. Whether this is a good disc to introduce someone to Puccini with I’m not sure: it does tend to homogenise his art, whereas actually he is a master of the telling nuance. But so long as you don’t expect all Puccini’s operas to sound like these excerpts, this is a charming recital.