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Jonas Kaufmann - The Puccini Album / ClassicsToday

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Jonas Kaufmann has been around now long enough for any glaring faults to have appeared and been criticized; the best we've been able to do is accuse him of crooning occasionally and lacking squillo on top notes. His preparation always seems to be diligent, his use of dynamics, though occasionally exaggerated, is both musical and in character, his phrasing is utterly idiomatic, and the tone handsome and healthy. The problem with a recital such as this, which includes arias from all of Puccini's operas (except, of course, Suor Angelica), is that we realize that tenor heroes are rarely the most three dimensional folks in any opera, and so a sameness sets in. But Kaufmann is too intelligent to just slide by, and this, with a few minor protests, shows him to be unique among today's tenors.

He is at his best in Puccini's more heroic music. As one might guess, his dark-hued tone is rich and full enough for grand statements. The Edgar and Villi excerpts, both beautiful arias, are in the exclamatory Verismo tradition of Giordano and Cilea, and Kaufmann is stunning in both. Luigi's aria from Il tabarro is similarly thrilling: it's a very hard, bitter sing that few tenors can cope with, but Kaufmann makes us hang on every word and every note. (He tries his best with Rinuccio's little aria, singing with great "face" and impeccable diction, and even keeping the vowels pure on the high B-flats, but he sounds as if he could beat the hell out of the whole Donati family, and if I were Schicchi I would keep him away from my daughter at all costs.

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