Thursday, March 20, 2008

Jonas Kaufmann: The Whole Package?

Jonas Kaufmann: Romantic Arias (Decca)

Here's a voice we'll be hearing for a while. The brief back story of this handsome young German tenor is interesting: he was trained as a light tenor, and by good fortune was allowed to liberate the drama of the lower and richer tones which he says were what he used " in the shower or the elevator."

So his career is a product of a very personal drive which he reveals in his choice of repertoire and his intensely dramatic presentation The arias on his calling-card disc are a mixture of the usual and the slightly less so.

He opens with a full-throated run-through of "Che gelida manina" from La Boheme, and then he takes an abrupt left turn into French opera: Bizet, very idiomatic, with a minor but gorgeously-sung aria from Carmen, turning at last to his home tongue with the show-stopper and only hit from Flotow's Martha -- which he nails as well as Siegfried Jerusalem did in the recent past.

So we get him as eclectic, fluent in various languages and styles -- dare we say Post Modern? An artist who brings as much sensibility and style to Wagner as he does to Massenet. His lyric gifts also enhance an affinity with Italian Opera. Verdi is in his soul, and he did begin his debut disc with an emotive Puccini.

Highlights of this disc include an aria from Don Carlos, the 5 minutes of glorious Wagner, and especially a Berlioz aria from The Damnation of Faust, sung with Wagnerian greatness of soul.

The proof is in the Opera House performance, of course. So we will have to see him. Is he the real thing or the product of the electronics of the recording medium? I suspect he's the whole package, relying on field reviews of his performances. Can't wait to see him in person!

Although the disc is nothing but a collection of snippets, there is something to enjoy in most of these performances, not least the conducting of Marco Armiliano, whose accompaniment matches Kaufmann's eclecticity with stylish performances in a variety of styles. The two artists seem to be on the same wavelength, and the result is a very satisfying CD. It's ipod ready since almost every cut is a keeper: just rip and burn!


JVaughan said...

I think I might have a go at this disc, though someone personally close to Mr. Kaufmann, who has an extensivee fan site for him, expresses reservation about the conducting and the sound. Although I have yet to hear this particular performance, he, of course, concludes the disc with the so-called "Prize Song" from Wagner's _Die_ _Meistersinger). It was a broadcast performance of this music drama from the Edinburgh Festival which began my interest in his work, and I think his disc of Strauss Lieder is _SUPERB_! I even went up to New York to hear him briefly in the Beethoven _Ninth_ and to meet him afterwards, and it was he who referred me to that _SUPERB_ site I mentioned earlier, if you would be interested, as I hope you would since there is both audio and video of him there, most of it from live performances! I look forward to his first _Lohengrin_ next season, hoping we can hear at least some of it on that page if it is not broadcast complete!

Hoping that this finds you and your readers well, and with apologies for any errors since this legally-blind user is unable to proofread and correct in your edit field as it is now set up due to my screen-reader software not being compatible with this background and/or colour,

J. V.

Cyberclassical said...

Is this site active any more?