Audiophile Audition, August 3, 2014
Steven Ritter
A voice for the ages, but is the interpretation there yet?
Kaufmann is certainly that rarity among tenors—one that can almost sing anything and come away from it unscathed, either critically or in audience reaction. The last 40 years has been so empty in terms of a bullpen of tenors who can tackle virtually every important role out there that when someone this good comes along we are allowed a little leeway in our googly-eyed musings.

But we must not forget the past, and realize that our current adulation occurs somewhat in a vacuum—aside from the “Three Tenors” there have been only a handful of genuine superstars that capture the public imagination, and even outside of that sacred boundary there have been a few that are more like one-hit wonders—they light up the firmament for a few years, and even astonish us with some memorable recordings, then—gone!

I seriously doubt that Kaufmann will disappear that quickly, if ever—and right now it seems like he is practically invulnerable, with a giant “S” appearing across his chest. Yet there is something almost imperceptible that marks this Verdi album a little substandard compared to everything else I have been hearing from him. Repeated listening only confirms this—his voice is definitely heavier, which might explain a few things, though his technical perfection is remarkably breathtaking. And only two of the excerpts here, Don Carlo and Rigoletto, were actually in his repertoire when this recording was made. So it might simply be a question of not having time to live with these roles long enough in order to fully penetrate their mysteries. Too often they sound like a brilliant talent, one that is able to coast on sheer musicality alone, performing works almost by sight—the shell is there, even a certain sense of emotional depth (which Verdi must have), but lacking the complex psychological nuances that the really great readings have.

This is not to say that enjoyment is not to be found here—in fact, listening to Kaufmann is often so seducing that one sits there and glories in the simple quality of the voice, and that makes this album worth purchasing. But I can’t wait to hear these five or six years from now.

 back top