Kaufmann and Pappano return with more Italian
No Puccini (Kaufmann gave us some
Cavaradossi and Rodolfo on his 2008 “Romantic Arias”, 4/08) but
a wider than usual examination of his contemporaries in a
snapshot of the unhappy heroes of late-19th-century Italian
The accompaniments are special. Pappano,
with his “other” orchestra, is hugely alert to detail, weighting
and what’s happening on the imaginary stage around the singer.
The inevitable sequence of dawns, sunsets and lurking deaths
maintains interest without becoming tiringly melodramatic.
Kaufmann has entered this world most completely. His Italian
is good, as are his desire and ability to project clearly
differentiated characters. He is never afraid to sing softly –
and does it most beautifully – and there is plenty of power when
needed. He finds an unhackneyed variety in the purely romantic
numbers – the Cilea, the Boito (a reminder of what a neglected
masterpiece Mefistofele is), or “Ombra di nube” by Licinio
Refice, a kind of verismo partner to Strauss’s orchestral
The darker items are delivered with a heavier
hand that does sometimes point towards a more German than
Italian colour. This Turiddu summoning his friends to drink
knows that his number is up, his farewell to Mamma Lucia is a
definitive foot in the grave and his Canio is already thinking
of murder. All this is playable dramatically and singer and
conductor are as one in their realisation of it, but the wider
colours of the love songs are not always attained here.
None the less, this is a perfectly recorded and stunning
recital, with the merited bonus item of Eva-Maria Westbroek as
partner for the final few-holds-barred duet of Chénier.