Jonas Kaufmann impresses with his finely judged phrasing, psychological acuity and seductive swagger
Financial Times
Richard Fairman
Jonas Kaufmann brings exemplary musicianship as Otello
An audio recording of the composer’s opera is conducted by Antonio Pappano and is first-class

When Jonas Kaufmann took on the role of Otello for the first time in 2017, it was the event of the operatic year. The production at the Royal Opera House in London was filmed live, but the DVD is hampered by an ugly staging nobody is likely to want to see twice.

Now here is an audio recording, still with Antonio Pappano as conductor, but recorded in Rome with the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and a different supporting cast. On almost all counts, it presents Kaufmann’s Otello in a better setting.

First, the absence of the visuals is pure gain. Second, although Kaufmann was widely criticised for a lack of power in his first try at the role in the theatre, that is largely masked by the conditions of an audio recording, where his experience of the role also means he is more willing to take risks.

Kaufmann will never be a vocal powerhouse of an Otello, like Jon Vickers or Vladimir Atlantov. Playing to his strengths, he uses his burnished tone to portray Otello as a loving, romantic, tragic hero. What he loses in Italian fire he gains in exemplary musicianship, most notably in his wonderfully inward singing of Otello’s great solo, “Dio mi potevi scagliar”, the heart of this performance.

Pappano is again a strong, assertive conductor. The young Federica Lombardi, clear and Italianate in sound, is well cast as Desdemona and Carlos Alvarez is a sturdy, if not especially imaginative, Iago. The orchestra, heard under the spotlight of a vivid recording, comes across admirably with much fine detail. This may not be as individual an Otello as some of its predecessors on disc, but it has a first-class balance of virtues.

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