The Australian, December 07, 2013
Graham Strahle
The Verdi Album (Jonas Kaufmann)
THE two main contenders for best Verdi tenor have declared themselves. In November last year, Mexican tenor Rolando Villazon issued the showcase aria disc Villazon - Verdi.

Now comes The Verdi Album from equally admired German tenor Jonas Kaufmann. Same composer, two unutterably different singers. Kaufmann is the weightier, richer voice of the two, and far more serious in temperament. Some may regard him more as a Wagner specialist than an exponent of Italian opera but that's simply not true.

He forges his persuasive way with Verdi, even if he takes best to proudly noble roles rather than pranksters, miscreants or peasants. He bursts out of the gates with a muscular and affectionately turned La Donna e Mobile (Rigoletto), although not quite cheeky enough to pass himself off as the playboy Duke of Mantua.

The more vivacious bright-toned Villazon is better in this aria. Round one to him. Where Kaufmann excels is in serioso roles such as Don Carlo and Otello. His dark timbre and gasping passion are striking as the guilt-racked son of the king of Spain in E lui! Desso, L'infante! (Don Carlo). Kaufmann triumphs in thinking roles.

He is superbly tragic as the tortured, ruminating soul of Otello in Dio! Mi Potevi Scagliar. Also right up his street are Gabriele's outpouring of emotion in O Inferno! Amelia Qui! (Simon Boccanegra) and Riccardo's heartbroken grief in Un Ballo in Maschera.

Bravado roles, such as the young Egyptian warrior Radames, suit him less well, but he sings a truly beautiful sotto voce in Aida's Se quel Guerrier io Fossi!.

The Verdi Album plays mostly to Kaufmann's strengths, and they are formidable.

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