BBC Music Magazine
Puccini in Love
Duets from Tosca, La bohème, La rondine, Il tabarro, Madama Butterfly, Manon Lescaut, La fanciulla del West
Aleksandra Kurzak (soprano), Roberto Alagna (tenor); Sinfonia Varsovia/riccardo Frizza
Sony 19075859832 62:52 mins
This album, which contains much beautiful singing, is based on a false premise, introduced by Alagna in a prefatory note: that all Puccini heroes are essentially the same, while it seems to me the amazing thing is that within a limited idiom Puccini manages so brilliantly to differentiate the heroic, the supplicatory, the purely seductive, and so on. To increase the plausibility of Alagna’s claim – he doesn’t say whether all Puccini’s heroines, sung here by his wife Aleksandra Kurzak, are the same too – the ten excerpts here are performed without a break, as if belonging to a single opera.
The texts, laudably given in four languages by Sony, are connected by a narrative thread which is entirely specious.
All that apart, there is a lot of pleasure to be had from this disc, which finds Alagna, now approaching his late fifties, in mainly excellent voice, though he tend to sing loudly throughout. ★e is, howver, an intelligent artist making the most of his words. The same can be said of Kurzak, though she tends to be the nymph/seducer, both in her vocalising and in the accompanying pictures. Whether this is a good disc to introduce someone to Puccini with I’m not sure: it does tend to homogenise his art, whereas actually he is a master of the telling nuance. But so long as you don’t expect all Puccini’s operas to sound like these excerpts, this is a charming recital. Michael Tanner PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★