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 ★★★★

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