An Evening with Puccini
Filarmonica della Scala
Jochen Rieder, conductor
An Evening with Puccini is the title of the monothematic concert given by Jonas Kaufmann at Teatro alla Scala under the direction of Jochen Rieder and I think this is one of the finest recordings of the music of the Tuscan composer both for the performance and for some other features of which I will immediately discuss.
First of all, I would like to say that, even before I started listen to this recording, I was a little perplexed about the choice of this composer and these arias because I feared that An Evening with Puccini would be very similar to the previous recording devoted by Kaufmann to Puccini (The Puccini Album). Actually, some arias are the same, but I suppose this is inevitable, since Nessun dorma and E lucevan le stelle are too much famous to be neglected by a tenor who sings this repertoire, but in both recordings there are also pieces that it is not so usual to listen to and I mean in particular the arias from Puccini’s early operas, Le Villi and Edgar.
This can be considered a limitation or not (maybe the consideration that the album was a studio recording and the concert a live recording and the curiosity to listen to the same arias in two very different situations can help in this regard), but, more that The Puccini Album, An Evening has the purpose to show Puccini’s musical growth and achievements. Moreover, any further repetition is avoided by the “symphonic interludes” from Le Villi, Manon Lescaut, Madama Butterfly and Suor Angelica, which substitute the duets of the album.
Another thing that I liked of An Evening with Puccini is the introduction, where Kaufmann himself summarizes Puccini’s life and the main reasons of his success. There is no time here for an in-depth discussion of these aspects, but I appreciated very much that this short part features rare footage showing Puccini in his private life, in his house and at the piano.
As for the performance, I think it is simply thrilling. Rieder is a fine, sensitive conductor who stresses with great care the most intimate side of the works, thus the Intermezzi and Preludi are not merely a pause between the arias (they have been accurately distributed for this purpose), but pieces worth a listening by their own right. On the other hand, such conductor makes Kaufmann’s performance easier. In his arias, the tenor expresses a huge range of feelings, beginning from the anguish of Le Villi and Edgar, the tender expression of love in Donna non vidi mai and the irresistible desperation of Ah! Guai a chi la tocca from Manon Lescaut.
All this is summarized in the variety of E lucevan le stelle, the famous aria from Tosca, where Kaufmann expresses the regret of a desperate lover and the despair of someone who is to be executed soon. Anyway, Nessun dorma, the most famous aria from Turandot, is the apogee of the concert because Kaufmann sings it not with the exaltation of the future winner, but with hope and love, to the point that the aria becomes almost moving (I remember incidentally the lapse of memory during the encore, which happened at the end of the concert and is absolutely excusable).
If you add to all this be beautiful setting of La Scala and its powerful aura, you will be absolutely enchanted. I highly recommend this recording to all of you.