Verdi: Otello by Jonas Kaufmann
Nowadays, it’s rare for a record company to produce a full-length studio recording of opera, but, for star tenor Jonas Kaufmann, Sony Classical makes an exception. And what a wonderful gift for opera fans at this time when live music performances have been put on hold. Most will be familiar with Shakespeare’s tragic story: soldier Iago – jealous, conniving and resentful – vows to destroy Venetian general Otello’s life, making him believe that his wife Desdemona has been unfaithful.
Kaufmann as Otello is in excellent, rich voice, and his interpretation brims with fragility and humanity. Carlos Álvarez is the malevolent Iago – his dark baritone perfect for the part. In fact, the cast comprises stand-out singers. Young Italian soprano Federica Lombardi is a fine Desdemona, and her moving ‘Ave Maria, piena di grazia’ left me in a puddle of tears. Virginie Verrez is a lavishly-voiced Emilia, and although her role misses out on a notable aria, she makes an excellent and dramatic addition to the ensembles. The real highlight for me, however, is Liparit Avetisyan as Cassio. Again, he is primarily an ensemble singer, but Avetisyan’s lovely bell-like tenor rings out among the other voices. The choruses, performed by the Coro dell’Academia Nationale di Santa Cecilia, pack a huge punch – Verdi, as we know, composed some of the most rousing choruses in the repertoire – and make me hopeful for a time when we can once again feel and hear the full force of such an almighty team of singers in a real-life setting. Otello may be a tragedy, but the sheer splendour of Verdi’s music fills me with optimism, especially when so masterfully performed and recorded.
While not the most uplifting of operas, Kaufmann’s new recording of Verdi’s Otello provides a welcome escape from reality – full of intrigue, deception, and most importantly, beautiful singing.