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Jonas Kaufmann: "Dolce Vita"

CD Button Orchestra del Teatro Massimo di Palermo, Fisch. Texts and translations. Sony Classical 88875183632

Recordings Dolce Vita Kaufman Cover 217
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WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME you heard anyone sing Nino Rota’s “Parla più piano,” better known as the theme from The Godfather? Even if you have heard it lately, you’ve probably never heard it sung more seductively or tenderly than Jonas Kaufmann does here. Like a family-owned restaurant that keeps mamma’s favorite off-the-menu dishes coming in a steady stream, the robustly romantic tenor serves up a delicious and surprisingly varied meal of Italian and Neapolitan songs. 

From the opening of Lucio Dalla’s haunting “Caruso,” there is no choice but to give oneself over to Kaufmann’s rich, impassioned, musical interpretations. He knows when to apply his irresistible Italianate cry, as in “Un amore così grande,” “Musica proibita” and the aptly titled “Passione,” but the less demonstrative songs are in some ways more satisfying. Kaufmann’s ease with the language is evident, especially in his light, conversational approach to the charming “Voglio vivere così.” In “Il canto,” he begins with a soft, feline purr, and even in the song’s climax, his passion remains in check, in keeping with the limited arc of the song. “Parlami d’amore, Mariù” has a lovely liquidity, and his whispered, intimate final phrase is magical. 

Kaufmann logs his own comparatively restrained renditions of overrecorded entries such as “Non ti scordar di me,” “Torna a Surriento” and the omnipresent “Con te partirò.” Even in “Volare,” immortalized for a certain generation by Sergio Franchi’s kitschy 1976 car commercial, Kaufmann manages to project a directness and sincerity more commonly associated with a soul-baring aria such as “Che gelida manina.” The delicate “Rondine al nido” conjures up images of a quiet moment in a romantic movie. The contemporary pop song “Il libro dell’amore” may be a step beyond Kaufmann’s stylistic flexibility, but it’s a gentle reminder that the Italian love song still thrives in the land of la dolce vita. Asher Fisch leads the Orchestra del Teatro Massimo di Palermo with the right combination of sensitivity and schmaltz. —Joanne Sydney Lessner 

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