Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Very Best of Alfredo Kraus







Alfredo Kraus remained an EMI Classics artist throughout most of his career. It is for that reason that this compilation extends from the early 1960s (two arias from Così, as conducted by Karl Böhm) up to a live recording from December 1987 ("Una furtiva lagrima" from L'Elisir d'amore and "Salut! demeure chaste et pure" from Faust). Kraus, who was born on September 24, 1927 in the Canary Islands, was 60 at the time, and hardly less of fresh of voice than he was in the Così recording. Kraus was a lyric tenor who never sounded juvenile. In lighter bel canto roles such as Ernesto (Don Pasquale) a more youthful vocal persona Alfredo Kraus as the Duke in Rigoletto at his Metropolitan Opera debut. would have been more appropriate, perhaps, but in the heavier ones, such as Edgardo (Lucia di Lammermoor) and Arturo (I puritani), Kraus's power, maturity, and masculinity were welcomed – no tenorino here. His bright, trumpeting voice and exciting high notes were tempered by a sunny suavity. On the other hand, he could be a rather bland interpreter. Given his excellence in the French repertoire, in particular, it is tempting to go as far back as Georges Thill when looking for comparisons. Kraus died in 1999.

Most of these selections are taken from Kraus's complete recordings; the exceptions are the two indicated above from 1987, which were recorded at this Paris Opéra. (Frankly, it is a shame that Kraus left commercial recordings of neither L'Elisir nor Faust.) This means that Kraus is joined by excellent singers, including Montserrat Caballé in I Puritani, Renata Scotto in La bohème and La traviata, and Beverly Sills in Rigoletto and Don Pasquale. The selections have been chosen well, although, as with the other releases, there are some untidy fade-in and fade-outs. With the exception of Così, the engineering remains bright and shiny. This is an excellent compilation, and for those who are less familiar with Kraus than with the "Three Tenors," this might whet their appetite for more.


flac, scans

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