An album of Puccini duets by a real-life couple can be a regrettable thing, as one half of this recording duo has already discovered. But there’s much to be gained when both artists are as committed as Roberto Alagna and Aleksandra Kurzak, a husband and wife team to rival Deutsche Grammophon’s Anna and Yusif. There’s an attempt at a concept which, though forced, mostly works, though it perhaps doesn’t reflect all too kindly on Puccini. As explained in the liner notes, “all Puccini’s operas could be one and the same work…all his couples could be one and the same couple”. The duets from his myriad operas thus form an “unbroken narrative” on this recording, charting the ups and downs of a single relationship.
The primary pleasure is Kurzak, whose once slender voice has gained so much body in recent years that most of the heroines on this disc are viable roles for her in the theatre. At 55, Alagna has moments of dry or wiry tone, but he remains an effective artist.
Among the highlights is the duet from Tosca, Kurzak alive to Floria’s ever-shifting moods and Alagna singing with warmth and affection. While Kurzak lacks the requisite heft, È ben altro il mio sogno sees her movingly convey Giorgetta’s desperation for a past life, mixed up with her desire for Luigi. And though the mustiest of selections, they do justice to O soave fanciulla, and pull out all the stops for a beautiful, disc-concluding Viene le sera.
Composition: Opera arias
Performer: Aleksandra Kurzak s, Roberto Alagna t
Catalogue Number: Sony 19075859832