Jonas Kaufmann pays homage to a magnificent era of opera that defined musical splendor and elegance, in his new album of 19th-century French opera arias and duets. His selection of music for tenor spans this momentous period, starting with “Rachel, quand du Seigneur” from Halévy’s La Juive (1835), through two of Bizet’s greatest works, “La fleur que tu m’avais jetée” from Carmen (1875) and “Au fond du temple saint” from Les Pêcheurs de perles (1863), by way of Gounod’s “Ah! lève-toi, soleil!” from Roméo et Juliette (1867) and ending with the latest aria “Pourquoi me réveiller” from Massenet’s masterpiece Werther (1892). Plus many more along the way.
“The French operatic repertory is very close to my heart,” says Kaufmann. “This fascinating music reflects a unique period in European culture. I didn’t want to choose only highlights for this album but also works and roles that have been key experiences for me. Wilhelm Meister in Mignon, for example, was my first major French role – I sang it in Toulouse in 2001. Carmen and Werther helped to open doors for me. The fact that I sang my first Werther at the Paris Opéra of all places, as a German surrounded by a French ensemble, was undoubtedly rather risky, but I had some excellent guides to help me: répétiteurs, colleagues, conductors and, not least, the recordings of the legendary French tenor Georges Thill.”
This recording was made with Kaufmann’s award-winning “hometown” orchestra The Bavarian State Orchestra based in Munich, with whom he performs year-round, conducted by Bertrand de Billy who is an expert in the selected repertoire. Baritone Ludovic Tézier is Kaufmann’s duet partner in “Au fond du temple saint” from Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de perles, and soprano Sonya Yoncheva joins Kaufmann for two scenes from Massenet’s Manon.