Jonas Kaufmann's latest album, his first for Decca, is entitled Romantic Arias, an attempt to capitalise, no doubt, on his heart-throb status. The title is a bit misleading, since the disc is predominantly about obsession, presenting us with a portrait gallery of 19th-century operatic heroes, most of them trapped in conflicted emotional situations with potentially dire consequences. Kaufmann is very much a theatrical animal, and though he delivers everything with that dark, sexy tone that makes him so remarkable, you're also aware that he is most responsive when the dramatic context is at its most extreme. Figures such as Verdi's Don Carlo and Weber's Max are more persuasively characterised here than Puccini's Rodolfo and Cavaradossi, whose passions are less complex. Elsewhere, he's quietly moody in scenes from Bizet's Carmen and Gounod's Faust, and breathtaking in the Prize Song from Wagner's Meistersinger.
Tim Ashley is a Guardian classical and opera critic, though he's also keen on literature and philosophy so you might sometimes find him cross-referencing all three. His work has also appeared in Literary Review and Opera magazine and he is author of a biography of Richard Strauss