Roberto Alagna / Aleksandra Kurzak

Puccini in Love

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An ad copywriter couldn't have asked for a better project: star tenor in troubled marriage meets soprano on stage, and the two fall in love, marry, and record an album of operatic love duets. That may or may not have been the story of how Puccini in Love got made, but the album stands on its own considerable merits. The big news is Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak, who despite her association with star tenor Roberto Alagna, may be an unknown quantity for all but opera buffs. The program begins forthrightly with the two in dialogue at the beginning of "Mario! Son qui!" from Act 1 of Tosca, as if to assert that the duo are a package deal and that this is not an Alagna vehicle with his spouse along for the ride. Indeed, that selection confirms that Kurzak is indeed not in Alagna's league when it comes to sheer power. But over the course of the program she emerges as quite a distinctive singer, and one awaits with interest her new collaborations with Alagna that have begun to flow from this high-profile project. Sample her lovely turn in "Nella tua casa" from Act 3 of La Rondine, where she shows great control and consciousness of the text as the line ascends to a quiet high-register conclusion. Alagna himself is in fine form in the likes of "Minnie, che dolce nome," from La fanciulla del West. It's not clear whether the presence of Kurzak led to the engagement of her hometown Sinfonia Varsovia, an unusual choice, but the group under Italian conductor Riccardo Frizza mostly stays out of the singers' way. Essential for anyone engaged by the ongoing drama of Alagna's life and career, and a mark of Kurzak's continued rise as an opera star.

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