CLASSICAL

Puccini Arias: Jose Cura. Philharmonia Orchestra/ Placido Domingo (Erato, CD). The family game of Spot the Tenor has thrown up various contenders to succeed the big three, with Roberto Alagna the popular favourite. But anyone who has followed the recent fortunes of Covent Garden will know that there's another, very serious possibility: Jose Cura, the alluring, young (mid-30s) Argentinian who has been making his name throughout the world in verismo-based repertoire. This Puccini disc is his first, big solo calling-card; the fact that it's conducted by Domingo will do Cura's claim to be the next in line no harm - even if Domingo's beat (indulgent, slow, not always with conviction) does the singing no real favours. Starting with a shot to the crowds in "Nessun Dorma" and finishing with collector's items from Edgar and Le Villi, it's a limited but telling choice of numbers made to show you what the voice can do. And while it isn't so resplendent as a Pavarotti, with a crisper, harder, darker tone, it does have demonstrable beauty. Plus, a firm, lean elegance that steers a clean, unsplashy, ultra- stylish course through what in other hands would be verismo squalls. It's likeable, impressive; and the similarity he bears to photos of the young Puccini reinforces the feeling that Cura was genetically programmed to command this music. Maybe the Fourth Tenor has been found.

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