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This is a superb book: a labour of love, extraordinarily wide-ranging its survey of the modern-day tenor ‘phenomenon’, beautifully presented and often downright eccentric.

The Austrian journalist and photographer Johannes Ifkovits and stylist Evelyn Rillé are a well known duo in the world of celebrity, capturing famous people in poses that are glossily stylish and at the same time informal and playful.

The duo has already been up close and personal with opera singers before: The Opera Cooks, featured 64 of the world’s leading singers, photographed in their kitchen discussing their favourite recipes – everyone from Renée Fleming being spoon-fed molten chocolate to Thomas Hampson puffing on a cigar-like spring onion…

In The World’s Best Tenors, Ifkovits and Rillé celebrate 44 stars who represent the gamut of singing styles, physical types, cultural backgrounds and life stories, from the profoundly English choral/academic background of Ian Bostridge to the Sicilian immigrant experience of Roberto Alagna in Paris and the wild child Roland Villazón, set loose on the streets of Mexico City. As a photographer, Ifkovits has a great talent in being able to catch his subjects in settings that have a sense of drama and narrative, while showing them utterly relaxed and willing to let their hair down.

The roll-call of names is entirely impressive: Domingo, Alagna, Carreras, Shicoff, Kaufmann, Calleja and more or less any other living tenor superstar you’d care to name (only Marcelo Álvarez and José Cura are notable absentees – but then you can’t have it all). Each artist is first photographed unadorned, dressed in black against a black background (a gentle play on 16th century portraiture.) Then he is let loose into his ‘natural habitat’ – a yacht on the Med for Calleja; Flórez strumming a guitar; Domingo singing at the piano; Michael Schade fishing.

Ifkovits photographs his subjects beautifully, balancing light and colour to create a very appealing set of images of the kind that you might see in Vanity Fair magazine. Rillé’s styling feels apt and natural, bringing out the singers’ personalities – earnest, fun, brooding, irreverend, patrician. Each profile includes a well-written interview (fluently translated from the original German), a quick- fire Q&A (‘What did your mother always say?’) and – a rather quirky and rather tenuous touch this – a wine recommendation.

The photos have already been on display as an exhibition at the Perlada Festival in Spain and at the Liceu in Barcelona. This handsome English-language edition of the book is produced by Ifkovits’ own publishing company, Opera Rifko Verlag.

Franz Wolf Read the full review on Agora Classica


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