In Jonas Kaufmann's own words: Most people who write about me claim that I've always been a successful artist, but in actual fact it was long doubtful whether I would study singing at all, and later on there was no real success on my horizon. During my first engagement in Saarbrücken I even toyed with the idea of giving up the profession altogether. I was stuck in the middle of a vocal crisis, sought advice from the widest variety of teachers, and none of them could give me any long‑lasting help. Some evenings I was barely sure if I would be able to make it creditably through the performance, and operatic temples like La Scala and the Met seemed just about as remote as the moon.
How it all began:
Music was part of my life from my earliest days, and I surely owe my profound love of classical music to my parents and my family. In the Bogenhausen section of Munich, we led fairly conventional lives in a rented apartment on the fifth floor of what was then one of many high-rise buildings constructed, among other things, to accommodate the many new arrivals, my family among them, pouring in from the eastern part of the country before the Soviets put up their Wall. My grandfather also lived in the same building. My mother, a kindergarten teacher by profession, looked after my older sister and myself, and my father worked for an insurance company. My father's collection of LP recordings in the living room was exclusively devoted to classical music, including many symphonic works, Bruckner, Mahler Shostakovich and Rachmaninov – not exactly soothing, catchy or light music. Of course he also had Mozart, Schubert, Haydn, and there was also plenty of opera on the shelves. On Sunday mornings, my sister and I enjoyed listening to music, and we were welcome to make requests. Then we would take seats on the brown sofa – we loved that.
We also had a piano, and I got weekly lessons, starting when I was about eight, and frankly, I could think of things that were more fun. My grandfather, on the other hand, frequently sat down at the piano, mostly playing Wagner – very hard to play, by the way – and he would lustily sing along to his own accompaniment, doing all the parts, needless to say, including the women's voices in falsetto (a vocal technique when men sing in what they call "head voice" like counter tenors). He must have passed along his enthusiasm for Wagner's music as a gift to me.
My sister, who was five years older, and I were allowed to go to the opera fairly early along, because Munich's Bavarian State Opera also presented children's performances.
When I was in primary school, I joined the children's chorus. We had a very enterprising choral director, who taught at several schools, and so one day we half-pints from all the various school choruses would all get together in Marienplatz, in the center of Munich right in front of City Hall, and sing Christmas carols for passers-by. On other occasions we would raise our voices in folk songs, such as "Springt der Hirsch über'n Bach" ("The Stag Jumps over the Brook") or "Auf'm Baum singt a Zeisl" ("A Birdie's Singing in the Tree"), in local Bavarian dialect.
When I moved on to secondary school, I joined the school chorus, here, too, an activity that went right through all my school years, not even pausing when my voice changed.
The last two school years were pretty important for me in two ways. First I was talked into doing a major in music, and secondly, I joined the extra chorus at Munich's Gärtnerplatztheater, the city's second opera house. And so, for the first time in my life, there I stood on the operatic stage.
With my secondary school diploma in my pocket, I took my parents' advice and registered at the university in Munich to study mathematics. They wanted me to learn something "sensible", "substantial", something that I could later use to get a job like my father, who earned a decent income at the insurance company and was thus able to provide for his family. I wanted a family, too, and it was just as clear to me, that professional singing was a pretty chancy business, especially because a singer is dependent on his health, and the slightest cold would render him unfit for work. Besides that I had already met a few chorus singers, who would have loved nothing better than to have become successful soloists.
I held out as a math student for a couple of semesters, but the certainty that I wasn't born to be a theoretician, a desk jockey, weighed heavier and heavier. I tried auditioning for a slot as a vocal student, and I was accepted on the spot. It took a huge amount of courage to make the fateful decision and say good-bye to the security of life as a mathematician. And so, in the summer of 1989, I began training to become an opera and concert singer at the Academy of Music and Theatre in Munich.
During my studies I had an opportunity to make a couple of appearances at the Bavarian State Opera in small roles:"Wurzen", literally translatable as "dwarves", was what these bit parts were called in the trade, parts in which they let us sing one or two sentences.
While I was still a student, I was cast in my first real operatic role at the Regensburg Opera, a provincial house in a medium-sized city about an hour and a half by train from Munich – I had to get special permission to do it, because I would have to be available for a grand total of 36 performances.
So there I was on stage as Caramello, the Duke's personal court barber in Johann Strauss's comic operetta "Eine Nacht in Venedig" ("A Night in Venice"), and for the first time I could taste the joy of singing and acting a real major role – apart from the pleasure of earning enough money to keep the tank full on my first green Volkswagen Golf. And if I needed any major repairs I had no problem paying for them from the good money I was making at BMW, where I worked part-time in the chauffeur service; I was allowed to wear a snazzy dark suit and drive one of the handsome 7-series sedans, completely fitted out with leather seats and whatever else anyone's heart could desire. There, was, however, one condition: my hair was too long, and I had to have it cut short.
Immediately after my graduation in the summer of 1994, the ZBF (Zentrale Bühnen-, Fernseh-, und Filmvermittlung), a government-run employment agency for singers and actors, which also supplies talent to Germany's publicly supported theatres, got me my first permanent engagement at the State Theatre in Saarbrücken in the westernmost part of the country near the French border. According to my contract I would be able to sing my first major roles while being routinely cast, like any other beginner in the profession, in whatever else came up on the performance schedule, including musicals and operetta. It was a kind of two-year journeyman's period, in which I learned a lot of repertoire, began to get my sea legs on stage, and worked hard on my singing. After the first season, I noticed that I was having more and more problems with my voice.
In the summer of 1996 the State Theatre offered to renew my permanent contract, and I declined. I knew the risk I was taking, and I was more than a little uneasy over not being on a permanent roster anywhere, but I didn't want other people making my work decisions for me any more;, I wanted to choose my own roles in keeping with the development of my voice, making sure I would be neither overtaxed nor underchallenged. This is all comparable to being a track and field athlete, who has to keep realigning his work to the current state of his training.
I was especially happy to get an offer from another medium-sized theatre in Trier, also on the French border, to appear in the world première of "The Glass Menagerie", an operatic version of the great Tennessee Williams play set to music by Antonio Bibalo. Apart from the great classics, I had always been interested, even back at the Academy, in more modern works. This wonderful opera by the Italo-Norwegian composer was and has remained fairly unknown, and our performances received very little attention from the mainstream media.
But then I got a chance to sing at the Stuttgart State Opera, a major house with an outstanding ensemble and an innovative repertoire, which had just been singled out for the title "Opera House of the Year". In November of 1997, I made my début there as the Arabian scholar Edrisi in the opera "King Roger" by Karol Szymanowski.
A little later, I began rehearsals for my first international production: Mozart's "Così fan tutte" at the Piccolo teatro di Milano with the great stage director Giorgio Strehler. The work with this genius was an absolute privilege for me – and all the more was the sorrow of the entire company when Strehler passed away shortly before completing his work directing the production in December of 1997.
With the roles I sang in the following period in Stuttgart, I was able to lay the foundation for my later successes: the light lyric roles of Count Almaviva in "Il barbiere di Siviglia" and the secondary tenor role of Jaquino in Beethoven's "Fidelio". In the romantic Italian repertoire, I was given the leading tenor part of Alfredo in "La Traviata". As I had thus far had no experience in this area, it was a great show of confidence.
I also kept working on my recital repertoire, and I was able to continue collaborating with my former professor from the Munich Academy, Helmut Deutsch. Besides the challenges of vocal delineation, I see recital singing as something like a dialogue between the singer and the collaborative pianist, one which lives, in a manner of speaking, from the "poetry of the moment" and brings out ever subtler details. Meanwhile Helmut and I have become close friends, we have given some beautiful concerts together from Edinburgh to Tokyo, from Schubert to Strauss, and we always look eagerly forward to the next joint project.
Then Alexander Pereira found out about me. He had been General Director of the Opera House in Zurich since 1991 and had made it his business to encourage young talent. He invited me to sing the role of Florestano in Fernando Paër's opera "Leonora"; a little later I was offered a permanent contract. The biggest pous at the Zurich Opera Houser is the exceptional roster of singers, under the direction of conductors like Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Franz Welser-Möst. There I was able to expand my repertoire over the course of the years by several important roles.
And in addition to my assignments in Switzerland, I still hat enough time to accept invitations to sing at other theatres or in concerts.
In 2001 William Mason, the enterprising General Director of the Lyric Opera of Chicago invited me to come to the United States for the first time – to sing Cassio in "Otello".
The most important invitation was the one from Peter Ruzicka that brought me to the 2003 Salzburg Festival for the role of Belmonte in Mozart's "Die Entführung aus dem Serail", the directorial début of the young Norwegian, Stefan Herheim provoked a tempest of controversy which made it hard for us singers to put on good performances. Meanwhile, Herheim has become very successful internationally and was cheered even by the Bayreuth audience for his production of "Parsifal" at the 2008 festival.
The giant step in my professional life came about in February of 2006 with my début as Alfredo in "La Traviata" at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. James Levine, the Music Director of the Met had asked me to audition in Munich and then recommended me. For me as a German it was a truly unique opportunity to sing this role from the Italian repertoire at the "Olympus of singers".
The fruitful collaboration with the conductor of the New York production, Marco Armiliato, would later continue with the recording of my first solo album, "Romantic Arias".
Eva Marton 70th Birthday Gala in Budapest with Jonas Kaufmann 16-06-2013
If he wanted to, Jonas Kaufmann could easily fill his calendar with Verdi and Wagner, Puccini and Massenet, but however much he loves opera, he cannot live without lieder. For the German tenor, interpreting the classical lieder repertory is "the haute école of singing." It demands far more detailed work than any other vocal discipline, more color, more nuances, a greater range of dynamics and a more subtle approach to the music and words. If there is an acid test for any lieder singer, it is undoubtedly Schubert's 'Winterreise' a cycle of twenty-four settings of poems by Wilhelm Müller that is generally regarded as the pinnacle of lieder singing, a sequence of songs as thrilling for listeners as it is for the performer.
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Jonas Kaufmann receives the ECHO KLASSIK Award for Bestseller Of The Year. The ECHO KLASSIK trophies will be handed out on Sunday, 29 October 2017 during a gala event in the Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall in Hamburg. All of the artists receiving an ECHO KLASSIK this year have made outstanding contributions to Classical Music in the 2016/17 music year. Their performances have brought audiences closer to numerous works of traditional classical music, but also to so-called New Classics. Whether its brilliant solo artists, collaborating ensembles, global superstars or exciting young newcomers – each of these musicians has helped to foster the extraordinary diversity of classical music and ensured that it continues to reach and inspire people of all ages and social backgrounds on all possible distribution channels.
The ECHO KLASSIK Award ceremony will be held on 29th October in the Elbphilharmonie concert hall. The German public TV channel ZDF will broadcast the evening starting at 10 pm. Once again this year, popular television presenter Thomas Gottschalk will host the ECHO KLASSIK, marking the fourth time overall he acts as master of ceremonies for the event. The names of those award winners who will perform live that evening will be announced shortly.
The popular tenor Jonas Kaufmann is known for his diverse repertoire. From Puccini to Wagner to Bizet, he has achieved critical acclaim both for purity of voice and thoughtful interpretation. On this recording he sets himself a new challenge. The six songs that make up this song cycle, (Mahler himself called it a symphony), were originally written to be sung by two voices, a baritone and a tenor. Kaufmann who has a commanding range takes on both parts. The result is a consistency in approach that alters one's perception of this familiar staple of the canon. It also alters the chemistry with the orchestra as a balanced dialog emerges.
SEE ALL OF THIS WEEK's KUCI: IRVINE CA REVIEWS BY MD - HOBART TAYLOR
Today's output of classical albums is (pardon me while I scribble on the back of an envelope) something like triple what it was a generation ago. I won't vouch for that exact ratio, but I will for Anne Midgette's description of how it feels: "Keeping up with the stream of new releases is like trying to drink from a fire hose." Now imagine trying to capture a hose's jet-spray in a bucket, and you'll see why making a classical "best-of-year" list in 2015 struck many writers as a thankless task, even a hopeless one. Yet that didn't stop more of us than ever from trying - perhaps enough of us to be called a crowd. Could that crowd, taken together, have some kind of collective wisdom?
That was more or less the premise behind my "Classical Mega-Meta-List" last year (inspired by economist /blogger Tyler Cowen). I tallied every "best of year" list I could find - a total of 36, comprising about 100 writers. This year I found far more: 64 lists, with at least 160 contributors, which makes this year's meta-list 60-77% more mega. It's not surprising that almost twice as many releases made the final cut, defined by being chosen for more than three best-of-year lists. Last year, 28 albums reached that threshold; this year, 50 albums did. That's a 78% increase.
Jonas Kaufmann's 'Nessun dorma - The Puccini Album' received 8-10 votes in this pole.
Kaufmann made the news when he used his Facebook page to urge us not to buy a Puccini recycling effort put out by his former record company (Decca) to compete with this new recital. But he needn't have worried, as this new disc has thrilled critics around the world. Personally, I just plain love Kaufmann's voice, which is duskier than some famous tenors - it has been described as "mahogany" - and that is indeed a subjective thing, but wow, what an artist!
READ THE FULL IOWA PUBLIC RADIO PAGE
Jonas Kaufmann has been around now long enough for any glaring faults to have appeared and been criticized; the best we've been able to do is accuse him of crooning occasionally and lacking squillo on top notes. His preparation always seems to be diligent, his use of dynamics, though occasionally exaggerated, is both musical and in character, his phrasing is utterly idiomatic, and the tone handsome and healthy. The problem with a recital such as this, which includes arias from all of Puccini's operas (except, of course, Suor Angelica), is that we realize that tenor heroes are rarely the most three dimensional folks in any opera, and so a sameness sets in. But Kaufmann is too intelligent to just slide by, and this, with a few minor protests, shows him to be unique among today's tenors.
He is at his best in Puccini's more heroic music. As one might guess, his dark-hued tone is rich and full enough for grand statements. The Edgar and Villi excerpts, both beautiful arias, are in the exclamatory Verismo tradition of Giordano and Cilea, and Kaufmann is stunning in both. Luigi's aria from Il tabarro is similarly thrilling: it's a very hard, bitter sing that few tenors can cope with, but Kaufmann makes us hang on every word and every note. (He tries his best with Rinuccio's little aria, singing with great "face" and impeccable diction, and even keeping the vowels pure on the high B-flats, but he sounds as if he could beat the hell out of the whole Donati family, and if I were Schicchi I would keep him away from my daughter at all costs.
READ THE FULL ClassicsToday REVIEW
After years of singing Giacomo Puccini's heroes on stage to vast critical and audience acclaim, Jonas Kaufmann has finally recorded an album entirely devoted to the world's most-loved opera composer. 'Nessun dorma' on Sony Classical includes a selection of the composer's stupendous tenor arias drawn from Puccini's greatest operas, including Turandot, Manon Lescaut, Tosca, La Bohème, Madama Butterfly and La fanciulla del West, amongst others. Spanning the breadth of Puccini's output from the early operas Le Villi and Edgar, the album culminates in the mighty aria "Nessun dorma" from his final opera Turandot. Jonas Kaufmann is joined on this album by Maestro Antonio Pappano, the Orchestra dell' Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and soprano Kristīne Opolais.
Watch the OperaNews.com EXCLUSIVE: Jonas Kaufmann steps into the studio with maestro Antonio Pappano and the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia to record "Nessun Dorma," the title track from the German tenor's new album on Sony Classical.
Described by The Daily Telegraph as "the world's greatest tenor", Jonas Kaufmann dedicates his new album to the most popular Italian opera composer of all time, Giacomo Puccini. It features the most loved aria of all time, ‘Nessun Dorma', alongside stunning pieces from Manon Lescaut, La Boheme, Tosca, and more. Together with Jonas Kaufmann, this album includes celebrated Royal Opera House conductor Antonio Pappano and his renowned orchestra and choir of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.
Featured tracks are - Puccini: Donna non vidi mai from Manon Lescaut (2:28); and Nessun dorma from Turandot (3:07) on Sony Classical. Featuring Jonas Kaufmann - tenor; Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia Orchestra / Antonio Pappano
Nessun Dorma, The Puccini Album, Jonas Kaufmann, tenor, Orchestra e Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Antonio Pappano, conductor (Sony). My dad used to say that the line separating Puccini and Broadway was faint, and listening to this disc I remembered his opinion and agreed with it. I cannot imagine anyone who loves "The Phantom of the Opera" not thrilling to the love duet from "La Boheme." This recording is especially enticing. Kaufmann puts a lot of himself into the music, bringing a fresh emotion even to music you may have heard 100 times. His singing is extremely masculine, projecting resonance and depth rather than delicacy. And somehow the whole approach works to bring back the idea of opera as popular entertainment. In real life, too, Kaufmann harks back attractively to the days when opera stars were real celebrities, figures of gossip and speculation. Rakishly handsome and tousled, he had to deny rumors earlier this year that he was having an affair with Madonna (who has reportedly expressed a desire to work with him). He and the assembled musical forces on this disc approach everything on all cylinders, from Cavaradossi's passionate "Recondita Armonia" ("Tosca") to "Addio, Fiorito Asil" from "Madame Butterfly." There is also a torrid excerpt from the seamy "Il Tabarro," which Nickel City Opera performed two hot nights on the USS Sullivans, remember? The fevered heat of this music could turn anyone into an opera fan. By the way, if you are a newcomer, the booklet has nice notes, texts and translations. (Mary Kunz Goldman) SEE Buffalo.com PAGE
Yes, this is the Jonas Kaufmann Puccini album that Kaufmann wants you to hear. Last month the opera star took to his Facebook page to discourage fans from purchasing a competing Puccini release newly recycled by his former record company. It's just one of the occupational hazards of being routinely labeled as "the greatest" and "most important" tenor of our day in papers like The Telegraph and the New York Times.
These honorifics are not exactly exaggerations. While it's pointless to rank singers, Kaufmann's muscular, mahogany-colored voice and fine acting indeed place him near the top. His range of repertoire is exceptionally wide. His voice can scale down to a light and lyrical Nemorino (in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore) or, with its baritone-like foundation, beef up for the heft of Wagner's Parsifal. He's a fine recitalist as well. One critic, writing in Gramophone, says Kaufmann resists classification: "You can't put him in a box for the simple reason that there's no box big enough." As a measure of his celebrity, the 46-year-old Munich native will perform at the annual Last Night of the Proms mega-concert Sept. 12 at London's Royal Albert Hall.
Over the years, Kaufmann has steadily added Puccini roles to his résumé. For this new album, released Sept. 11, he sings arias and duets, mostly in chronological order, from each of the composer's 12 operas (except the all-female Suor Angelica). That means the blockbuster "Nessun dorma" concludes the recording. While he may not project the thrilling Italianate muscle of Franco Corelli in Puccini's biggest hit, Kaufmann's brawny, burnished tone is gorgeous to behold. Too bad conductor Antonio Pappano's lustrous Santa Cecilia Orchestra - mixed too loud throughout the album - drowns out his final "vincerò."
Even greater pleasures can be found in the lesser-known arias. "Torna ai felici dì," from Puccini's first opera, Le villi, is, despite its melancholy strains, redolent with the sun and scent of the Italian countryside. In the aria from Edgar, Kaufmann roars but also tapers his voice to the sweetest murmur. And the two selections from La fanciulla del West, Puccini's gunslinging western and perhaps his best score, find Kaufmann sounding born to the role.
Opera geeks will undoubtedly squabble over Kaufmann's interpretation of the well-known arias from Bohème and Butterfly, Tosca and Turandot. Can he sing softly enough? Does he have enough squillo (ping)? Do the characters come alive? No matter what the answers are, there's no denying the red-blooded beauty of Kaufmann's voice in an album packed with some of opera's most soaring, irresistible melodies.
This disc is for fans of international superstar Jonas Kaufmann, fans of early twentieth-century stage and screen songs, and maybe fans of Romantic nostalgia as well.
German operatic singer Jonas Kaufmann says that the idea for the album You Mean the World to Me came to him at the end of a concert when he had finished singing a light number for a crowd of 20,000 delighted admirers. He thought, "Why should songs such as "You Are My Heart's Delight" and "You Mean the World to Me" be no more than encores? Why not make them and other perennial favourites the main programme?" Accordingly, we have an album that includes seventeen light songs by German, Austrian, Hungarian, Russian, and Bohemian composers, the songs presented in their original arrangements and written between 1925-1935 for the Berlin stage and screen. The tunes cover a turbulent era that included postwar economic strife, the establishment of the Weimar Republic, the close of the Roaring Twenties, the worldwide Great Depression, and the rise of Naziism. Yet through it all, people wrote and sang and listened to music: popular, folk, jazz, and classical. On the present album, Kaufmann sings for us some of his favorite popular songs of the period. READ THE FULL Classical Candor REVIEW.
Superstar tenor Jonas Kaufmann is the type of man your mother warned you about. His rock star looks are equal parts Antonio Banderas, George Clooney and Eric Bana – he has the Spaniard's gaze, Clooney's statesman-like poise and is an incredible Hulk in the high notes department.
With a face that has graced Vogue, this tenor is the opera world's closest thing to a Hollywood heartthrob. But does he have more style than substance? After an evening with Kaufmann and 2500 other people at Sydney Opera House that hypothesis is challenged.
Having played the tortured poet in Massenet's Werther at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in March, Kaufmann makes a consummate Sydney concert debut. The hall is dressed for royalty with garlands of flowers frosting the edge of the stage. It's the only embellishment of the evening – Kaufmann reinstates the power of the voice ungilded by costumes and stage pyrotechnics. Little context is given for the arias delivered; he lets Verdi, Leoncavallo and Mascagni do the talking.
For much of his Australian audience, who have never heard him live, the collective question hangs in the air: will Kaufmann be as good as he is on YouTube? Puccini's Recondita Armonia from Tosca breaks the ice and after its final note the audience applaud in rapture, realising he is everything we have heard about and more. The response seems genuinely to move Kaufmann – the shared delight of discovery between an international artist and his antipodean audience. READ THE FULL Guardian REVIEW.
Jonas Kaufmann is almost certainly the greatest tenor in the world right now, a dashingly handsome German with an extraordinary voice, whose career is reaching new peaks with each year, even month that passes.
In February, Kaufmann "provoked one of the greatest ovations in recent memory", according to the news agency Bloomberg, at New York's Metropolitan Opera House, for his interpretation of the tortured poet Werther in Massenet's opera of the same name. In April he sang Schubert's wonderful melancholic song cycle Winterreise to a full house at London's Covent Garden (the first singer to have been given a solo recital there in more than a decade; when he did the same concert at the Met it was the first time it had had a solo performer since Pavarotti in 1994). Covent Garden staged a new production of Manon Lescaut, an opera it hadn't done for 30 years, with Kaufmann as des Grieux – "the most difficult and challenging role for the tenor that Puccini ever wrote", according to Antonio Pappano, Covent Garden's musical director. And now he is preparing for his first appearance on our shores.
What makes Kaufmann great is that his voice is not only beautiful but uniquely versatile, which means he can do both the lighter tenor roles of Verdi and Puccini and much of the big dramatic singing demanded by Wagner (and a lot else between). This is partly because he is a linguist, fluent in four languages: English, French, Italian and German. And it is partly because his voice has an exceptionally rich lower register – yet he can also sing amazing high notes that, in Pappano's words, "blossom and shoot out and are big and generous". His talent is comparable to Plácido Domingo's. "There's been no one since Plácido that has the freedom and breadth of repertoire that Jonas has," Pappano says. There is also the fact that, like Domingo, Kaufmann is an instinctive actor. "He brings a protean talent in that he can shift and change," director Jonathan Kent points out. "We were rehearsing a very difficult scene [in Manon Lescaut] where the two lovers know they are about to be trapped… I'd ask the performers to do the chaos of panic, with people running round not knowing how to escape. Jonas brings endless invention to that and he can do it while singing. He can think on his feet. He can throw himself around the room and still hit the notes.' READ THE FULL Australian INTERVIEW.
Jonas Kaufmann is certainly that rarity among tenors-one that can almost sing anything and come away from it unscathed, either critically or in audience reaction. The last 40 years has been so empty in terms of a bullpen of tenors who can tackle virtually every important role out there that when someone this good comes along we are allowed a little leeway in our googly-eyed musings. READ THE FULL Audiophile Audition REVIEW.
Jonas Kaufmann is sitting opposite me at a table on the terrace of London's Royal Opera House. The roofs of Covent Garden are spread out beneath us and in the distance the capital's spires, steeples and domes are lit up by July sunshine. The 45-year-old German tenor takes a sip of black tea and pushes a hand through the mop of greying curls his fans like to call Byronic. He is wearing silver-framed Ray Bans, a Rolex and rock-star stubble. His jeans are expensively deconstructed and a beautifully tailored beige jacket hangs open over his grey T-shirt. I've just asked him how he resists becoming a monster, a question that seems apposite given the steady diet of standing ovations and superlative reviews to which he has been subjected in recent years.
Kaufmann, to use a term he would probably despise, is the total package. He has a stupendous voice – arguably the greatest tenor of his generation – that is rich and powerful in the lower register, but able to hit high notes, too. It allows him to sing the lighter tenor roles of Puccini and Verdi, but also summon the sturm und drang demanded by Wagner. He is darkly handsome, of course, and has the acting chops necessary to make a Don Jose or a Don Carlos seem like a real person experiencing real emotions. Oh, and he is also fluent in four languages. If a team of scientists was asked to devise the perfect tenor for the 21st century, the result would look … well, you get the idea. Jonas Kaufmann performs at the Sydney Opera House on August 10th and 17th. READ THE FULL Sydney Morning Herald INTERVIEW.
Jonas Kaufmann can remember the moment he knew he'd ‘made it', in almost filmic detail. It was the night of his Metropolitan Opera debut, and he was standing in the wings waiting to take his solo curtain call.
Singing Alfredo opposite Angela Gheorghiu in her signature role, Violetta in La Traviata, Kaufmann was vividly aware that everyone had come to see her. ‘At that time, I was a nobody in New York,' he says.
In the glare of the lights, he could see the audience rising to their feet to applaud him, and his heart slipped into his stomach. His knees buckled, and before he knew it he found himself kneeling. ‘I had to force myself to get back up. I remember thinking "Who, me?!" It may sound trite, but that's exactly how it felt.'
That was February of 2006, and since then, Kaufmann's fame – and pulling power – has sky-rocketed. He sings at the Metropolitan Opera New York, at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, at the Salzburg Festival and all through Europe. READ THE FULL Opera Blog INTERVIEW.
This is a gem of a performance, but one that bucks current trends. The bleak nature of Schubert's Winterreise, with two-thirds of its songs in minor keys, is often taken as an invitation to probe, analyze and even diagnose its protagonist. In the final song, "Der Leiermann" (The Hurdy-gurdy Man), the traveler, totally undone, will wind up identifying with the village idiot, a fate treated so indelibly by Schubert that it colors the whole cycle. Understandably, many singers are apt to seek clues to that decline earlier, even in the very first songs, and to keep emphasizing eccentricity, instability and other predictive symptoms.
That is not Jonas Kaufmann's approach. Here, each step downward feels like an unexpected blow. His traveler resists, protests and struggles, at higher volume than many others. The performance maintains an urgent pulse throughout, amid rich rubato, with rock-solid support from veteran accompanist Helmut Deutsch. The singer's unusual warmth maintains tension between past and present: his timbre suggests a robust, somewhat naïve young man who's new to morbid reflection. READ THE FULL Opera News REVIEW.
Tenor Jonas Kaufmann, while an adventurous singer, brings a lot of low-key subtlety to this Winterreise. He is wise in not joining the legions of singers who always seem out to reinvent the wheel. Instead, though his delivery is free and he sometimes surprises you, he seems confident that his own lyricism and grace can carry the day, and they do.
Helmut Deutsch, a veteran accompanist, mirrors his sensibilities. His cool allows you to marvel at the genius of the accompaniments. Schubert, though no virtuoso pianist, really knew how to use the instrument.
Kaufmann and Deutsch are used to performing together this bleak but beautiful cycle. The result is a kind of eerie calm over the first song, with its magical shift to the major key, and the haunting final song about the hurdy-gurdy man in the snow. In the many more dramatic songs in between, they show fine control and unity of purpose. This is another reason to see Kaufmann as one of the most exciting singers around. 4 stars.
The first visit to Australia by the German tenor Jonas Kaufmann is one of the most anticipated events in this yearʼs performing arts calendar. Widely regarded as the finest tenor in the world today, Kaufmann, at 44, is in his prime.
Many operatic tenors have enjoyed highly successful careers based largely on the brilliance of their vocal technique alone. The ability of these singers to inhabit a character and act a role is sometimes quite limited. For Kaufmann, who has the typical curiosity and creative instinct of a born actor, it is the most natural thing in the world. He believes passionately that opera is, above all, a theatrical art in which the drama is conveyed by a singer-actor. Read the full Limelight Magazine article and see Jonas Kaufmann sing in Sydney on August 10th and 17th and Melbourne on August 14th.