Sinfini Music, 04 August 2014
Everyone's Talking About Jonas Kaufmann
Tenor Jonas Kaufmann has been described as 'the greatest operatic voice of
our century'. He's an international superstar with his pick of roles and
opera houses, and this August he makes his Australian debut at the Sydney
Opera House. Brush up on all things Kaufmann here in our handy guide to this
Lend us a tenor?
Here you go,
(Video von Youtube)
Wait, wait, wait. You’re telling
me that Jonas Kaufmann sounds like that? And he looks like that? Non è
That’s kind of what a lot of people think, but I
promise you, this guy is absolutely for real. It was in 2006 that he rose to
fame in earnest, with a combination of his first solo CD (of Richard Strauss
Lieder) and singing Alfredo to Angela Gheorghiu’s Violetta in La traviata at
the New York Met. Now he has become possibly the world’s most sought-after
He sounds a bit like a baritone, though.
His timbre has a 'baritonal' darkness about it, but he’s definitely a
tenor. You can’t argue with those top notes.
Where does he
come from and how did he get where he is today?
hails from Munich and imbibed Wagner at the knee of his grandfather, who
used to play the operas on the piano for fun. The family encouraged him to
get a proper job rather than going in for singing, so he started to study
maths, only to decide he couldn’t hack it. Music came first from then on.
Voices can take a while to get into their stride sometimes,
It took him a while to find his real voice. But
he climbed the ladder with the help of attentive coaches – not least the
pianist Helmut Deutsch, his regular partner in Lieder recitals – and learned
the repertoire the good old-fashioned way through company contracts at opera
houses around Germany and Switzerland. Zurich, where Alexander Pereira
booked him, was crucial; so was the Salzburg Festival.
sings Italian and French opera, and German Lieder?
German opera. Particularly Wagner. Try him as Siegmund in Die Walküre, as
Parsifal or Lohengrin, and soon also as Walther in Die Meistersinger von
Nürnburg, which he’ll be performing on stage for the first time soon. He has
often said in interviews that he could easily fill all his time with Wagner,
but he doesn’t want to.
He doesn’t? What does he want to do,
Everything! He eats new roles virtually for breakfast.
Apparently he even fancies singing Peter Grimes. And he’s not averse to
lighter stuff: Viennese and German operetta is on his radar. I’ve seen grown
men weep when he sings Lehár… Meanwhile, listen to his Verdi album and the
extracts from Otello suggest something incredible ahead, in due course.
Isn’t it dangerous for a voice to do 'everything'?
His vocal technique is sterling – according to the conductor Antonio
Pappano, who’s been working with him in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut this summer
at Covent Garden, vocally 'he doesn’t put a foot wrong'.
Plenty of good tenor roles and songs for him, I guess.
stop at tenor stuff? He’s sung Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder, which are for
baritone, and Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder, which are for mezzo-soprano.
How about acting?
He can act the socks off any
role he chooses. Additionally, whether in opera or in Lieder, he can infuse
the sound of a word with its meaning so that you barely have to know the
language to understand what’s going on. Singers should do this, of course,
but you’d be surprised by how many don’t.
I can sense there’s
a 'but' coming.
Actually, no. There is no 'but'. At least,
not a public one. A note on Kaufmann’s website not long ago informed fans
that he had separated from his wife. The pressures of such a life can’t be
Any chance of hearing him in Australia?
As it happens, there is. Kaufmann makes his Australian debut on 10
August at the Sydney Opera House, and returns for a second performance on 17
August. The concerts will showcase all his best bits (no, not those bits) in
music by Bizet, Verdi and Puccini among others.
Try and stop him. Just try.
one-man replacement for The Three Tenors? The One and Only Tenor?
He is one of a kind – but in fact there are several relatively young
tenors fine enough to fill the Three Tenor shoes: Kaufmann, Juan Diego
Flórez and Joseph Calleja. We also love Rolando Villazón and sometimes Piotr
Beczala. They’re all totally different and each is great in his own way.
Are we in some kind of new golden age of singing, then?
Sometimes I really think we are.
Blimey. Aren’t we the
My thoughts precisely.
appears in concert at the Sydney Opera House on 10 & 17 August, 2014.