Opera News, 7/18/20
F. Paul Driscoll
Met in HD online: Polling, Opern-Recital, 18. Juli 2020
Jonas Kaufmann & Helmut Deutsch
THE METROPOLITAN OPERA'S NEW MEDIA INITIATIVE, Met Stars Live in Concert, began auspiciously on July 18 with a recital by Jonas Kaufmann and Helmut Deutsch streamed live from Polling Abbey in Bavaria. The program began in the Met’s Manhattan control room with host Christine Goerke interviewing Met general manager Peter Gelb about the series’ twelve planned concerts, most of which will be streamed live from various locations in Europe throughout the summer, fall and early winter, when the Met’s Lincoln Center home will be dark. Online admission to each concert will be twenty dollars, about the price of a movie-theater ticket to a The Met: Live In HD showing.

Kaufmann was in exhilarating form throughout the program, which required the tenor to sing a punishing sequence of eleven Italian and French opera arias; the only item on the bill that could be classed as standard recital fare was the haunting Licinio Refice song “Ombra di nube,” a Kaufmann specialty. The rest of the concert’s ninety minutes was devoted to clips from Kaufmann’s The Met: Live in HD appearances as Dick Johnson, Siegmund and Werther, as well as his Canio in Philipp Stölzl’s 2015 Salzburg staging of Pagliacci. Deutsch’s magisterial solo contributions were the Intermezzos from Manon Lescaut and Pagliacci, during which the screen was filled with still images of Kaufmann in various opera roles.

The program was a technical triumph for the Met, save for a very brief audio dropout at the beginning of “Recondita armonia.” The concert started and finished on time, and the transitions were seamless between Kaufmann and Deutsch in Bavaria and Goerke in New York. Some overzealous use of very tight closeups aside, the camera movement during the recital was inobtrusive. All of the video clips confirmed Kaufmann’s ease in front of the camera: he is an artist who understands economy of gesture and the value of stillness. All were also beautifully sung, with pride of place going to Kaufmann’s radiant Siegmund at the Met and the coiled intensity of his saturnine, edgy Canio from Salzburg.

Kaufmann’s singing on the July 18 program was also marvelous, his narrative urgency and shrewdly weighted phrasing equally impressive in French and Italian. L’Arlesiana’s “Lamento di Federico,” an aria that can sound trifling and puny, was an honest, impassioned statement of anguish in Kaufmann’s performance. Kaufmann invested the arias from Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine and Le Cid with silvery elegance and brought full, red-blooded verismo passion to Maurizio’s “L’anima ho stanca” and Enzo’s “Cielo e mar.” The ending of the Refice song emerged as easily as a sigh; the finish of the program-closing “Nessun dorma” was appropriately and bracingly bold. For me, the most tantalizing selection was “Un dì all’azzuro spazio” from Andrea Chénier, a work Kaufmann has yet to do in New York—and in which he would be perfectly cast as the opera’s ardent, uncompromising poet hero.

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