The Scotsman | Date: August 19, 2002
Martin Parker
Edinburgh Festival, August 2002: Die schöne Müllerin
Jonas Kaufmann: Die schöne Müllerin
MUSIC: Usher Hall
THE best way to tell if an audience is on your side is to make a mistake. If they sit in stony silence then you’ve lost them; if they applaud, you’ve got them hooked. Jonas Kaufmann swapped a verse around mid-way through Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin on Saturday night, asked for our forgiveness and was rewarded with a laugh and a clap, and he had us in the palm of his hand.

While Kaufmann captivated with his beguiling upper register, his accompanist, Helmut Deutsch was cleverly mesmerising us behind the scenes, supporting Kaufmann like an older, wiser butler. He was certainly in charge of interpretation - while Kaufmann sings like an ardent youth, Deutsh contributes authority and understanding and they make a great duo.

Schubert’s setting of Wilhelm Müller’s text, The Miller’s Daughter, divides an hour into 20 songs. The initial songs are charming but the idyll soon becomes strained as the complexities of lust and love envelope the narrator. Kaufmann’s singing delighted us. Playing with light and shade and on the edge of earnest yearning the spellbinding atmosphere in the hall was thanks entirely to Kaufmann’s charm and his compatibility with Schubert’s intentions.

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