New York TimesMay 2, 2010
Carmen, Metropolitan Opera, 1 May 2010
Jonas Kaufmann Takes Carmen, and Audiences, by Storm
For nearly three weeks the tenor Jonas Kaufmann has been knocking out audiences at the Metropolitan Opera, first during four sold-out performances as Cavaradossi in “Tosca,” and then in two appearances as Don José in “Carmen,” the last of which was on Saturday night. Here’s hoping that during Mr. Kaufmann’s breaks from rehearsals and performances, Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, was brandishing contracts and talking future projects with this 41-year-old German tenor, who is at a career peak.

Saturday night also offered an impressive Carmen from the rising young American mezzo-soprano Kate Aldrich, who brought her alluring physique and rich, healthy voice to this touchstone role. She sang the “Habanera” with cagey restraint and insinuating lyricism. And during the scene of Lillas Pastia’s tavern, when the gypsy dancing turned wild, Ms. Aldrich not only held her own with the Met’s dancers, she turned a complete cartwheel, something they don’t teach you at conservatories. In the final scene, when the fatalistic Carmen taunted Mr. Kaufmann’s dejected and maniacally vengeful Don José, Ms. Aldrich brought raw emotion and defiant intensity to her singing.

Mr. Kaufmann was the news, however, for this last “Carmen” of the season in Richard Eyre’s gripping new production. His distinctive sound had baritonal body in the lower range, and dark, auburn colorings in his mid-voice. He can bend a plaintive phrase with tender pianissimos and then stun you with the visceral power of his full-voiced top notes. He has everything: intelligence, musicianship, and resourceful technique.

As an actor he is both savvy and uninhibited. He and Ms. Aldrich steamed up the stage in the Act I scene in which Carmen ensnares Don José, the corporal who has been ordered to arrest her. Sitting on a table in the soldier’s quarters, Ms. Aldrich pulled Mr. Kaufmann between her open legs and he dove at her in a frenzy, only to be interrupted by the arrival of an officer.

Replacing Mariusz Kwiecien, who was ill, the baritone Dwayne Croft sang his first Met Escamillo, and gave a vocally strong if somewhat stolid performance. The appealing soprano Maija Kovalevska was in lustrous voice as Micaëla, Don José’s girl back home. During curtain calls, the cast joined in to applaud the young French conductor, Alain Altinoglu, in his debut season at the Met. No wonder. Mr. Altinoglu was acutely attentive to the singers, allowing them all the expressive freedom they wanted — too much so, to my taste. The performance had style, and, during the dances, undulant pacing. But dramatic exchanges between the characters sometimes grew slack and lost intensity.

After his triumphs as Cavaradossi and Don José, Mr. Kaufmann is slated to sing Siegmund next season when the Met introduces its new production of “Die Walküre.” Get your tickets early.

 back top