The New York Observer, November 3, 2011
By Sarah Hucal
Recital, Metropolitan Opera, New York, 30. Oktober 2011
Can I Get a Hölle Ja? Jonas Kaufmann in His Solo Debut at the Metropolitan Opera
Eight hundred photographs of the world’s most celebrated opera stars ceremoniously decorate the lobby concourse of the Metropolitan Opera. These legends of the stage look on from behind their glass windows into the hallowed Founder’s Hall. And there, framed among his peers is Bavarian-born, lyric-dramatic tenor Jonas Kaufmann, most recently honored by being invited to perform a solo concert, a grand gesture that recognizes the tremendous contributions of a truly magnificent performer. Mr. Kaufmann, along with long-time collaborator, pianist Helmut Deutsch, performed musical selections from composers Strauss, Duparc, Mahler and Liszt, vocal repertoire which deftly showcased Mr. Kaufmann’s beautiful timbre and breathtaking vocal control.

Mr. Kaufmann walked out from behind the golden curtains this past Sunday afternoon baring his signature ear-to-ear smile, before beginning with Franz Liszt’s “Vergiftet sind meine Lieder” (“Poisoned Are My Songs”), a dramatically woeful poem by Heinrich Heine set to an even more tempestuous accompaniment. Kaufmann looked and sounded at ease on the unadorned stage, a place certainly not unfamiliar to the famed tenor. In 2006, just five years after being brought into the spotlight by Alexander Pereira, general director of the Zurich Opera, Mr. Kaufmann took his first Metropolitan Opera bow after playing a dashing Alfredo opposite famed French chanteuse Angela Gheorghiu in La Traviata. In the years since, Mr. Kaufmann has oft returned to the Met, taking on roles such as Cavardossi in Tosca, Don Jose in Carmen, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte and Siegmund in die Walküre. Towards the end of this month, Mr. Kaufmann will play the title role of McAnuff’s Faust. This coming spring he will return yet again as Siegmund.

Despite his globe-trotting schedule, Mr. Kaufmann has made it a top priority to perform an annual concert series with Mr. Deutsch, a Viennese pianist and composer, accomplished in his own right, having played for Diana Damrau, Brigitte Fassbaender and Grace Bumbry among many others. Mr. Kaufmann and Mr.Deutsch complemented each other once more on Sunday. Mr. Deutsche’s beautiful interpretations of all four sets proved the challenge to be masterfully surmountable, and his strong relationship with the tenor was most obvious in songs such as Franz Liszt’s “Ihr Glocken von Marling” (“Bells of Marling”) as they accompanied each other effortlessly. The environment offered Mr. Kaufmann an opportunity to be himself, his own personality vibrantly showcased while storytelling during pieces such as Liszt’s “Three Gypsies” and “The King in Thule.” For the second set, Gustav Mahler’s “Five Rükert-Lieder,” Mr. Kaufmann performed what is considered one of Mahler’s most moving compositions, “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen” (“I am Lost to the World”), with near impossible pianissimi woven artfully throughout:

“I am dead to the world’s tumult
And I rest in a quiet realm
I live alone in my heaven
In my love and in my song.”

During intermission, dozens of fur-laden elderly and middle-aged ladies swarmed the merchandise table, grabbing like starstruck tweens at Mr. Kaufmann’s recordings and DVDs. One could hardly blame them since The Observer hadn’t seen a tenor this attractive since Franco Corelli or Mario Del Monaco.

The bell chimed quietly to call the audience back to their seats and the crowd clapped raucously as Mr. Kaufmann and Mr. Deutsch returned to the stage. After another flash of his cheerful smile, Mr. Kaufmann delivered Duparc’s “L’invitation au Voyage” (Invitation to a Voyage) and “Chanson triste” (“Sad Song”), while deftly floating through Deutsch’s arpeggios and proving his mastery of the French repertory.

In the fourth and final song set by Richard Strauss, Mr. Kaufmann was at his most expressive yet, opening with the appropriately themed “Schlechtes Wetter” (“Terrible Weather”). The final three songs belonged to Strauss’s Opus 27, which are among the composer’s most beloved pieces; a fitting choice for a tenor who has become one of the world’s most beloved singers. Composed in 1894 as a wedding gift to his wife, singer Pauline de Ahna, Strauss’s intimate composition allows for falsetto during “Morgen!” (“Tomorrow!”), which Mr. Kauffman reached quite delicately, before finishing on an unresolved chord, as if Strauss had intended the singer to drift asleep mid-thought.

After closing the concert with Strauss’s triumphant “Cäcilie,” the pair, all smiles, embraced in camaraderie before exiting the stage, only to be called back by the enthusiastic audience who hailed them with a standing ovation. Mr. Kaufmann and Mr. Deutsch returned for five encore pieces, including “Zueignung” (“Dedication”) by Strauss and “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz” (“Yours is My Entire Heart”), a sentimental operetta piece written by Franz Lehar in the 1920s. Mr. Deutsch comically led with a couple bars from “God Bless America,” provoking laughter and even more applause from the exuberant audience.

At song’s end, Mr. Kaufmann stood at the foot of the stage, looking beyond the bright lights and out into the faces of his awestruck fans. Though his photograph in Founder’s Hall had already marked him as a celebrated star, perhaps it wasn’t until now that he felt as if he had truly arrived.


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