The Epoch Times, December 5, 2011
By Barry Bassis
Recital, Metropolitan Opera, New York, 30. Oktober 2011
Rising Star from Germany Shines at the Met
Jonas Kaufmann holds audiences spellbound 
German operatic tenor Jonas Kaufmann's debut at the Metropolitan Opera on Nov. 3 was in the form of a solo recital, a rare honor only claimed by Luciano Pavarotti in 1994.  
NEW YORK—A chill ran through the opera world when it was announced in August that Jonas Kaufmann was going to have an operation to remove a node from his chest. Thankfully, the German tenor, one of the brightest rising stars in opera, assured the audience of his perfect condition in his Nov. 3 debut at the Metropolitan Opera.

Accompanied by pianist Helmut Deutsch, the Munich-born Jonas Kaufmann gave a solo recital—a rare honor. He is preceded only by Luciano Pavarotti who gave a solo recital in 1994—and Kaufmann had to sing five encores.

In a program of songs by Liszt, Mahler, Duparc, and R. Strauss, Kaufmann held the audience spellbound with his dramatic flair and exceptional musical intelligence. Like light piercing through the mist, his dusky baritone timber blasted out high notes with full emotions.

Kaufmann, now 42, has great achievements under his belt. His last solo album “Verismo Arias” recently won the 2011 Gramophone Award for best recital album.

At the Nov. 3 concert, Kaufmann sang more intimately in his native tongue. He began with five songs by Franz Liszt, expressing wide-ranging emotions, from love (“Freudvoll und leidvoll”) to hate (“Vergiftet sind meine Lieder,” in which he tells his lover that she has “poured poison into [his] blossoming life”).

His superior capability in harnessing human emotions continued in Mahler’s five Rückert lieder, which started with romance (“I Breathed a Gentle Fragrance” and “If You Love for Beauty”) and ended with spiritual concerns and despair—“Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen” (“I am lost to the world”) and “Um Mitternacht” (“At midnight” when “no thought of light brought me comfort”).

The singer’s versatility was further showcased in the French language in the songs by Henri Duparc. Beginning with the setting of Baudelaire’s sensuous “Invitation au Voyage,” the song portrayed a young woman being enticed to a country where all her desires will be gratified.

“Phidylé” is a setting of Leconte de Lisle’s poem where all of nature, from the soft grass to the humming bees, seems to conspire to bring about his lover’s “most ardent kiss.” There is a sense of foreboding in Baudelaire’s haunting “La Vie Antérieure” (“The Former Life”), which ends with the mysterious reference to “the agonizing secret that made me suffer.”

Perhaps the finest set of the concert was the series of songs by Richard Strauss, highlighted by a memorable “Morgen!” (“Tomorrow!” when lovers will “look mutely into each other’s eyes and the silence of happiness will settle upon us.”).

The five encores give by Kaufmann included four by Richard Strauss and then the schmaltzy, if irresistible “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz” (“Yours is my heart alone”) from Franz Lehar’s operetta “Das Land des Lachelns” (“The Land of Smiles”).

The operatic tenor’s unusual power of expressing strong emotions is manifested in a recording of “Fidelio” (Beethoven’s only opera) released this year. Kaufmann makes a dramatic entrance as Florestan, when, alone in his prison cell, he exclaims: “Gott! Welch Dunkel hier!” (“God! What darkness here!”). That “Gott!” seems to explode from the depths of his soul up to the heavens.

Kaufmann works widely with leading artists. The recording (on Decca), with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra under Claudio Abbado’s direction, is a distinguished one with a first-rate cast. The heroine (who in fact rescues Florestan) is Leonore, played here by the powerful Nina Stemme.

The supporting cast is also notable, with Christof Fischesser, Christoph Strehl, Peter Mattei, and Falk Struckmann as the villain Don Pizzaro.


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