azcentral, March 1st, 2013
by Nancy Polston
Opera Gala, Phoenix, 24. Februar 2013
Standing Ovation for Tenor Jonas Kaufmann at the Orpheum
How do I write about someone who has been written about over a thousand times by the best music critics in the world? I’m not quite sure how to explain with words the experience I had this past Sunday watching world famous operatic tenor Jonas Kaufmann perform at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Phoenix with the Phoenix Opera.

The New York Times review in April 2012 described Kaufmann as, “Performing an impressive range of roles with a finely chiseled, deftly modulated lyric-dramatic voice capped by a secure, ringing top. Such distinctive vocal quality would be enough to put any tenor’s career into orbit.”

After his 2011 performance in LA, the Los Angeles Times stated, “He has chiseled looks and dramatic presence. His voice has a baritone’s dark coloring and weight, and he can use it for poetic effect. He knows that less is more, so he did not rely on extraneous gestures to punch up his program of lieder by Schumann and Strauss.”

Martin Kettle from The Guardian acclaimed Kaufmann as being, “In a class of his own, totally involved and giving a masterclass of daringly varied, sometimes mannered, vocal technique.”

I consider my 75-year-old mother, Duck Hee O’Donnell, to be the biggest music critic of them all. She is a cellist and was the featured soloist for concert tours in Southeast Asia before I was born. She performed for the King of Siam, the President of Vietnam, the King of Thailand and the President of the Philippines. Even though she is a cellist, my mom considers the human voice to be the finest musical instrument. There have only been a handful of vocal greats to pass my mom’s approval. And, out of all of them she says that Jonas Kaufmann is one of her favorites.

She explains that having a good voice is not enough anymore. You have to be able to act as well. She first saw Kaufmann via a DVD. It was his 2010 performance in Werther. My mom was immediately drawn into his charisma, range of expression and depth he brought to the role he played.

Later, she attended the Salzburg Music Festival in Austria hoping to see Kaufmann perform in person but alas there were no tickets available. When she found out Kaufmann was coming to Phoenix she immediately jumped at the opportunity to see him. "Thrilled" with his live performance is an understatement.

After Kaufmann’s second encore, I saw my mother sneak like a little kid out of her twelfth row seat to the front row. His four encore performance included Dein ist mein ganzes Herz by Lehar, Core 'ngrato, Du bist die Welt für mich by Tauber and É lucevan le stelle by Puccini.

Then we attended a VIP party at the Palomar Hotel just a few blocks from the Orpheum. To our surprise, Kaufmann walked in with his wife mezzo-soprano Margarete Joswig. We were able to talk with Margarete and she explained that Kaufmann brought the whole family including their 14, 9 and 7 year-old children. They had never been to Phoenix before even though he has relatives in the city. She told us they would be taking a small airplane tour of the Grand Canyon the next day.

We were given Kaufmann’s latest CD, watched him autograph it, and spent a little time talking with him. Sometimes when you meet someone famous, you put them on such a high pedestal that it can be a little disappointing. Not so with Jonas. He was charming and most personable.

As a professional musician my mom has met many famous performers and she put her seal of approval on Jonas Kaufmann. She concluded Jonas was different. “He was down to earth and caring, kind and patient.”

At the post concert reception, when an elderly person came to the podium where he was signing autographs, he would get up out of his seat, come down from the podium, embrace in sincere conversation, take pictures and sign autographs never rushing anyone. He really sets the bar for kindness and etiquette.

We are grateful the Phoenix Opera hosted such an amazing talent and hope that they will be able to bring Jonas Kaufmann back again soon.

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