Evening Standard, 9 February 2017
Barry Millington
Wagner-Konzert, London, Barbican, 8. Februar 2017
Jonas Kaufmann/LSO/Pappano, review: Consummate vocal mastery
Jonas Kaufmann had a range of tonal resources at his disposal, writes Barry Millington
The eagerly awaited Wagner programme of Jonas Kaufmann’s three-concert Barbican residency did not at first rise to expectations. The Prelude to Tristan und Isolde soared, under Antonio Pappano’s experienced baton, to an impassioned climax. But along the way there were uncertainties of tuning and ensemble which became rather more apparent in the Wesendonck Lieder, presumably played even less frequently by the LSO.

Kaufmann is bold in appropriating this cycle, written for and generally performed by a female singer. In principle there’s no reason why a man shouldn’t sing about angels and hothouse plants and oblivion, though from the far side of the hall, the tenor’s voice was often masked by even chamber-scale orchestral sonorities in a way that a higher woman’s voice would not have been.

Everything shifted up a gear for Act I of Die Walküre, in which Kaufmann as Siegmund was joined by Karita Mattila as an accomplished, engaging Sieglinde and Eric Halfvarson as a splendidly menacing Hunding, the latter reinventing his vocal line to spit out his rancorous hatred.

Accompanied by a more confident, if still rough-edged LSO under the inspirational Pappano, Kaufmann and Mattila graphically dramatised the burgeoning love of the sibling pair. Kaufmann skilfully deployed a range of tonal resources, ranging from half-voice introspection to the fearless full-throated cries of “Wälse!”

ith the Wagnerian orchestral flood at such close proximity, even Kaufmann occasionally struggled against the tide (the audience on his side might have fared better). But his consummate vocal mastery was never far away and the climactic approach to the final incestuous embrace was thrilling.

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