Financial Times, April 16, 2018
John Rockwell
Wagner: Konzert, New York, Carnegie Hall, 12. April 2018 (Tristan, 2. Akt)
Boston Symphony/Kaufmann, Carnegie Hall, New York — a brilliant blend
What was promised at Carnegie Hall on Thursday was a tantalising taste of star tenor Jonas Kaufmann as Wagner’s Tristan. What we got was an organically balanced concert performance of the uncut second act of Tristan und Isolde in which Kaufmann’s brilliance blended cohesively with the rest of a fine cast and Andris Nelsons’ Boston Symphony Orchestra. Kaufmann first. For all its husky dark colouration, the German’s tenor is a real one, not a baritone with added on high notes. Some (like me) once felt he would never have the heft to undertake the mightiest heroic tenor repertory.

But now he has sung Verdi’s Otello in London and taken on this the most lyrical act of Tristan in Boston and New York. He promises to do the complete role in a staged production in two years. At Carnegie his voice sounded brighter and fresher than ever, and it rang forth stalwartly when called upon. Best of all, his often over calculated mannerisms were nowhere to be heard, swept along by Wagner and Nelsons. This was honest singing, no crooning and no fussing. Whether he can sing this generously knowing that the vocally murderous third act is yet to come remains to be heard. He was ably partnered by the Finnish soprano Camilla Nylund. She has sung a lot more Wagner than Kaufmann but had never ventured Isolde. At first she seemed blowsy down below, but that smoothed out and her high notes shone. Nelsons, his orchestra 94 strong, sounded urgent if a little lacking in intensity at the beginning. But he settled down nicely for the love music, shaping the long arcs of the score with sovereign control. The orchestra sounded glorious. The most impressive vocal actor of the night was the German bass Georg Zeppenfeld, who invested Marke’s broken hearted lament with enormous pathos. Mihoko Fujimura was not the most dulcet Brangäne but sounded good in her offstage warnings. The other singers, both excellent, were Andrew Rees as the traitor Melot and David Kravitz as Tristan’s loyal manservant Kurwenal. In Boston the Tristan act was
preceded by Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, but in New York it stood alone. At 81 minutes, it was more than enough.

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