Jonas Kaufmann is a German born (Munich 1969) tenor who has moved to the top of the tenorial list in the last five or six years. He has a dark sound which is allowing him to move into the heavier spinto roles in both the Italian and German repertoire. Yet his vocal technique is so good that he is outstanding in the lighter Italian roles and in the standard French tenor parts. His good looks add to the great effect made by his outstanding singing.
Kaufmann does not have the most luscious sound, but his vocal control, dynamic range, and passionate delivery make his singing of lyric music extremely effective. These traits are expressed in his performance of Werther’s Pourquoi me réveiller.
His singing of the Lohengrin aria at Bayreuth in 2010 is marked by wonderful dynamic shading. It’s an example of how much Wagner benefits from lyrical singing. This version compares very favorably to that of Placido Domingo. In fernem Land.
Kaufmann was a compelling Siegmund in last year’s staging of Die Walküre at the Met. He’s obviously ready for any Wagner tenor part. Here is the finale to the opera’s first act. This is Wagner at his phallic best. It’s the scene where Siegmund pulls the sword out of the tree to the orgasmic delight of his twin sister Sieglinde sung by Eva-Maria Westbroek. Die Walküre Act 1 finale.
Kaufmann’s rendition of Cilea’s È la solita storia del pastore is drenched in Italian passion. French nuance characterizes his reading of Salut, demeure chaste et pure from last year’s production of Gounod’s Faust at the Met. The high C is a little strained, but it is a C.
The tenor seems to be equally comfortable in Mozart as he is in Wagner. Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön from The Magic Flute. There haven’t been many tenors who could easily move from Mozart to Wagner. Leo Slezak (I’ll get back to him in another post) could do it, but that was a century ago. He sang Tamino and Otello in the same season at the Met.
Kaufmann’s interpretation of the Italian tenor’s aria from the first act of Der Rosenkavalier is about as good as I’ve heard. Strauss didn’t like the tenor voice and didn’t write well for it. This piece has a cruel tessitura which doesn’t seem to faze Kaufmann who makes it sound both lovely and easy. Di rigori armato il seno.
Finally, here is the great trio from the third scene of the third act of Verdi’s I Lombardi. Joining Kaufmann are Anna Netrebko and Erwin Schrott. Qual voluttа trascorrere – Kaufmann, Netrebko, Schrott.
So what’s the future for this fine singer who seems to be the first really great tenor to appear since the emergence of Domingo and Pavarotti? Next season at the Met he’s Parsifal. The spinto roles of Verdi appear ideal for his dark voice. He seems able to do anything he wants. He might even get to Otello.