Jonas Kaufmann – review

Royal Festival Hall, London

Jonas Kaufmann is everybody's darling in opera's dramatic tenor stakes. But this recital of Verdi and Wagner, a splendid evening in many ways, was also a reminder of the limitations of the operatic concert form, and of the fact that the German singer is still an exciting work in progress, both in terms of repertoire and vocal development.

Concerts of operatic extracts labour under two constraints. The singer's need to pace his or her evening requires orchestral fillers, which break the tension, and were played none too alluringly on this occasion by the Philharmonia Orchestra under Jochen Rieder. Meanwhile, the constant hopping from one opera to another means characterisation and dramatic context take a back seat to purely vocal arts.

But what vocal arts they are. Kaufmann began with Verdi, plunging straight into Rodolfo's dramatic recitative and aria from act two of Luisa Miller. It was a bold start, showcasing not just the Italianate lyric ring he commands so naturally, but more particularly his unmatched darker lower registers and the distinctive half-voice that few can rival. Arias from Simon Boccanegra and act one of the Don Carlo (in which Kaufmann is about to appear at Covent Garden) were less arrestingly done, but there was a powerful return to dramatic form in Alvaro's third-act scene from La Forza del Destino, another new role which Kaufmann will undertake this year in Munich.

Then came Wagner, a mixed bag of what used to be called bleeding chunks, with Kaufmann giving a stirring, well projected Siegmund from Die Walküre and a tantalising glimpse of his Walther from Die Meistersinger. Parsifal's great outburst of remorse and understanding after Kundry's kiss was unquestionably the highlight, grippingly articulated and ideal for his voice's current stage of development. Generous encores included two of Wagner's Wesendonck songs, rarely sung by tenors these days, but a reminder of how well Kaufmann can scale down as well as up.


Martin Kettle

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Jonas Kaufmann – review
If there was any complaint to be made about this glossy showcase recital, it was that there was too much orchestra and not enough tenor, writes Erica Jeal

Erica Jeal

25, Oct, 2011 @6:30 PM

Article image
Otello review – Kaufmann thrills in a dark, expressionistic staging
In his role debut, Jonas Kaufmann’s arrestingly-sung Otello is a charismatic and troubled outsider in a production that can feel heavy-handed

Tim Ashley

22, Jun, 2017 @11:49 AM

Article image
Jonas Kaufmann review – the tenor’s mastery of vocal technique was amply demonstrated
The tenor’s voice was firing on all cylinders from the start; his mastery of vocal technique was amply demonstrated, writes George Hall

George Hall

06, Jan, 2015 @12:42 PM

Article image
Jonas Kaufmann: the great pretender
Tenor Jonas Kaufmann has everything: the looks, the voice and the ambition. Now he's coming to London to spread what he calls 'the opera virus'

Nick Shave

05, Apr, 2012 @7:30 PM

Article image
Kaufmann/LSO/Pappano – magnificent, lyrical Wagner
Jonas Kaufmann and Karita Mattila often mesmerised in this recital of songs and excerpts, in which Eric Halfvarson made a tremendous Hunding

Tim Ashley

09, Feb, 2017 @2:20 PM

Article image
Jonas Kaufmann review – 'Subtlety of gesture and a tender lyricism'

The German tenor, together with his perfectly matched accompanist, Helmut Deutsch, conjured an intimate world in their rendition of Schubert's Winterreise song-cycle, writes George Hall

George Hall

08, Apr, 2014 @1:13 PM

Article image
Jonas Kaufmann review – a golden voice and a golden smile
As aria followed aria, with high-class orchestral interludes, the tenor was on shining form for an evening of Puccini

Erica Jeal

18, Oct, 2015 @1:13 PM

Kaufmann/Deutsch – review
The effort it cost Jonas Kaufmann to contain the operatic heft of his voice in this delicate Schubert gave his singing a heartbreaking vulnerability, writes Erica Jeal

Erica Jeal

02, Nov, 2010 @11:00 PM

CBSO/Nelsons/Kaufmann – review

For his first British concert outside London and Edinburgh, the tenor sang Richard Strauss and Mahler, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

08, Mar, 2012 @6:30 PM

Jonas Kaufmann, Queen's Hall

Queen's Hall.

Tim Ashley

19, Aug, 2003 @10:05 AM