Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

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sachs's picture
Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

I have been a little perplex reading spectacular critics about Kaufmann's performances. I agree he is a short handsome and informal dressing young tenor with a peculiar voice. But, is it permissible such a degree of squillo lack? Real high notes' lack? I remember when, a long while ago, it arrived to my hands that first Vickers' recital under Serafin. He was the opposite of Kaufmann existing a clear similarity as some kind of miniature of him in Kaufmann's general profile. But Vickers had (and has if he is still alive) a formidable squillo together with an uniform voice, as for the emission and colour. Obviously Kaufmann is very much smart. But, since Domingo, are we living and age of just smart tenors? Watching Kaufmann he makes action a lot vivid, probably too much. But voice is straightly rare. Sometimes, during piano or mezza voce parts, actually it submerges. And high notes are very much like Vickers, but felt by me as cries. As a matter of fact, I listened a B instead a C in Faust (also in Chenier), and there we are talking about a written high note, not as in the Pira. In German works he sounds for me better, but in any case, I have been unable to appreciate his exceptionallity. There are a lot of excellent tenors arround, with brave squillos and splendid uniformity of emission, as Botha and O'Neill, but they arn't handsome and accentuate the vocal perspective with probably poor acting, not so O'Neill. I feel that Kaufmann's success is not based on his vocal qualities, but on foreign perspectives that are easy to find inside the purely operatic world. It doesn't seem to me a serious attitude that promotes correct appreciation of Opera and its performers, specially for beginners. Where are Björling's, Gigli's, Del Monaco's, Vickers', Bergonzi's, Di Stefano's, Tuckers's, etc's times?


Kind regards

"Man is innocent when just born and when corps"

Devon Farmer
Devon Farmer's picture
RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

I think your being a bit harsh on herr kaufmann. I liked him a lot in the recent fidelio with abbado. Sure he be pleasing on the eye if you are a lady but you carnt hold that against him. I must admit I do like that nina stemme though. Your opera as changed a lot in the last 100 years since you could just stand there and belt out the songs with a few stock jestures, thaart Callas saw to that she did. I do agree that squillos be a problem though, shot gun be the best way to deal with those bushy tailed creatures.

tagalie's picture
RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

I hear you, JKH. Our friend reminds me of one of those bottom-weighted toys you put in a budgie's cage. No matter how badly it's beaten-up it always returns to its starting position, no change whatsoever.

Tsaraslondon raises a good point. How does vocal distinctiveness amongst today's singers compare with yesterday? Certainly we don't have a Callas, a Vickers or a Pavarotti but we do have Fleming and Florez, to name two whose voices are instantly recognizable on cd.

Whether vocal acting or distinctiveness is the be-all-and-end-all for today's singers, gives food for thought. I'm very happy that dvd/bluray and televised performances are allowing a wider audience to assess opera for what it really is, a multi-faceted and incredibly complex art form, not just a vehicle for singing. Park and bark performances don't cut it any more. The camera puts us all at front row or closer. What singers used to try to portray with hand to heart and forehead can now be projected with the eyes alone. Similar changes are happening in the theatre. Listen to Ian McKellen talk about how he plays Lear today, compared to yesterday.

Given these changes, should singers shift emphasis from vocal to physical acting, or are both essential? Certainly, at camera range there's a danger of over-acting. Perhaps character projection has become more of a question of balancing modes of expression. And back to Kaufmann, it has also become increasingly important that singers look as well as act the part. We're no longer content to squint from 40 rows back and make believe that the roly-poly tenor jammed into that costume is in fact a young warrior.

Incidentally, the double standard still seems to operate in opera. Voigt, Brewer and others are given ultimatums to cut down on the fish suppers while Margison, Vargas and quite a few others continue to pack it on. Watching Heppner emerge from his dungeon in Fidelio after months of starvation is an exercise in keeping a straight face. This, I feel, will change.

In total, these considerations underline the futility of comparing one era with another. Comparisons over time are as fraught with ifs, ands and buts in opera as in sport.

Guest's picture
RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

I wanted to say that it's nice to know that someone else also mentioned this as I had trouble finding the same info elsewhere. This was the first place that told me the answer zee fashion

Anna11's picture
RE: Kaufman Hall

He came in Florida in Kaufman Hall and during his beginning profession Yankee Stadium he did much perform Fenway Park in the Med Resurgence Design which had become well-known then.

taylormccuteon's picture
RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

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