This is interesting. The Deutschen Oper Berlin was apparently going to present Wagner's Rienzi, purportedly Hitler's favorite opera, on April 20 this season, which just happens to be Hitler's birthday. Too many people said, no, they would simply not do it, so the dates were changed with Jenufa.
[This is an interview before Jonas' recital at the Musikverein in Vienna, translated from here. Thanks to Emilio for his help in translating "ersungen".]
For several years he is one of the giants of the music scene. In February Jonas Kaufmann is to be a guest at the Musikverein with a Liederabend. In his luggage, the celebrated Verdi and Wagner tenor this time has a rather quiet program.
In the world of opera, there are many clichés. One of them says that only Italian tenors bring sufficient luster for the Italian repertory - maybe even the Spanish-Mexican-Argentine. A second is that in Milan, New York or Paris one could not present to the audience a German as a Latin Lover. A Teuton to succeed internationally as Alfredo (La traviata) and Cavaradossi (Tosca)? Until a few years ago it was unimaginable.
Jonas Kaufmann then entered the international arena. Based
in Zurich, where the Munich-born was since the turn of the millennium contracted
to sing, he had continuously enriched his audience through singing. 2007 was his solo CD "Romantic Arias" on the market, three more have since followed. There are now a "Fidelio" recording under Claudio Abbado with him, and various DVDs: a "Tosca" from Zurich, a "Werther" in Paris, a "Lohengrin" in Munich and a "Carmen" from London. Even a biography has been published.
That the 42-year-old is an outstanding singer and actor, critics and fans agree. Besides that he also looks good, at least not detrimental to the career. No wonder that a critic of the New York Times recently attested laconically of the singer that he is "currently the hottest tenor in opera". A glance at Kaufmann's diary confirms this: The November and December 2011, he spends at the New York Metropolitan Opera, sings the title role in a new production of "Faust," in January there is a new "Don Carlo" at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. The advantage of the Munich engagement: Kaufmann can finally sleep in his own bed once again - he lives with his wife, singer Margaret Joswig, and their three children after years in Switzerland, now back on the Isar.
On your program for the Musikverein are songs by Liszt, Mahler and Richard Strauss - and Henri Duparc (1848-1933), a friend of Camille Saint-Saens' and Ernest Chausson. Three well-known composers, and a relative unknown . What do you like about Duparc?
I think he's a very interesting but underrated composer who unfortunately has only written a few songs. The poems he set to music are, for the most part very expansive, very flowery, very dense atmosphere. And in combination with Duparc's music, these pieces seem so strong that one listening - or singing - believes that landscapes are to see and fragrances to smell. It is a very particular nature of Duparc, that after a few bars of a song, the specific atmosphere can feel almost palpable.
Do you have among the four, a favorite composer?
Even if these four approach very differently the setting of texts, they are all masterpieces in the genre of song composition. In this respect I do not want to have to choose a favorite composer. For Mahler, it is certainly the increased emotionality that attracts me as a singer in particular. With Liszt the piano virtuoso is of course always in the foreground, so chamber music and songs are often too short. His songs are not nearly as well known as they deserve because of his mastery. In Strauss I can as a tenor "tuck in" more than with other composers, which frankly for me is a lot of fun. But he has also repeatedly phrases, where you can paint with very fine colors. These contrasts feel like a great challenge to me. I also like many Strauss songs for a sense of humor, even self-irony.
You will be accompanied by Helmut Deutsch - you both have a long-standing cooperation. Deutsch has made music with you when you were still a student at the Munich Academy of Music.
Yes, he was my professor in the subject Lied, so we know each other for over twenty years. From the teacher-pupil ratio is then over the years a partnership that I find very harmonious. He's still my mentor in terms of Lieder singing: He has an invaluable wealth of knowledge of singing and song repertoire, from which I have benefitted for years and is basically the foundation of our program design.
They celebrate triumphs on the operatic stage. Why are you still excited by the - perhaps even more difficult - Lied?
Lieder singing to me is the pinnacle of singing. To make Lieder requires a high degree of technical skill and artistic sensibility, which in opera roles is not necessarily the case. As an operatic character one is part of a story; as a song singer, in one evening one tells about twenty different stories. It gives me immense pleasure to show in one evening so many different facets-linguistically, musically, stylistically and dramatically. The singer can work with much more subtle means, not least because the song focuses the attention of the audience to music and text.
On the opera stage, a singer working with a director and a conductor, he has also colleagues as supervisory body. How is this with the Lied? Do you have to fend for yourself?
Yes, as an opera singer, you are part of a larger whole, and you can make even a certain responsibility to the director or the conductor. As Lieder singer is one – together with the pianist - alone responsible. This is a much greater burden, but which, if everything goes well, will be rewarded with greater satisfaction. And what the "Supervisory Body" handles, recordings of rehearsals and concerts are always helpful for me.
Do you remember your debut in Vienna?
Of course! For me this was a great day. A "Fledermaus" at the Volksoper with Heinz Holecek as Frosch in 1997. I sang Alfred and was pretty excited because the Viennese audience is indeed, due to its professional knowledge and its strong interest in things artistic, by us singers equally loved and feared. My debut at the Staatsoper followed nine years later, on June 12, 2006, as Tamino in "Die Zauberflote".
Did you, like many students in Munich, in your study time go occasionally for concerts and operas to Vienna? Do you have memories of the Viennese musical life from the perspective of a spectator?
In my student days, it must have been in 1993, there was a special experience in Vienna, which has not been repeated in this way by luck. From Munich we went with the Bach Choir Fürstenfeldbruck to Vienna to give a performance of "St. John Passion." I should sing the Evangelist and the tenor arias. The whole ensemble took the bus there, and for some reason I took the night train. About an hour before the rehearsal I arrived in the morning at the West Bahnhof, took a taxi and said: "To Peter's Church, please!" Big question mark! The driver did not know Peter's Church, nor did his colleagues. In the days before GPS and cell phone of course we had no other choice than to constantly ask people and to follow some vague references. So we wandered through Vienna for some time, I got as it were a city tour of the most beautiful churches - Votive Church, St. Stephens Dom, etc. - until we finally found the Church of St. Peter. The rehearsal had already started, of course, all were sitting on pins and needles, waiting for me.
As a viewer I especially remember the Viennese New Year's concerts in the Musikverein. To watch television with the family, which belonged to us for New Year's Day just as the fir tree belongs to Christmas. And it was always a special experience: the magnificent hall, the Philharmonic, conductor like Boskovsky, Maazel, Karajan and Abbado, little extras like the gun shots in the Polka "On the Hunt", the beat of the music clapping audience at the "Radetzky March"- all had a very special character, and we children felt instinctively that classical music in Vienna has a stronger meaning than anywhere else in the world.
Does the coming song recital mark your debut at the Musikverein?
No, I have already sung concerts there, before my debut at the Staatsoper. But it's my first Liederabend at the Musikverein, and I am really looking forward to being allowed to sing Lieder in this room with the wonderful acoustic.
Does one dream of it sometimes as a student actually being allowed to sing one day in such historic rooms?
My daydreams as a singing student had relatively little to do with music, with even fewer career (laughs). But if I had asked a fairy godmother at the time in what houses I would like to sing, I would have named three magical places in the world of opera called La Scala, the Met and the Vienna State Opera.
I think I fell in love today at the Live from the Metropolitan Opera in HD presentation of The Enchanted Island. Maybe I fell in love with the ever more fascinating and spectacular Joyce DiDonato as Sycorax. I was pleased to see she got top billing.
Or perhaps I fell in love with Danielle de Niese as the spectacular spirit Ariel. She got all the best arias and looked adorable in her costume.
It is even possible that I fell in love with David Daniels. He is very serious in the role of Prospero, and perhaps that is what I needed.
I know I love madly Luca Pisaroni as Caliban. He complained about having to shave his hair for the role, but he was successfully lovable and hideous all at the same time.
Perhaps I fell in love with Placido Domingo in his first role as a god. How is that possible? Hasn't he always been a god? Today is his birthday.
Probably I already loved the conductor William Christie, who did not conduct from the harpsichord. I didn't love anything more than he did.
The pastiche was a success. I enjoyed the English text enormously. If English translations were always this good, we would argue for singing more operas in English. Everyone sang it well. The oddest selection for retexting was "Endless Pleasure, Endless Love" from Semele made into an ensemble.
The thing that was least like a real Baroque opera was the frequent use of ensemble numbers. Real Baroque opera is just one da capo aria after another. In this they represented I would say about half of the opera instead of the usual 80 percent.
I found it amusing that Ariel messes up and shipwrecks the wrong boat. The odd plot was very well handled. If you've seen The Fairy Queen, you know that this makes way more sense.
I would like to propose a quantum theory of music. The more you observe it, the closer you look and hear, the more you open your heart to it, the more you expand your experiences of it, the more it changes into something you've never heard before.
When I began blogging in 2005, I had many things I wished to say. I had deeply held grievances and complaints I could not wait to express. After 6 years of blogging, it is possible that I have said them all. I have been taking a much closer look at the world of classical music, and this has taught me much. Knowing more changes things.
In general what I think is the opposite of what most musicians are taught. We are taught to learn what is written down and reproduce it precisely. I believe that there is a process of discovering expression that goes far beyond the mere learning of notes, and that the more individual the expression, the better.
But I also find that time and the process of listening might change everything. That said, I find that I still love me. No one expresses what I would want to say better than me. It can't be helped--I love me, and that seems never to change. I am only surprised each time to find how much I still love me. I feel like Maria Callas sitting alone in her Paris apartment listening to her own recordings.
Before I leave me I must include at least one Brahms. There is a wrong note in this performance, but I sing it with so much conviction you are unlikely to find it.
Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto with Željko Lučić as Rigoletto, Aleksandra Kurzak (pictured) as Gilda, and Francesco Demuro as the duke. I look forward to hearing Kurzak. The second cast is Marco Vratogna, Albina Shagimuratova, and former Adler Fellow David Lomelí. Nicola Luisotti conducts. I've been advised to try to see both sopranos.
Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi with Joyce Didonato as Romeo and Nicole Cabell (pictured) as Juliet. This is a new production. Nicole will also sing in Pearl Fishers at Santa Fe next summer. So far I only know her from the Boheme movie. Riccardo Frizza conducts.
Jake Heggie’s [rhymes with leggy] Moby-Dick had its premier in 2010 in Dallas. Ben Heppner and Jay Hunter Morris (pictured) share the role of Ahab. You will have to pick your favorite. Patrick Summers of the Houston Grand Opera conducts. I heard bits of this on the radio and it sounded fascinating.
Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin with the title role is sung by Brandon Jovanovich (pictured), who sang Siegmund in Die Walküre (2011), and Elsa is soprano Camilla Nylund whom I saw in Zurich in Fidelio with Jonas Kaufmann. Nicola Luisotti conducts.
Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca will have two casts: Angela Gheorghiu, Massimo Giordano (pictured), and baritone Roberto Frontali is one, and the other stars Patricia Racette, tenor Brian Jagde and Mark Delavan. Nicola Luisotti conducts. You may have to go twice.
The Secret Garden is by Nolan Gasser, libretto by Carey Harrison. This is a world premier. Details of the performance are sketchy, and you have to order tickets on the phone.
Jacques Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann is a new production starring Natalie Dessay, who will sing all four women, tenor Matthew Polenzani (pictured), whom I remember most from Don Pasquale from the Met, will sing Hoffmann, Alice Coote is Nicklausse, The Muse, and bass-baritone Christian Van Horn will play the villains. I think I'll probably still wish for Rolando. Patrick Fournillier conducts.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Così fan tutte. Heidi Stober (pictured) is featured.
Nicola Luisotti conducts.
Mark Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. This is a world premier with Sasha Cooke (pictured) , William Burden, Maria Kanyova and Nathan Gunn. Michael Christie conducts. All I can say is wow. I have a copy of this book at home and am amazed that someone would write an opera based on it.
We have many familiar name stars in this list: Angela Gheorghiu, Natalie Dessay, Patricia Racette, Ben Heppner, Joyce DiDonato, and Alice Coote. Less familiar rising stars include: Heidi Stober, Aleksandra Kurzak, Matthew Polenzani.
That's three new operas in English, and I must comment. Moby-Dick is obviously not a chick flick, since it is all men, but at least it's based on a novel and not history. The Secret Garden is more a kid flick. It is impossible to imagine what The Gospel of Mary Magdalene will be, but I can't wait to find out.
I'm not sure Victor Herbert counts. He was born in Germany and brought the style of German operetta to American. He was very influential here. Menotti is our only composer to emphasize opera. Nothing before Porgy and Bess remains in the repertoire.
Or Susan Graham at Zellerbach in Berkeley. Susan has her own song called "I am a sexy lady" which ended her program. In it she complains that she is always required to play dudes and kiss other women at the opera, but she is a real woman. Somehow David Daniels and the obvious rhyme Cocker Spaniels came up. We're not sure how. She loves this song.
It was an excellent program. I liked best the Berlioz La Mort d'Ophélie. She has a great feeling for Berlioz. I am always looking for the feeling.
She did a group based on the Mignon songs of Goethe ending with the great Hugo Wolf "Kennst du das Land." My doctoral document was on settings of Goethe, so I always enjoy hearing examples of these. I honestly didn't know that Duparc did a translation of "Kennst du das Land?" I should have. The group also included the Tchaikovsky song on "Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt." In the intermission I complained that she had left out "Connais-tu le pays?" from Thomas's Mignon. I was wrong again!! She sang it as an encore. This was particularly lovely.
Susan Graham excels at a kind of light lyricism, especially of the French variety, and the concert was rich in examples that were well suited to her voice and style. Malcolm Martineau was her excellent pianist.
Today is the last performance in Zurich of Rossini's Le Comte Ory with Cecilia Bartoli as the Countess. I could not make it due to health problems.
So I want you to help me Visualize a DVD for Le comte Ory, Zurich version. This is the version with the new critical edition of the score.
(This idea came from seeing a bumper sticker that said, "Visualize yourself using your turn signal." This in turn is a parody of the classic Berkeley bumper sticker, "Visualize world peace.")
Here is an interesting discussion of children singing opera. He's against. The article is attracting a lot of comments. This is all brought on by Jackie Evancho, a product of the competition program America's Got Talent.
People have asked me about her. She sings stuff like "O mio babbino caro." She's a kid. People like to see children doing things, imitating grownups. She scoops and slides only slightly more than the woman I was complaining about. It bothers me that she tries to sound like an adult singer with the vibrato and lowered larynx. I think that's what anyone is complaining about. No one seems to complain about English boy sopranos, but they never sound like this.
I prefer this aria like this. I like the pictures of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence because she sings that if she cannot marry her beloved she will throw herself off of it
So what about this little girl with a far more grownup voice than Jackie? This kid actually does give me goosebumps.
It is important for people to realize that it is considered unethical for professional voice teachers to teach little children to sing like adults. This is what the argument is all about. 16 is the generally accepted age for beginning serious lessons, which means after puberty.
Beverly Sills and Roberta Peters trained as children.
One of the big stories going around the internet is the one about the eBay customer who may or may not have smashed a valuable antique violin. Apparently this is Paypal policy. If you want to get your money back, you have to smash the item.
Claims "Erica," the seller: "The buyer was proud of himself, so he sent me a photo of the destroyed violin."
an antique violin dealer and former auctioneer at Sotheby's, said that
"only an imbecile" would buy a precious instrument without playing it
first. Which would kind of leave eBay out, I would think.
My own opinion would be that if it requires an expert to authenticate it, it should similarly require an expert to unauthenticate it. Advice: neither buy nor sell your Guarneri on eBay.
I don't know what to think about this story about Aretha Franklin auditioning opera singers 18 - 40. Television contests with people singing opera makes me think of Paul Potts. The age range sounds good. Opera auditions normally stop at 30 while opera singing doesn't really hit its stride until about 40.
Forgive me if that's bad Italian. My Italian cannot be relied upon. It turned out to be true. The exact date remains a secret, but according to the Forum and the Zurich Opera, Cecilia Bartoli is married. Never say never.
I must admit it seemed to me they were acting married. Do you know what I mean?
Part of the recent pledging activity on PBS included a film about Placido Domingo's favorite roles. There are some expected things and some surprises. I am posting some films, but they aren't necessarily the same ones as are in the film. He was the opera singer of my generation.
Carmen by Bizet
Was there ever an opera singer like Don Placido? I think it is the almost magical combination of manly beauty and emotional intensity that sets him apart, quite in addition to the voice that sings anything. He sings all those roles because he can. The intensity of his Don Jose is unsurpassed, not even by Alagna.
Luisa Miller by Verdi
At this point in the program came an interview with Deborah Voigt who sang Sieglinda to his Siegmund. "He lives in the moment."
La Fanciulla del West by Puccini
I have a copy of his Fanciulla in my video collection. I liked very much Licitra in this role, but he could not compare to Domingo who raised this opera to greatness.
Andrea Chenier by Giordano
I think this recording is a fragment. See here for the whole thing.
For his Tosca by Puccini we include two recordings. First is "Recondita Armonia."
This is "E Lucevan le Stelle."
This glorious film made in Rome in the real places of the opera's setting is also in my video collection. It is pleasing to see him talking about the filming. The orchestra was in another part of town.
After Tosca came an interview with Erwin Schrott.
Tales of Hoffmann by Offenbach
You'd have to show the whole opera, which I'm not prepared to do. I always understood Hoffmann to be Domingo's favorite.
Samson et Dalila by Saint-Saens
This is the great San Francisco Opera production, but all the good parts are for the mezzo.
I Pagliacci by Leoncavallo
This is a film by Franco Zeffirelli, also in my collection. With the YouTube film comes this comment, "When I really want to hear an especially great voice (as I often do) perhaps I won't choose his. But... if I want to have a complete theatrical experience — with tears and laughter — perhaps how the composers themselves would have like to see, I have not yet found another tenor that puts everything together to breath life into an opera like Placido Domingo. Without him, I dare say operatic standards would not be where they are, today."
This comment is also how I feel about him. I wouldn't sit and listen to him on my iPod, but for the full operatic experience, no one tops him.
After this was an interview with Anna Netrebko. She talks about sneaking in to see him sing Otello in St Petersberg.
The best comments from Domingo come here. "Better too early than too late." :-)
He talks at length about his voice in this role. "You have to live so intensely; you have to have the stamina; you have to be convincing as a Shakespeare actor; you have to have the high notes; you have to have the low part; you have to have the metal to pass over the orchestra; you have to have the velvet to sing the love duet." He, of course, had it all.
He has led us to know that more is possible. Perhaps opera today is what he has made it.