Sunday, August 23, 2015

Interview with Jonas Kaufmann

Kleine Zeitung, July 26, 2015  [My usual translation.  I apologize that there is no link.]


He is one of the big stars of this year's Salzburg Festival. On August 4, Janas Kaufmann will premiere as Florestan in "Fidelio".

For fans in September there will be a special gift, namely the new CD "Nessun dorma - The Puccini Album" - recorded in Rome. You sang this repertoire recently at La Scala Milan. This was sort of a special appearance? 

Jonas Kaufmann: I had promised to sing "Cavalleria Rusticana" and "Pagliacci" at La Scala. But my schedule is too full. I had to cancel. This concert was a sort of reparation.

Is there a history to this album? 

KAUFMANN: Shortly before my twelfth birthday the Three Tenors brought out their first CD. With a terrific recording of "Nessun dorma" from Puccini's "Turandot". Even today I get goosebumps when I remember it. For a long time I did not even dare to think about singing "Nessun dorma". Now finally I have dared.

What is so special for you about "Nessun dorma"? 

KAUFMANN: At the very beginning, the first notes are a madness. I can only think of one thing: wow! And how Pavarotti sang it, with his amazing, unique voice. As I said: The goosebumps have stayed with me.

A jump to Salzburg, to "Fidelio". No debut for you. What has so irritated [excited?]you about singing Florestan in the Festival City? 

KAUFMANN: That Claus Guth is directing. A very interesting man. I liked his ideas by our first "Fidelio" conversation.

How will he lay out his production?

KAUFMANN: I promise you: We do not appear in pajamas. We've already done that. Let yourself be surprised. I only want to tell this much: It won't be a conservative staging. The dialogue will be used differently than usual. [To say the least.] There are film clips. Also in Salzburg cameras will be there. Like the concert in Milan, which will be shown at a later date in more than 1,000 cinemas in 40 countries.

Do you mind cameras at an appearance? 

KAUFMANN: In Milan I did not like them initially, then no longer. Before cameras I don't sing differently than usual. It would be completely wrong to do anything differently. I think I have always a good relationship with cameras.

You are often referred to as "the greatest tenor of our time". How do you get through that? How lives the "greatest tenor of our time"? 

KAUFMANN (laughs): By not thinking about such a thing, because he knows what great privilege this profession is. And the beauty is the more energy you give, the more comes back. But that's a different energy than in life. A spiritual. The risk is just to do too much. I realize that I cannot continue. A bit of it is about survival. I will shorten my schedule.

Some tenors complain that they have to always be the "good guys" The ones with the deep voices have the much more interesting theatrical roles:. The villains. 

KAUFMANN: There's something to that. But still: The Pinkerton in "Madama Butterfly" is a hard, unpleasant type and Alfredo in "La Traviata" you could accuse him of being so blind and stupid in some situations. Or the main characters in "Pagliacci" and "Cavalleria Rusticana". I gladly sing both operas, because these guys are not unlike each other. The one: a crazy freak who kills his wife, and the other - also pretty crazy.

On the stage you have already embodied plenty of roles. That's certain. Or are there moments where you could really cry? 

KAUFMANN: When I first saw the "Butterfly" at a young age, it blew me away. I was totally speechless, because I so took seriously everything that was happening on the stage. Naturally: The innocence fades with time. Nevertheless: Sometimes those moments come back and with them the tears. Once in a "Parsifal" under Daniele Gatti, I was close to it. I held myself back with difficulty. But I have watched as the prompter wept.  [Picturing the prompter weeping is why I decided to translate this.]

The word "sexy" also belongs to your image. 

KAUFMANN: Such compliments are indeed charming, but I don't take this too seriously.

You are the father of three children, but live apart from the family. Do you feel that you care enough for your children? 

KAUFMANN: No. Or yes, I try as often as possible to see them. I tell myself every now and then: There are jobs where the fathers have even less time. But: The first answer was the more honest. No.

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