Friday, February 05, 2016

Why are tenors so erotic?

[I am overdue for a translation:]

Bunte, 44/2015
Interview: Claus Dreckmann
Why are tenors so erotic?

JONAS KAUFMANN talks about how it is to be an object of desire - and about his two biggest crises

For classical music fans he exerts an irresistible attraction: Jonas Kaufmann, 46. The smart appearance is paired with the star tenor with an exceptional voice. Recently he was awarded the ECHO Klassik - for the sixth time

Bunte reveals why he is sometimes gladly an "object of desire" and what makes the tenor voice so erotic. He who should doubt this can convince himself with his new CD "Nessun Dorma -The Puccini Album" ...

You sing Puccini, Verdi, Wagner, Strauss Johann, Strauss Richard, Schubert, Massenet, Mahler, Lehar ... How do you manage to meet expectations in such diverse composers at the highest level? 

If listeners find that I meet expectations in different styles and languages, then I am very pleased. I want to maintain this diversity as long as it's vocally possible for me, and I think that it is precisely this mixture of partly very different repertoire that keeps the voice flexible. Anyway, I've always found that a Wagnerian role benefits if I have previously sung Verdi or Puccini - and vice versa.

What music do you prefer: Puccini or Wagner? 

I do not want to miss either one. Both Wagner, as well as Puccini's music have a tremendous suction force, which one as listener can hardly escape. Both composers have set the sensual effect of their music, both have understood it masterfully to symphonically illustrate the inner life of their characters. Whereby Puccini’s works are certainly even "cinematic." Not for nothing are his operas often associated with film music. He painted pictures with music.

The eternal issue: How important is the appearance of a singer? 

The appearance of singers has become more important in the era of opera transmissions in the cinema and television and on DVD, it seems to me logical, and if singers therefore pay more attention to their figure, then that's just okay. But if first class singers are replaced by mediocre ones, because the former are less "telegenic", and if more emphasis is put on optical than on vocal or musical criteria, then the pain threshold is reached for me. And basically the criteria for optical credibility in the opera are so different from film. There might be a 15-year-old Butterfly or l7-year-old Salome who doubles for an experienced singer, but not live on stage.

Does it bother you as star tenor always to be an "object of desire"? Or is it a cliché from the past? 

It annoys me when it's all about my appearance and has nothing to do with my voice and performance. Not only on stage but also in concerts we want singers who are appreciated and sought after primarily because of our performance. If I am a singer and performer "object of desire," then I'll take that as a compliment.

What makes the eroticism of the tenor voice?

That has already been asked by philosophers like Ernst Bloch who has described the tenor as a "singing Erotikon". Does it have to do primarily with the fact that the romantic lovers were mostly written for tenor voice?  One would have to reply that many famous tenors optically were not exactly the Latin Lover type. So it must have primarily to do with the sound, especially with the sound development in the high notes.

Are there any boundaries for modern productions? Would you get out when something totally goes against the grain? 

The limit would be reached when music and text are in no way respected and the director only seeks to provoke a scandal, to get a lot of attention from the press. Then I would try to propose something constructive. Of course, there are situations where one is so annoyed that one would rather get out. But he who gets out, cannot change anything, let alone save it. So I'm always for first seeking dialogue with the director to see if you cannot find a common path.

Can you imagine ever living without the general public, the great applause? 

Most certainly! Twice I came to the place where I had to think: How would life be without the stage? That was during my novice crisis in Saarbrücken, where I was on the stage in a small part, and the voice went completely away, and in June 2012, as an infection was so persistent that I had to take two months off. In both cases, I said to myself: If I can’t sing any longer, then I’ll have to do something else.

You won again an ECHO Klassik. Can you still be happy about such prizes? 

But yes! Such awards are recognition of my work. Who would not be happy?

[Naturally he agrees with me.]

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