For years I’ve read about German tenor Jonas Kaufman, even before he sang at New York’s Metropolitan Opera (the ‘Met’). I first heard him at the Met in Verdi’s La Traviata , and again last year at a small group concert put on by Barry Tucker (son of tenor Richard Tucker, one of the 20th century’s opera greats). Kaufman sang and acted beautifully, and last year I heard him singing even more beautifully as Siegfried in Wagner’s Die Walküre. Yesterday, 10/30/11, my wife and I were lucky to obtain tickets to hear him again, this time in a recital of German and French songs at the sold-out Met.
What an experience! Kaufman is undoubtedly one of today’s great vocalists; his voice may not be as distinctive as tenor Richard Tucker’s or Jussi Björling’s but I must address what makes Kaufman awesome: he has incredible voice control, is able to sing with complete flexibility from loud to incredibly soft, always with distinctive phrasing, emphasis, and ‘rubato’ (applying flexible rhythm within musical phrases).
The concert was more than graced by Kaufman’s awesome piano accompanist, Austrian Helmut Deutsch .
The packed audience erupted in bravos at the formal program’s end. Virtually nobody left until after Kaufman completed his fifth encore; people who finally began to leave, stopped in their tracks as soon as they heard him again singing with amazing stamina, his sixth encore.
Kaufman is certainly terrific when singing opera, but even better when singing songs. My one concern was that since voice projects directionally (forward), a soloist should rotate somewhat while singing, enabling most of the audience to at least occasionally savor the full glory of great singing.