ABC Limelight, Jun 29, 2011
Today's 12 Greatest Opera Singers
Limelight's panel of experts presents 12 opera stars making musical history.
Renée Fleming
Natalie Dessay
Anna Netrebko
Cecilia Bartoli
Elina Garanca
Joyce DiDonato
Juan Diego Flórez
Plácido Domingo
Jonas Kaufmann
“Kaufmann has Wunderlich’s magical fusion of Heldentenor power and lyrical tenderness in equal quantities.” Greg Keane

Jonas Kaufmann has been hailed by many as the greatest German lyric tenor since Fritz Wunderlich, especially since his 2009 recording of Die Schöne Müllerin has become regarded as a new benchmark. But, like most of the singers on this list, Kaufmann has made a career out of his versatility, garnering plaudits for his roles in Italian, French and, of course, German opera. His Florestan is a perfectly controlled mixture of agony and exaltation. His Don Jose gets the kind of acclamation rarely reserved for any tenor not called Domingo. While Kaufmann’s voice is capable of the most lyrical sweetness, making him an accomplished performer of Lieder, one is constantly astonished by the size of his voice on the opera stage.

He began his stage career at the Staatstheater Saarbrücken in 1994, then did the rounds of the German opera houses, becoming known for his Tamino in Die Zauberflöte and Belmonte in Die Entführung. Now based in Zurich, where he has had a contract at the opera house since 2001, Kaufmann has moved into the darker waters of Wagner, performing the title roles of Parsifal and Lohengrin. The tenor’s good looks – more Latin lover than German Heldentenor – are also no disadvantage to the singer in a recording business desperate to make opera look sexy. After a calling-card first solo album for Decca, his sophomore album is a more focused effort of Mozart, Beethoven and Wagner. Kaufmann has taken a slightly too highbrow path to repeat the stadium success of The Three Tenors – but his talent is a match for any of theirs.

Bryn Terfel
Simon Keenlyside
René Pape

Thanks to our panel
Warwick Fyfe, baritone; Amelia Farrugia, soprano; Emma Matthews, soprano; Brian Castles-Onion, conductor; Brett Weymark, conductor; Anthony Legge, conductor; Damien Beaumont, ABC presenter; Maree Ryan, chair of vocal studies, Sydney Conservatorium; Sarah Noble, opera critic; Anthony Clarke, Limelight critic; Greg Keane, Limelight critic; Ken Page, Limelight critic; Francis Merson, Limelight editor; Steven Murdoch, Limelight reader; Roberta Small, Limelight reader.

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