Seen and Heard International, 21/07/2020
|by Jim Pritchard
Met in HD online: Polling, Opern-Recital, 18. Juli 2020
The Met presents Jonas Kaufmann Live in Concert from Bavaria
The Metropolitan Opera launched its new pay-per-view recital series, Met
Stars Live in Concert, with tenor Jonas Kaufmann performing at the Polling
Abbey in Upper Bavaria. Accompanied by Helmut Deutsch, the German tenor sang
a program of blockbuster arias from the Italian verismo period and
nineteenth-century French opera. No complaints whatsoever about the recital
for Kaufmann was in excellent voice, but the format was a bit of a jumble.
Kaufmann chose Polling Abbey, once home to the second largest library in
Bavaria, for his performance. The monastery was dissolved in the early
nineteenth century under military and diplomatic pressure from Napoleon, and
its fate was entangled in the most extensive redistribution of property and
territories in German history prior to the end of World War II. The
eighteenth-century library, long devoid of books, was restored in the 1970s
and is now a concert hall.
For all the recitals in the series, the
proximity of venue to singer is key since flying isn’t very attractive at
the moment. The Met is going to take its audiences to some exciting
destinations over the upcoming months. With wanderlust stifled at the
moment, a bit more of the natural beauty, especially in a part of the world
as picturesque as Bavaria in midsummer, would have been most welcome. We are
as thirsty for travel and adventure as we are for live performance, and for
many these go hand in glove.
Kaufmann was in excellent voice with his
dark, burnished sound giving dramatic depth and urgency to every note that
he sang. His high notes always rang, albeit not always effortlessly, but at
this stage of his career that is beside the point. In fact, the
imperfections in his singing tend to humanize this man upon whom nature
lavished such a voice, a handsome, dashing countenance and talent galore.
The bit of vulnerability, including vocal, that Kaufmann displays on
occasion and his willingness to take a risk make him all the more
captivating an artist.
The most magical moment of the recital was
Licinio Refice’s ‘Ombra di Nube’, written especially for the great Italian
soprano Claudia Muzio in 1935. Kaufmann spun its haunting melody with a
calm, almost serene intensity. The song’s bittersweet sentiments are
perfectly matched to this time. It was balm for the soul.
course, were the draw for the intended audience, and there was plenty of raw
tenor meat tossed to the lions. Favorites were a matter of personal taste.
The words ‘O dolci baci, o languide carezze’ from Cavaradossi’s aria ‘E
lucevan le stelle’ were suspended in air as Kaufmann caressed each word. He
repeated the effect in the soft, soaring opening phrases of ‘O paradis sorti
de l’onde’ from Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine. Throughout, the tenor made use of
messa di voce (the singing of a gradual crescendo and decrescendo on a
sustained tone), and it was a thing of beauty each and every time.
the Italian repertoire, ‘L’anima ho stanca’ from Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur
and ‘Un dì, all’azzurro spazio’ from Giordano’s Andrea Chénier were
particularly impressive. Kaufmann employed a more tightly coiled sound in
the Cilea aria that was not only vocally intriguing but added tension to the
performance. Tenors with a third the voice end recitals with ‘Nessun dorma’:
could we expect anything less from Kaufmann?
Helmut Deutsch counts
Kaufmann among his students. It was a delight to hear him play the piano
reductions of the orchestral accompaniments for the arias, and an added
bonus were piano versions of the intermezzi from Manon Lescaut and
Pagliacci. A masterful musician, he conjured up the colors and vitality of a
full orchestra with his swirling, complex and nuanced playing.
broadcast had an autumnal feeling to it, which was the result of videos of
Kaufmann singing arias from some of his starring roles at the Met, as well
as a searing account of ‘Vesti la giubba’ from his much-acclaimed
performances as Canio in Pagliacci at the 2015 Salzburg Easter Festival.
Coupled with the photographs of Kaufmann in various roles and poses that
were shown during Deutsch’s piano solos, the program had the feel of a
retrospective of Kaufmann’s career.
I would have gotten my twenty
bucks worth from this recital without any of the video clips or extraneous
chat (Christine Goerke is the host for all these live streams). With his
choice of arias, Kaufmann was directly pointing to the future. The Met,
however, seemed more intent on reliving past glories, which anyone can
experience for free on the terrific Nightly Met Opera Streams. In fact, a
1982 La bohème was an impediment to finishing this review, which of course
reminded me that I had experienced Kaufmann as Rodolfo in Zurich about the
time his Met career was just taking off.