The Times, September 11, 2015
Neil Fisher
Everyone’s talking about . . . Jonas Kaufmann at the Last Night of the Proms
Rule, Britannia! Or should that be, Herrsche, Gross Britannien!? Next weekend, the superstar tenor Jonas Kaufmann becomes the first German singer to perform the patriotic anthem at the Last Night of the Proms. It’s a new twist for this annual jamboree, an event that brings the world’s largest classical music festival to an end, normally in a red, white and blue blur of flag-waving, topped off by a heartwarming speech from one of the world’s more rhetorically gifted conductors — this year it’s Marin Alsop for the second time.

Intriguingly, in a recent newspaper interview, the 46-year-old Kaufmann didn’t rule out singing at least one verse of Rule, Britannia! in German rather than English. “You tell me,” he said to the journalist who suggested a multilingual battle cry, adding that he feels “like an ambassador” to be marking this particular first in Proms history.

Kaufmann did not discuss what he would be wearing on stage, alas — almost as crucial an issue as what he’ll be singing, given both the tousle-haired, swarthy singer’s appeal to many opera (and non-opera) fans as a pin-up, and the outlandish sartorial choices made by some of his Proms predecessors. In 1991 Gwyneth Jones appeared at the Last Night in full Brünnhilde fig: spear, shield and winged helmet, while in 1994 Bryn Terfel sported a Welsh rugby kit. Perhaps Kaufmann could take a leaf out of Sarah Connolly’s 2009 performance, when she dressed like Admiral Lord Nelson. 2015 does mark 200 years since a British-German alliance defeated treacherous Bonaparte, so Kaufmann could always pretend he was Prussia’s hero of Waterloo, General Blücher. We already know he looks good in breeches, a look he last modelled in London for Giordano’s Andrea Chénier at Covent Garden.Whatever he’s wearing, however, you can be sure Kaufmann will sound pretty good. Currently at his vocal peak, and with a new Puccini album to promote, Kaufmann will preface Rule, Britannia! with dollops of Puccini — including Nessun Dorma — and don’t be surprised if there’s an unscheduled duet with the evening’s other vocal soloist, Danielle de Niese, too. By the time the confetti rains down and everyone is singing Auld Lang Syne, I suspect any resistance will be futile.

The Last Night of the Proms is at the Albert Hall, London SW7 on September 12, broadcast live on BBC Two and BBC Radio 3

What they say
“The Last Night of the Proms has people cheering and waving flags, but still there is classical music. That’s the dream come true.” Jonas Kaufmann
“Not only is Kaufmann recognised as the greatest tenor since Pavarotti, his much-gushed-about locks make him the closest thing the opera world has to Justin Bieber.” The Huffington Post


 back top