The Telegraph, 22 Feb 2015
By Camilla Turner
Jonas Kaufmann: classical music industry is run like an artistic 'catastrophe'
The world-famous tenor says that he and his colleagues feel as though they are in 'straight-jackets'

Jonas Kaufmann, one of the world's most famous living tenors, has said that the classical music industry is run like an artistic “catastrophe” and is killing off the “spontaneity” and “passion” of performers.

Speaking on Desert Island Discs, the German opera singer said that he and his colleagues felt as though they were in “straight-jackets”, having to make diary commitments years in advance.

“I always compare it to a painter and you have to make him choose the colours that he will paint in five years’ time,” Kaufmann, 45, said.

“They will all tell you 'no way, I mean who knows who I will feel then?' Because one of the more important ingredients of artistry is actually the spontaneity and the passion that comes from within.

“On the other hand, obviously at a time of financial crisis you can be very happy and thankful to have contracts for such a long period, but artistically speaking it’s a catastrophe.”

Kaufmann said he was thankful to be in the “rare position” to “actually do something against it by just refusing to sign contracts" which are too far advance for his liking.

He lamented that fact that people would sooner book tickets for blockbuster films or musicals than for the opera.

“There are so many cheaper tickets to have access to classical music and to opera and still people hesitate to come,” he said.

“They just want to see the show, they want to be entertained. We are also in the entertainment industry. You don’t need to read three books before you understand [opera].”

He said his luxury item would be a coffee machine because “without coffee life is not half as worth it”.

Kaufmann, who is an accomplished Lieder singer as well as a tenor, is best known for his performances in spinto roles such as Don José in Carmen, Cavaradossi in Tosca, Maurizio in Adriana Lecouvreur, and the title role in Don Carlos.

Last February he was said to have provoked “one of the greatest ovations in recent memory” at the New York Metropolitan Opera House, for his interpretation of the tortured poet Werther in Massenet’s opera of the same name.

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