Daily Mail, 27 April 2013
Konzert, Royal Festival Hall, London, 21. April 2013
Where Jonas Kaufmann really wins is in his beauty of tone
Jonas Kaufmann, Royal Festival Hall, London
German tenor Jonas Kaufmann is the business.

Mix his smouldering good looks with a beautifully honed voice and an acute musical intelligence, and you’ve got a singer with few rivals today.

Indeed, I can think of only one, the Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja. Kaufmann is Domingo to Calleja’s Pavarotti, and we’re lucky to have the choice.

Kaufmann is here for a run of Don Carlo at Covent Garden starting on Saturday.

Happily, the indefatigable Raymond Gubbay – whom God preserve because he’s been putting on great shows for almost half a century without a penny of public subsidy – also snapped up Kaufmann for a gig celebrating this year’s two big birthdays, Verdi and Wagner, both of whom were born in 1813.

Kaufmann’s Verdi is still work in progress, but since the premature death of Fritz Wunderlich back in the Sixties, I can’t think of a German tenor who’s so at home in Italian opera.

Maybe Kaufmann’s Puccini is more idiomatic than his Verdi, but at the Royal Festival Hall he still treated us to some splendidly phrased, full-bodied singing in connoisseur’s-choice arias from Luisa Miller, Simon Boccanegra, The Force Of Destiny and, of course, Don Carlo: music of real depth and subtlety.

After the break came the Wagner: bits and pieces from The Valkyrie, The Mastersingers and Parsifal, plus a fistful of encores that must surely have proved to any doubters – not, of course, including me – that here is one of the few singers of today who bears comparison with anyone from the golden age of Wagner; singing that petered out more than 40 years ago.

Kaufmann’s command of Wagner’s idiom is near total, but where he really wins through is in his beauty of tone.

I can’t think of another Wagner tenor active today who has it, and very few in recorded history who rival him in this regard.

In this excellent recital he was well partnered by his colleague from the Zurich Opera, Jochen Rieder, and the Philharmonia, on good form given how little rehearsal time Gubbay’s tight budget allows.

All the orchestral extracts sounded well, with the Philharmonia woodwind, led by clarinettist Andrew Marriner, a recent signing from the London Symphony Orchestra, contributing some distinguished solos.

By the way, if you want to hear how good Kaufmann’s Wagner is, his new Decca all-Wagner CD, issued earlier this year, is well worth a listen.

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