The Australian, August 12, 2014
Konzert, Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House, 10. August 2014
A ten out of tenor performance from a vocal virtuoso Jonas Kaufmann
FEW Australian debut appearances were as keenly awaited as that of German tenor Jonas Kaufmann. With his movie-star good looks, slender build and spectacular voice, he’s described as the complete package.
It was Kaufmann’s rich, dark-hued timbre that made his voice so distinctive. Its baritonal quality brought incredible strength, depth, richness and complexity to his middle and lower registers. Yet he fearlessly soared into his firm-voiced top register and hit the high notes with ease. It was remarkable.

Kaufmann’s artistry goes even deeper. Throughout his concert, he sustained resounding clarity and a focused tonal core. His dynamic control was extraordinary while his vibrato was so sensitively deployed it was almost imperceptible until required. He is fluent in four languages, and his diction was excellent.

At first glance, one might have considered Kaufmann’s program parsimonious. Each aria was interspersed with an orchestral interlude. But it quickly became clear why. The arias he’d chosen were both technically and interpretatively taxing.

Kaufmann is renowned for his intensity and insight. So it proved, resulting in some of the most outstanding singing and compelling artistry I’ve ever witnessed.

In both Recondita armonia from Puccini’s Tosca and The Flower Song from Bizet’s Carmen, for instance, Kaufmann’s periodically soft-grained voice and spellbinding mezza and sotto voce passages created touching expressions of love.

By contrast, his explosive reading of Vesti la giubba from Leon­cavallo’s I Pagliacci burned with ferocity. Banishing the darker colours from his timbre, he delivered a brilliant display of fervent top-register singing in Mamma, quel vino e generoso from Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana.

The concert’s other three arias showed the fullest range of Kaufmann’s dramatic and vocal gifts. His shapely phrasing and flexibility in Pourquoi me reveiller from Massenet’s Werther realised its twin emotions of sadness and joy. In both Don Alvaro’s Act III aria from La Forza del destino and Improvviso from Andrea Chenier, his sense of line and seamless dynamic shifts from unadorned quietude to full-voiced fortissimo power astutely balanced sensuous lyricism and intensity.

Conductor Jochen Rieder and the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra provided sensitive ­accompaniments. Aside from two Verdi overtures, which lacked ­urgency and focus, they created evocatively coloured accounts of other orchestral excerpts.

But this was Kaufmann’s evening. He generously responded to the sustained standing ovations with three encores.

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