Evening Standard, 07 April 2014
Barry Millington
Schubert: Winterreise, London, Royal Opera House, 6. April 2014
Jonas Kaufmann, Royal Opera House - music review
Kaufmann filled the space with the persona of the suicidally despondent winter traveller
Pitting himself against the demands of the big Wagner and Verdi roles, Jonas Kaufmann has earned a reputation as one of the most accomplished operatic tenors before the public today. With Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise the challenges are very different: verbal nuance and vivid characterisation need to be fused on a much smaller canvas.

The main stage of the Royal Opera is not an ideal venue for such an intimate work, yet Kaufmann filled the space, not with tone, nor with his undeniably charismatic presence, but with the persona of the suicidally despondent winter traveller.

There were occasional eruptions of sound at moments of anger or despair but the nuances had to be largely taken on trust. What impressed, however, was the prevailing register: the intense concentration and focus of the poetic and musical content — to which pianist Helmut Deutsch made the contribution of a true partner.

Heroic tenors and musical intelligence all too rarely coincide. But Kaufmann is that rare creature: a singer possessed of a gloriously burnished tone apparently capable of anything, who is yet willing to sacrifice volume and éclat in the greater cause of artistic truth. Altogether an extraordinary achievement.

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