Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

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Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

I have been a little perplex reading spectacular critics about Kaufmann's performances. I agree he is a short handsome and informal dressing young tenor with a peculiar voice. But, is it permissible such a degree of squillo lack? Real high notes' lack? I remember when, a long while ago, it arrived to my hands that first Vickers' recital under Serafin. He was the opposite of Kaufmann existing a clear similarity as some kind of miniature of him in Kaufmann's general profile. But Vickers had (and has if he is still alive) a formidable squillo together with an uniform voice, as for the emission and colour. Obviously Kaufmann is very much smart. But, since Domingo, are we living and age of just smart tenors? Watching Kaufmann he makes action a lot vivid, probably too much. But voice is straightly rare. Sometimes, during piano or mezza voce parts, actually it submerges. And high notes are very much like Vickers, but felt by me as cries. As a matter of fact, I listened a B instead a C in Faust (also in Chenier), and there we are talking about a written high note, not as in the Pira. In German works he sounds for me better, but in any case, I have been unable to appreciate his exceptionallity. There are a lot of excellent tenors arround, with brave squillos and splendid uniformity of emission, as Botha and O'Neill, but they arn't handsome and accentuate the vocal perspective with probably poor acting, not so O'Neill. I feel that Kaufmann's success is not based on his vocal qualities, but on foreign perspectives that are easy to find inside the purely operatic world. It doesn't seem to me a serious attitude that promotes correct appreciation of Opera and its performers, specially for beginners. Where are Björling's, Gigli's, Del Monaco's, Vickers', Bergonzi's, Di Stefano's, Tuckers's, etc's times?

 

Kind regards

"Man is innocent when just born and when corps"

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

I think your being a bit harsh on herr kaufmann. I liked him a lot in the recent fidelio with abbado. Sure he be pleasing on the eye if you are a lady but you carnt hold that against him. I must admit I do like that nina stemme though. Your opera as changed a lot in the last 100 years since you could just stand there and belt out the songs with a few stock jestures, thaart Callas saw to that she did. I do agree that squillos be a problem though, shot gun be the best way to deal with those bushy tailed creatures.

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

Be you by chance a pal of Farmer Giles aka J. Eliot Gardiner? He be a great bugbear of mine with all that cowdung on 'is boots.

Adrian

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

Adrian3 wrote:

Be you by chance a pal of Farmer Giles aka J. Eliot Gardiner? He be a great bugbear of mine with all that cowdung on 'is boots.

It be squire Giles who got me into those Schumann symphonies, always taught they be a bit lumpy like cornish custard before he came along, loves em now though. He not be a real farmer though, he be a city type who rides around his gargen on a lawnmower shouting 'oh ar' every five minutes. scares the life out of me he does sometimes with his quick tempi. If I had a tempi like is i'd seek anger management i would.

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

This is a pointless topic.

Either you like the voice or you don't

Listen to Butterfly and Werther and if you like music you can't have reservation.

Or get hold of the Sensucht document from television.

Please do not bash just for the sake of bashing.

Looks got nothing to do with t.

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

Grammar! Spelling! See me, all of you. And bring back Bonisolli.

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

stevefarber wrote:

And bring back Bonisolli.

That would be a good trick.

JKH

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

An opera singer who makes you think is exceptional, if he had a standard tenor voice like the thousands that perform in regional companies around the world - we wouldn't care less, but his voice is unique! It brings real character to any role he has performed. We shouldn't write him off just because he is extremely handsome. 

HeidelbergSoprano

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

HeidelbergSoprano wrote:

We shouldn't write him off just because he is extremely handsome. 

The good lady tagalia would totally agree with you. Her often-voiced complaint about opera is that while many of today's leading ladies are very attractive most of the men are toads. Kaufmann, in her view, is one of the rare exceptions, easy on the eye as well as the ear.

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

tagalie wrote:

HeidelbergSoprano wrote:

We shouldn't write him off just because he is extremely handsome. 

The good lady tagalia would totally agree with you. Her often-voiced complaint about opera is that while many of today's leading ladies are very attractive most of the men are toads. Kaufmann, in her view, is one of the rare exceptions, easy on the eye as well as the ear.

In answer to the original question - yes, he is.

Tagalie, I empathise. Mission Control, whilst very impressed with his singing, nonetheless frequently reminds me that "he's very tasty, too", most recently at his wonderful RFH recital.

JKH

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

Jonas is good, maybe good enough to keep you listening to the end, but he doesn't give me goose bumps, any true excitement in the vein of the depth and power of a Vickers' voice or the nobility and versatility of a Gedda, or the consistency of a James King and Jess Thomas and so on. And, even if he makes me "think" occasionally, he never made me think he is exceptional...

So, good looks, good voice, good singing=a safe way to the great array of the second best.

Parla

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

I think we can all be guilty of looking back on the singers we grew up with as presenting some sort of ideal, but I do think that many of today's opera singers can be fantastic stage performers, whilst lacking in real vocal personality. I have always responded most to those voices that are immediately recognisable from just a few notes - Callas, Gobbi, Vickers, Schwarzkopf, De Los Angeles, Baker - but they are recognisable because of their ability to act with the voice. Of today's singers, DiDonato has impressed me far more on stage than on record, which is perhaps as it should be, but it is odd that her recorded performances lack the vivid personality of her stage ones.

Maybe this is also true of Kaufmann. I haven't seen him live yet, but I was mightily impressed by his Cavaradossi in the recent Covent Garden relay of Tosca. Vocally it may not have been as exciting as that of Pavarotti, but it was certainly musical and thoughtfully conceived. It also helps too that the man looks good and can act. Did Pavarotti ever really suggest the youthful revolutionary of Puccini's imaginings? Perhaps if you closed your eyes, but opera is also a visual medium. Too bad there were no tenors like Kaufmann around when Callas and Gobbi took the roles of Tosca and Scarpia back in 1964. Terfel's thuggish Scarpia (the antithesis of Gobbi's reptilian aristocrat) was equally plausible. Between such singing actors, Gheorghiu reminded me more of an old school prima donna. Whereas Kaufmann and Terfel were completely inside their roles, I was always aware she was acting, however good her actual singing.

 

 

 

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

That's a very thoughtful and fair post. I've posted elsewhere about the futility of comparisons and 'ranking' of singers. "Kaufmann will never be as good as [fill in one's own personal favourites]" really is a pointless exercise as far as I'm concerned. There has never been a time (including the so-called Golden Age) when there weren't complaints that the standard of singing was declining. Caruso was criticised for not being Jean De Reszke, who in turn was compared unfavourably with Mario, for example. 

Your point about comparative lack of individuality - that unique quality which allows one to identify a voice within just a note or two - in today's operatic voices is something I can certainly recognise, but as you rightly say, times change. For me, Kaufmann really is one of those instantly identifiable voices and having seen him live a number of times, I can say that the voice is captured very well by the microphone. This wasn't the case (for me and my ears, at least) with either Domingo or Pavarotti. The former sounded considerably less baritonal in the flesh than he does on record, whilst Pavarotti's voice live had a luscious, velvety quality which I don't think recordings ever quite captured. I saw them both as Cavaradossi and, as you say, the dramatic effect was different in each case, to say the least. You pays your money and takes your choice, as they say.

Calleja is another singer with an instantly identifiable timbre, as is the - in my opinion - sensationally voiced Sondra Radvanovsky.

Re the recent televised Tosca, I agree that Gheorgiu didn't really seem as fully dramatically involved as the the others,but she was considerably better than when I first saw her in this production. Then she seemed hardly involved at all, vocally excellent though she was, and her performance only took off at the curtain call which was a sight to behold. 

 

JKH

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

No matter how nicely you wish to put it and regardless of the "futility of comparisons", Mr. Jonas is not an exceptional tenor.

The critical question is even worse: is there any exceptional singer out there, nowadays?

To me, there is good management of the Opera singing, where singers become a kind of able managers of their art. To a great extent, the same is happening in the development of Classical Music: good management but no much room for exceptional artistry, maybe with some exception in the field of Chamber Music, where the marketing and management are not that domineering.

Parla

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

I hear you, JKH. Our friend reminds me of one of those bottom-weighted toys you put in a budgie's cage. No matter how badly it's beaten-up it always returns to its starting position, no change whatsoever.

Tsaraslondon raises a good point. How does vocal distinctiveness amongst today's singers compare with yesterday? Certainly we don't have a Callas, a Vickers or a Pavarotti but we do have Fleming and Florez, to name two whose voices are instantly recognizable on cd.

Whether vocal acting or distinctiveness is the be-all-and-end-all for today's singers, gives food for thought. I'm very happy that dvd/bluray and televised performances are allowing a wider audience to assess opera for what it really is, a multi-faceted and incredibly complex art form, not just a vehicle for singing. Park and bark performances don't cut it any more. The camera puts us all at front row or closer. What singers used to try to portray with hand to heart and forehead can now be projected with the eyes alone. Similar changes are happening in the theatre. Listen to Ian McKellen talk about how he plays Lear today, compared to yesterday.

Given these changes, should singers shift emphasis from vocal to physical acting, or are both essential? Certainly, at camera range there's a danger of over-acting. Perhaps character projection has become more of a question of balancing modes of expression. And back to Kaufmann, it has also become increasingly important that singers look as well as act the part. We're no longer content to squint from 40 rows back and make believe that the roly-poly tenor jammed into that costume is in fact a young warrior.

Incidentally, the double standard still seems to operate in opera. Voigt, Brewer and others are given ultimatums to cut down on the fish suppers while Margison, Vargas and quite a few others continue to pack it on. Watching Heppner emerge from his dungeon in Fidelio after months of starvation is an exercise in keeping a straight face. This, I feel, will change.

In total, these considerations underline the futility of comparing one era with another. Comparisons over time are as fraught with ifs, ands and buts in opera as in sport.

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

tagalie wrote:

Tsaraslondon raises a good point. How does vocal distinctiveness amongst today's singers compare with yesterday? Certainly we don't have a Callas, a Vickers or a Pavarotti but we do have Fleming and Florez, to name two whose voices are instantly recognizable on cd.

A lot o folk make same point about violinists or piano players, that they have no style today and though technically excellent they are unrecognisable from one another. Happen it might be a lot of the recognisable traits of the past be terrible mannerisms that are now frowned upon and stamped out. I think we harve some bootiful singers around today and if truth be told thaart callas can sound a bit harsh and wobbly sometimes and I loves her me does. 

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