Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

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RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

I hear you too, my friend Tagalie.

For clarification's reasons, I wish to reiterate that what I know is that Opera is neither a multi-faceted and definitely not an "incredibly complex art form". It's simply a popular form of theatre (and probably the most popular form of Classical Music), where the "actors" sing instead of speaking and they are judged only (or predominantly) for that. In other works, Opera is all about singing!

So, when I claim Mr. Kaufmann is not an exceptional tenor, I don't mean he's not a good (or very good) opera singer. I just underline that, vocally speaking, he is not that special, that unique. By the way, whenever I saw any of these modern "managers" of the opera singing live, either in full opera performances or in concert, I never appreciated them more than their recordings (except for Netrebko, perhaps). Even their acting skills look like a capable "management" of the role rather than a true committed performance. Most of the time, I feel pleased, but never thrilled, excited, transformed. And how come? Any acting cannot be convincing without the great weapon of the voice and the brilliant use of it. In the Opera House, I don't go for the acting but rather for the musical and vocal acting. The Voice and the Music make all the difference.

Parla

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

tagalie wrote:

Opera is popular theatre? By what yardstick do you apply the term "popular theatre" to opera?

Come,come Tagalie. Surely you can't have missed all those old music halls putting on performances of Don Carlos and The Ring with seasoned panto performers and ex-actors from The Bill? And what about those impromptu open-mike sessions in the local boozer when they put on shows such as Wozzeck and Palestrina?

 

 

JKH

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

Dear Tagalie, you don't read me well.

When I said "Opera is a popular form of theatre", I didn't mean it is cheap or trivial. It's a form of theatre (with music and actors who sing) for the people. Compared to any other genre of Classical Music, it's the one who can address the wider public, more than the Chamber Music with its very exclusive fans, more than the concert-goers, who need a minimum knowledge of the Symphonic repertory and preparation for the concert, more than the very solemn character of Choral Music. A Carmen or a Barbiere or a Traviata have the immediate appeal to the people, regardless of preparation and with a direct effect much stronger and more effective than almost anything else in Classical Music.

In Berlin, they struggle to keep up with the two Orchestras they have, while they can serve well the three Opera Houses. In Dresden, after the restoration of Semper Opera, the House is almost full, all the time. The Dresden Philharmonic?..(Still, some faithful ones go to some concerts in their conventional Hall).

As for my second "claim", I said : "The Voice and the Music make all the difference". Which means that, of course, the drama, the staging, the literature (is any libretto real literature that can stand any performance of its own?) and dancing (when applicable) are necessary, but without the Music and the Voice(s) the other factors cannot work, while with the voices and the music you can tolerate the rest. So, I never implied to remove any element of the Opera; I simply claimed that we need the great voices and the respective conductors to reach this level of the unique Opera performance.

To give you an example: As a potential producer in an imaginary time, are you going to stage "La Boheme" with Pavarotti and Freni along with mediocrities in direction, visual effects, costumes, etc. or the same work with the best stage director, the greatest costume designer, the best available visual effects and anything else you may wish, but with a third rate voice tenor and a wobbly dissonant soprano?

I hope by now, you may comprehend my point(s).

Parla

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

Well in London we have a plethora of orcehstras but just two permanent opera companies (The Royal Opera and The English National Opera), which hardly backs your argument, parla.

As for "La Boheme". my favourite DVD production is of an Australian Opera production with young, though hardly first rate singers, in all the main roles. It's vital, charming and works totally as music drama. On the other hand I remember seeing a video of a performance with a mature Freni (late in her career) and an overweight Pavarotti, that made a complete mockery of the plot. It might have sounded nice, but didn't work dramatically one bit.

 

 

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

sachs wrote:

...is it permissible such a degree of squillo lack?...

sachs, I'm intrigued with your use of the word squillo.  Not being an opera expert I had to look it up and found that the Wikipedia entry is disputed and online dictionaries are no help.  Even Oxford Music Online returned no results.

Would you confirm your definition please?

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

kev wrote:

sachs, I'm intrigued with your use of the word squillo.  Not being an opera expert I had to look it up and found that the Wikipedia entry is disputed and online dictionaries are no help.  Even Oxford Music Online returned no results.

Would you confirm your definition please?

Kev, I was with you so I looked it up on YouTube and found a really interesting set of instructional videos demonstrating squillo and other vocal techniques. I always like finding out something new... and being reminded I know very little about quite a lot. Usually when feeling a little humbled by that I remind myself that I know a lot more about Finite Element Analysis than most... how fragile my ego is! Sadly, I have had no use for FEA in the last 15 years :-(

Naupilus

RE: Jonas Kaufmann

parla wrote:

Dear Tagalie, you don't read me well.

Indeed, Parla, I read you perfectly. And as you always do when you’re called to task, you’ve shifted ground. You said in your previous post, “Opera is neither a multi-faceted and definitely not an "incredibly complex art form. It's simply a popular form of theatre”. So forget about your definition of “popular” (which elsewhere, and repeatedly, you’ve argued means simple and trivial when applied to music). Let’s just go back to my original post:

“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.”

If you want to get into a debate about its popularity, go for it. On any given night along the length of the west coast of the USA and Canada there will be thousands upon thousands of local theatre groups, bands and musical ensembles, revues and comedy shows, in performance. You’ll be lucky to find a single opera. As popular theatre, it’s having a very tough time. Outside of Berlin, of course.

But could I get you to focus on my original point, which is that opera isn’t just about singing? Tsaraslondon said it perfectly. Click onto Amazon and look at reviews for the Australian Opera performance of Boheme. I have the performance. Vocally, Cheryl Barker and David Hobson are very sound, but hardly a match for Freni and Pavarotti. So why do 59 Amazon.com reviewers give the Australian performance 5 stars against 13 for the Freni/Pavarotti Met performance. Because in every respect except for singing, the Australian performance is vastly superior. It’s better-staged, better acted, far more dramatic, better-looking, a more enjoyable total experience. And that, aside from a few die-hards who go on and on about mythical past golden ages, is what most people look for in opera.

I'm off down to the boozer. Two-for-one special on draught and they're doing Alcina tonight.

 

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

kev wrote:

sachs, I'm intrigued with your use of the word squillo.  Not being an opera expert I had to look it up and found that the Wikipedia entry is disputed and online dictionaries are no help.  Even Oxford Music Online returned no results.

Would you confirm your definition please?

Squillo in italian means ringing sound an implies a kind of pitch resonance. Perhaps equates to what we refer to, in the english-speaking world, as 'ping'  - the quality Pavarotti seems to have sadly lost in the performance of Andrea Chenier I just watched. Hope that helps.

Ragazza squillo is a lady of the night. Don't ask me what the connection is.

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

Tsaraslondon, you may have a "plethora of orchestras" in London, but how many survive the test of time and which is the amount and the diversity of the people who attend their concerts? As far as I can tell, the "two permanent opera companies" are doing a much better and solid job, over there.

As for "L Boheme", you (and Tagalie) picked up two specific performances to build your argument. My question is who and what make all the difference in Opera? I don't speak of all round balanced performances or any production that can avoid the worse. I simply claim that the great voices give the thrill of the music the composer wrote and that matters more than anything else. All the rest (acting, staging, visual effects, dancing) add or deduct something of all the extra musical and theatrical features, which might be necessary, can support but cannot serve the actual score.

Since we speak with specific examples, I can mention one: few years ago, in Semper Opera of Dresden, I attended a very well staged, powerfully acted, with excellent costumes and lighting performance of Wagner's Flying Dutchman. In this quite brilliant production, the theatre couldn't find the adequate or at least balanced singers, so they resorted to the first singers available in the...neighbourhood, while for the conducting of such a masterpiece someone Mr. Markl was chosen. The result was an excruciatingly painful listening experience that even my very tolerant wife found it unbearable.

In any case, what I learned from my old professors is that Music should be brilliant, not well-balanced, charming, vital or better-looking, more dramatic and the rest. Brilliance comes with the exceptional talent and skills of the specific artist(s).

Parla

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

I'd say the London Symphony Orchestra, The London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, The BBC Symphony Orchestra, The Orchestra of The Age of Enlightenment, The English Concert, The City of London Sinfonia, The English Chamber Orchestra (and I'm sure I've forgotten quite a few more) have all stood the test of time very well, and I can assure you, as someone who used to work for the London Symphony Orchestra, that audiences are extremely diverse. Evidently you know little of London musical life.

 

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

Thank you, you beat me to it there, Tsaraslondon, probably because I was too busy laughing at Parla's risible observations on the London orchestral and operatic scenes which have, along with his other equally nonsensical witterings on opera, gone way beyond parody. But what would you or I know? We just go to listen to these orchestras and opera companies performing.It would be easier simply to consult some authority or other. I wonder who......

 

JKH

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

Good for you in London, Tsaraslondon. Evidently, I'm not living in London, but I can speak for quite a few other places in the world, where I have lived and visited quite often. If in London, orchestral life might thrive, this is not the case anywhere else. See, for example, what happens to NY Philharmonic in comparison to Met. Or how the orchestras dwindle or even disappear in US.

I know all these orchestras you mentioned. Judging from their recordings, however, I can recognise only the LSO (with its ups and downs) and, to some extent, the BBC S.O. or the City of London Sinfonia (and, maybe, the OAE) thanks mainly to British labels. To have a better picture, may I ask how many Houses (Halls) do you have in London for all these Orchestras and how often do they perform yearly? In Berlin, there are two (main) Halls, where all the local Orchestras, from the Berlin Philharmonic till the smallest one, may perform. Obviously, the quantity and the quality of the concerts are quite uneven. On the contrary, the three Opera Houses thrive with consistent performances of good quality productions and an extreme variety of people of all ages and all kinds. In the ordinary concerts, you see the...usual suspects.

If we have to go to Italy, there is practically nothing but Opera. In France, almost the same. In the rest of Europe or in Asia, where I go to often, the local producers admit that one (good) production of Opera can bring to the House as many and different people as even 10 concerts! Finally, we should take into consideration what the Three Tenors and particularly Pavarotti managed to do with the popularization of Opera and how easily they achieved it.

As for JKH, consult any authority you wish about Opera and let me (us) know about your findings. If you read me well, I mentioned what my professors taught me about Opera is what I claim. So for whatever "funny" or "nonsenical" stuff I defend, put the blame on them (as well).

Parla

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

tagalie wrote:

Squillo in italian means ringing sound an implies a kind of pitch resonance. Perhaps equates to what we refer to, in the english-speaking world, as 'ping'... 

Thanks tagalie, I think I've got it - there's a subtle difference between squillo and timbre.

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

kev wrote:

I'll include YouTube as a reference source from now on. I'm hoping to be able to hear 'squillo' at home but JKH, page 1 #13 in this thread, suggests that the microphone cannot be relied upon.  Anyway, I'll try YouTube, Spotify, CD & vinyl.

Kev, there's an absolute treasure trove of opera and singers of every type on YouTube, much of which is unobtainable anywhere else that I know of. It often throws up fascinating and unexpected gems, such as Gobbi and Sutherland (!) in a substantial chunk of Act 2 of Tosca filmed in the tv studio. It's probably more accurate for me to say that the microphone isn't wholly reliable all of the time as a definitive portrayal of a voice and that there are some singers (Vickers, for example) who, in my opinion, the mikes don't fully capture. Corelli and Warren, by all accounts, were other such examples. And fear not - examples of squillo, that almost indefinable ring or ping at the top of the voice, come over loud and clear on YouTube. If you can, look out for a clip of an Alfredo Kraus masterclass where he is going through some phrases of 'Celeste Aida' with a young tenor. Kraus is an example of a singer whose timbre wasn't all that refulgent or enormously attractive, but nonetheless you'll soon see what I mean - that's squillo!

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(Ego - join the club - I usually think very carefully before posting here so as not to look too ridiculous. And doesn't this forum trigger unpredicted activities? When I woke up this morning, I had no idea I would be looking up Finite Element Analysis and digging out my Pavarotti vinyl).

[/quote]

Please don't think me patronising, but I think that everyone's drawn their own conclusions as to who the ridiculous posters are on the forum, and I don't think you're on the list! 

JKH

RE: Is Jonas Kaufmann really an exceptional tenor?

Parla, I'm not your dad but could I just offer this thought in friendship? It would make all the difference to your posts, and the reaction of others to them, if you would start with, “For my taste ………”, or “For me personally ………..” instead of handing out your views as if you’re Moses just down from Mount Sinai. No reasonable person would take issue with somebody saying that for him or her, the be-all-and-end-all of opera is singing. Others might think you’re missing a great deal of the total entertainment, but that’s your call. However to state categorically, as if it’s a proven fact, that singing is all there is to opera is frankly laughable and makes you sound like a total berk.

Similarly it’s hard to take issue with somebody who states he or she prefers the singers of yesteryear even if the listener might make a mental note that, as was pointed out above, that puts you in the same category as people who claim today’s violinists have no character, neither does today’s beer and what happened to that crispy bacon we used to get before the war. Like you, I believe that nodody today touches Vickers (in certain repertoire) and Callas is special. But I also believe Florez and Fleming, to name just two, will take their place in opera history and that we have a crop of young singers, especially amongst the ladies, that tomorrow's opera cognoscenti will describe as yesterday's golden age.

I certainly respect your musical knowledge and welcome the energy you bring to this forum. Lose the de haut en bas manner, distinguish between opinions and facts and perhaps we could all be one happy family on here as well as keeping these threads on track.

Just a thought. No 400-line response necessary.

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