Born in Munich, where he studied, Kaufmann is one of very few tenors who sings both the Italian and German repertoires with equal success. A Don José (Carmen) of note, he is also celebrated as Cavaradossi (Tosca), but more recently has taken on heavier roles with his first Otello planned at Covent Garden. As a recitalist, he has enjoyed acclaim in Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise. He has won Gramophone Awards for his recordings of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Beethoven’s Fidelio, an album of Strauss songs and a verismo aria collection.
Tribute by Sir Antonio Pappano
When we think of the tenor voice, conjuring up a rendition of ‘La donna è mobile’ in our minds is all too easy, the final high note after a dizzying cadenza ringing for what seems like a minute. Jonas Kaufmann is very well aware of all the clichés; in fact, his knowledge of the ‘traditions’ of all departments of the repertoire is prodigious. Uncannily, it is this knowledge together with his natural musicality that makes him unique as a singing artist. His choices are always complex, rooted in the meaning of the words and the history of performance practice, in all the operatic languages. He is simply insatiable, challenging his collaborators to up their game! The voice (much discussed), burnished, honeyed, allows him a freedom of expression and colour that is rare in any generation, and yes, he has great high notes.