If the world of classical music has a Justin Bieber, it can only be tenor Jonas Kaufmann, who drove the Sunday night crowd in Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall into paroxysms of frenzied applause – all before he'd even opened his mouth.
The latest swoon-worthy tenor is Munich-born Jonas Kaufmann, who drove the audience nuts Friday at his U.S. recital debut sponsored by the Los Angeles Opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Fans demanded no fewer than five encores, including one played by accompanist Helmut Deutsch from an iPad. O brave new world.
Well, you can't deny it, he is a good looking bloke. But what about the music, the artist, the voice? The LA Times noted,
His voice has a baritone's dark coloring and weight, and he can use it for poetic effect. He knows that less is more, so he did not rely on extraneous gestures to punch up his program of lieder by Schumann and Strauss.
But also worryingly observed,
He sounded most comfortable in mid-range. Moving up, his throat tended to tighten, making his upper notes — unless super-powered — thin and dry, and he did not linger on them long. When he did, they could be arresting, but they could also be harsh. One fears he may be living off his capital not his interest.
His voice, in fact, puzzles many. The LA Opus opened with,
Sometimes you get the impression that Jonas Kaufmann is a tenor working his way into a Heldenbaritone. OK, that's an exaggeration, but the singer's dusky voice plays tricks on you before you realize his brighter tenorial overtones barely trump their subterranean brethren for ultimate categorization.
But there was no questioning Kaufmann the artist:
Kaufmann's most telling moments came in Schumann's “Dichterliebe” — lovely coloring in “Im wunderschönen Monat-Mai” and controlled intimacy in “Ich hab' im Traum geweinet” — and more frequently in such personal Strauss songs as “Sehnsucht,” “Morgen” and “Cäcilie.” – LA Times
In Strauss' more extravagantly dramatic selections, including “Sehnsucht” and “Ich liebe dich,” Kaufmann turned the music outward with aplomb, building conscientiously to the music's surging climaxes and shaping large paragraphs adroitly. – SF Chronicle
Something of the rhapsodic style of the first set of these Strauss songs, not to mention their symphonic piano accompaniments, released a superabundance of energy within Kaufmann, and we discovered new dimensions in his artistry: a long-winded breath control, his openhearted romantic fervor, a darkish head voice, and a kind of pure ecstasy in his delivery. – LA Opus on the Strauss songs in the second part
The audience went wild before he had sung a note, and thankfully were convinced enough by his recital to continue to cheer after the official programme:
Fans demanded no fewer than five encores, including one played by accompanist Helmut Deutsch from an iPad. O brave new world. – LA Times
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.