The curfew which was introduced in parts of Italy yesterday to combat the rising rate of coronavirus infections started at 11pm. While it is possible to return from a theatre after this time, it is necessary to carry a form to explain the reason you are out, and it was doubtful that many in the audience at La Scala would have been prepared on the first day – I wasn't.
Jonas Kaufmann came on stage while putting his mask in his pocket (if deliberate, it was a nice touch) and announced that there would be no interval to allow everyone to get home before the curfew checks. He then sang the 27 Lieder of his official programme followed by his encores without pause.
In this difficult time, Kaufmann has been giving La Scala a helping hand. On Monday he anticipated his arrival in Milan to replace his colleague Francesco Meli who had tested positive for the coronavirus on the last evening of Aida in concert form, conducted by Riccardo Chailly. Then, when Aida had to be cancelled after the health authorities ordered quarantine for all the soloists and chorus, Kaufmann agreed to participate in the replacement concert of opera arias, conducted by Fabio Luisi, together with Anita Hartig, Aida Garifullina, Jonas Kaufmann and Mattia Olivieri.
There were many composers in his recital programme (the varied programme is below) because Kaufmann chose Lieder to explore different moods in an increasingly intense and introspective journey, ending with Mahler's Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen. Unfortunately, the path of that journey was continually interrupted by an enthusiastic crowd who applauded after each song.
Unlike some other appearances at La Scala, there was nothing operatic about his recital, and apart from a big finish to his encore Core ‘ngrato it felt almost as intimate as a Wigmore Hall concert. It was a delicately nuanced performance with his usual rich palette of tonal colours, and it was good not to have his burnished, Wagnerian sound shattering the concentrated atmosphere.
His long-time recital partner, Helmut Deutsch, was as strong and supportive as ever, and the two perform as one. Wonderfully.
22 October 2020 at 8pm
Der Musensohn D 764
Ludwig van Beethoven
Zärtliche Liebe WoO 123
Adelaide op. 46
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Sehnsucht nach dem Frühling K. 596
Das Veilchen K. 476
Ännchen von Tharau
Gruß op. 19 no. 5
Auf Flügeln des Gesanges op. 34 no. 2
from Myrthen op. 25 no. 1
Es muss ein Wunderbares sein, S. 314
Ich liebe dich
Still wie die Nacht
Alexander von Zemlinsky
Selige Stunde op. 10 no. 2
from Acht Lieder op. 10 no. 1
Die Forelle D 550
Der Jüngling an der Quelle D 300
Wandrers Nachtlied II D 768
da Fünf Gesänge op. 49 no. 4
Da unten im Tale WoO 33, no. 6
Als die alte Mutter op. 55 no. 4
Frédéric Chopin/ Alois Melichar
In mir klingt ein Lied – Étude in E major op. 10 no. 3
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt
from Liederkreis op. 39 no. 5
from Acht Lieder op. 10 no. 8
Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen
Photos: Jonas Kaufmann and Helmut Deutsch, photo by Brescia e Amisano © Teatro alla Scala 2020
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.