This season, Jonas Kaufmann makes his debut at Verona's Arena.
I've been waiting a long time for this moment. To sing in the Arena, one of the most magical places in the world, has been a dream since I was a child.
His dream will come true on 17 August when he will give a concert of opera arias.
The wait has been long – I'm making my debut at 51! In front of this vast space with the flickering flames from the terraces, and the stars in the sky, I can return to being a little boy.
Like many Germans he would come to Lake Garda for the summer with his family.
I have many lovely memories… they were the years of the great voices, with the wait for darkness before it began, and the lighting of the candles shortly before the start. Then there's the beauty of Verona, and the delicious food that I would fantasise about for the rest of the year.
A few weeks ago [my wife Christiane, my son Valentin and I] went to meet up with a dear friend who lives on Lake Garda and once again I was enchanted by the beauty of the landscape – it takes your breath away. Italy for me is the land of desire, and the Arena is its musical heart.
Returning to sing in public is an immense joy. I've been fortunate in respect to many other artists as I've been able to perform continually, even online. When the first lockdown began, I immediately thought how best to make the most of the enforced break, and I called Helmut Deutsch, the pianist I collaborate with, and I said, “This is the opportunity to do what we've always dreamed of but have never found the time: record an album of the Lieder repertoire.”
As a result, we were able to record not only those Liszt songs that we had already tried out in the concert hall but also several others that until now have been overshadowed by Liszt's “great hits”. Among them, pride of place goes to Die stille Wasserrose, which I find more beautiful the more often I hear it. I'm grateful to Helmut for introducing me to these songs, and I think there will be many listeners who share my delight in these discoveries.
For Helmut Deutsch, Liszt was one of the great idols of his youth, alongside Elizabeth Taylor and Herbert von Karajan. He says,
Thanks to these jewels, Liszt deserves to occupy a leading place in the history of the art song, and yet even today he is denied this status. It is a source of tremendous pleasure for me that I have been able to share my enthusiasm with Jonas Kaufmann and persuade him to record an entire album with me.
On 17 September, Freudvoll und leidvoll (Full of Joy and Full of Sorrow) will be released by Sony Classical. Kaufmann notes the similarities between the theme of the album and the mood of the last year and a half.
It's been a roller-coaster year of ups and downs, openings and closings, with and without a public… Of seeing so many people depressed and suffering yet at the same time continuing to have hope.
Goethe's poem Freudvoll und leidvoll finishes with, “Happy alone is the soul that loves”.
Love is the most important feeling among humans, the essence of humanity.
The CD's songs are all by Lizst, including the 3 Petrarch Sonnets, which Kaufmann often performs in recitals.
I love Petrarch, but also Dante, Boccaccio, Goldoni…It is not only opera and espresso coffee that makes Italy the land of desire for me, but also its great literature, architecture, figurative arts, and ultimately its culture. I rarely miss the pleasure of visiting museums and churches, admiring Michelangelo or Caravaggio. It is always a unique experience that enriches my life in every way.
Jonas Kaufmann was talking to Giuseppina Manin and Sony Classical
Freudvoll und leidvoll
FRANZ LISZT 1811–1886
1. Vergiftet sind meine Lieder, S. 289
2. Freudvoll und leidvoll I, S. 280
3. Freudvoll und leidvoll II, S. 280
4. Der König von Thule, S. 278
5. Im Rhein, im schönen Strome, S. 272
6. Die Loreley, S. 273/2
7. Ihr Glocken von Marling, S. 328
8. Die drei Zigeuner, S. 320
3 Sonetti del Petrarca, S. 270
9. Benedetto sia ‘l giorno, S. 270a/1
10. Pace non trovo, S. 270a/2
11. I' vidi in terra angelici costumi, S. 270a/3
12. Es muss ein Wunderbares sein, S. 314
13. O lieb, solang du lieben kannst, S. 298
14. Die stille Wasserrose, S.321
15. Ein Fichtenbaum steht einsam, S. 309
16. Es rauschen die Winde, S. 294
17. Ich möchte hingehn, S. 296
18. Der du von dem Himmel bist I, S. 279
19. Der du von dem Himmel bist II, S. 279
20. Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh, S. 306
Jonas Kaufmann tenor
Helmut Deutsch piano
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.