More Than Glamor?
Sam has moved on to Berlin where he caught Jonas Kaufmann's Cavaradossi:
Deutsche Oper Berlin
16 May 2009
Germany now has a star tenor and he's getting the star treatment: Photographs on music magazine covers, and billboards, shallow interviews, plus a High-C contract to be the bedroom eyes behind the wheel of BMW.
His name, by the bye, is Jonas Kaufmann.
A sold-out celeb-strewn crowd flocked to the Deutsche Oper in Berlin to hear him as Cavaradossi this past Saturday. The assembled Prussians, many dressed to the tens, gave him a hero's welcome, even though he's a native Bavarian. Nobody's perfect.
It would have been His Night, if it hadn't been for the Tosca -- Nadja Michael -- and the Scarpia -- Ruggero Raimondi, both of whom were willing to share the stage with Kaufmann but not concede it to him.
In fact, Raimondi received the biggest hand at the final curtain calls -- and with good reason. It was he who gave the most involved portrayal of the evening. What a pleasure to find that some opera singers are as good if not better than they ever were. While Tito Gobbi's Scarpia often left the impression of a sadistic bureaucrat, Raimondi, who made his Met debut in 1974, delivered an object lesson in implied, unspeakable malevolence.
Nadja Michael reportedly is no favorite among rear rung regulars at the Deutsche Oper, but she managed to keep the usual booing at bay at this performance. Hers is a huge but wieldy voice, capable of dynamic swings that sound inevitable rather than interpolated: an especially effective "Vissi d'arte."
Which brings me to swingin', I mean, singing Kaufmann. No doubt: he has more than glamor -- He manifests intelligence and imagination. His large, dark tenor is already casting a shadow toward late Verdi and, of course, the W word. In fact, he's set for Lohengrin at the Munich Festival this July. But for me on Saturday night, he also cast a shadow on his musical taste -- milking alargandi nearly to the point of full stop -- crooooooning "O dolci mani..." with enough syrup to induce sugar shock. Bitte, nicht so schleppend, Lieber Jonas!
It's not clear if veteran conductor Pier Giorgio Morandi -- who is new to me -- had a hand in the liberties Kaufmann took. Even though he received some catcalls, no one could deny that Morandi steered the orchestra effectively, while eliciting some details that I've seen in the score, but rarely have heard.
The production by Boleslaw Barlog dates from 1969. Like Barlog himself, who is now in his 90s, it shows no signs of wear.
© Sam H. Shirakawa