Cher Public

Kaufmann, Italian style

il_tenore_starOur Own Ercole Farnese discovered and translated this interview in La Stampa with Jonas Kaufmann, in which the tenor discusses his “his idolatrous success with ladies and gay men, four fifths of the opera-goers.”

He is currently the most famous tenor in the world.  And also the most discussed: not everyone likes him, because if there is not much to object about his musicianship and acting, his timbre is very particular and his technique certainly is not the classic “Italian-style”.  This caused numerous controversies, recently rekindled by the release of his latest DECCA CD, Verismo arias, a repertory of “knife” operas, from Cav and Pag (but there are also titles that are not verismo at all, such as Mefistofele, Zandonai’s Giulietta e Romeo and even Ponchielli’s I Lituani), which is an unusual choice for a German singer.  However, the orchestra is ours, Santa Cecilia’s, and the conductor half Italian, Antonio Pappano.  Regarding his looks, there is no argument:  his idolatrous success with ladies and gay men, four fifths of the opera-goers, is a proof of it.

He is Jonas Kaufmann, 41 years old, Bavarian from Munich, the tenorissimo who has given an injection of healthy divismo to a world of opera that has always needed divos.  However, he doesn’t wear the clothes of a divo with ease, because he is able to have a hearty laugh, even about his less than infallible vocal cords, for this summer he has disappointed half the world canceling two performances of Lohengrin in Bayreuth and a recital in Salzburg, among scenes of desperation of fans in mourning as one had not seen in a long time.

Q:  You are already being accused of taking too many engagements.

A: I don’t like to cancel, but if I am not well, I am not well.  And it is better to disappoint my audience one evening rather than shortening my career singing over pharyngitis.

Q: Why a recording of Verismo arias?

A: Why not? It’s splendid repertoire.

Q: But also out of fashion…

A: True, and it’s a pity.  On Friday I an singing Adriana Lecouvreur here in London and I find it a magnificent opera.

Q: But from you we expect psychologically complicated characters, such as your wonderful Werther, not the big tenor roles.

A: But I am not dropping Werther or Lohengrin.  However, I have always dreamt of singing Andrea Chénier or Cavalleria rusticana.  Sure, I know they are dangerous operas.

Q: Why dangerous?

A: Because it is music you sing with raw nerves, very passionately.  The risk is to get carried away and overdo, and this is not good for the voice.  This is why I have always refused Otello so far.

Q: Rumor has it you are about to debut a huge number of roles.

A: I have already scheduled Chénier, Cav and Pag, La fanciulla del West, Manon Lescaut, Il trovatore, La forza del destino and Les Troyens.

Q: Wow!  Obviously, none of this in Italy…

A: I would love to sing in Italy, but how is it possible?  In Italy they ask for your availability six months on advance, as opposed to the five years in the rest of the world.  And I can’t keep myself free for three months a year waiting for some Italian house to wake up.  However in February I will go back to La Scala, with Tosca.

Q: You do know that the Bondy production staged at the Met and in Munich will never succeed at La Scala? And perhaps this time for a reason…

A: I myself told Bondy: look, if you stage this Tosca at La Scala, there’s going to be trouble.  Bondy is a great director, but this time, in my opinion, he did not take this opera seriously.  However he will come to Milan to restage it and I hope he will make adjustments.

Q: Your autobiography has been released in Germany.  Isn’t it a bit too early, at 41?

A: Yes, but they would have written a book about me anyway, so I thought it was better to do it myself, rather than some of those journalists who know nothing about opera.

Q: If you had not been so handsome, would you have had the same success?

A: I don’t know.  But if I am like this, it’s not a merit or a fault.  The true problem is that the opera public also goes to the movies and watches TV, and therefore it has less and less imagination.  In the past it was easier.  Pavarotti and Caballé came on stage, stood still, sang like a God and everyone was happy.  Today this is no longer sufficient.  And, mind, for us singers this is not good, because everything has become more difficult.

Q: Will you keep singing Wagner?

A:Yes, my next debut will be Siegmund in New York.

Q: And Tristan, when?

A: Not for at least five years.  It breaks your voice.  And I like this job too much to have to stop too soon. [La Stampa]

  • Olivero is my Drug of Choice

    Where does the line start to buy ticket for his debut in Tristan??? I want to be there?

  • Il faut parterre

    Yikes! He (Jummy) strikes me as rather sensible and forthright. I had no idea he was taking on so many new and challenging roles, but “if not now…when?”. Not every singer is able to add new operas at the age of near-70, like our Peaceful Sunday.

    What really startles me is the open discussion, by the critic, of the role gay men play in opera. I’ve never heard the likes of this from TT of the NYT…have you?

    • rysanekfreak

      A quote from Will Self’s updated Dorian Gray novel, entitled Dorian…

      “D’you like the opera?”

      “My wife does,” Wotton drawled. “My main pleasure at Glyndebourne is counting the homosexuals in the audience and seeing if they outnumber those on the stage.”

    • Edward George

      A couple of years ago, Jonas did an interview “without words” for a German magazine, each question being answered with a pose.

      To the question of “who claps most loudly at your performances, homosexuals or 60 year-old ladies?”, Jonas replied thus:

      http://www.jkaufmann.info/alben/mehrfotos/slides/7000.jpg

  • Sounds like he’s not cancelling the upcoming Siegmund quite yet…

  • (but there are also titles that are not verismo at all, such as Mefistofele, Zandonai’s Giulietta e Romeo and even Ponchielli’s I Lituani)

    well, I’ll be damned. I thought they were all verismo. I guess my Music Histroy teacher was wrong.

    • Indiana Loiterer III

      Your music history teacher covered Mefistofele and I Lituani? Must have been a very thorough course…

      But both of those operas predate verismo strictly speaking, which is generally held to begin with Cavalleria rusticana in 1890.

      • scifisci

        I believe they are referred to as “Scapigliatura”, no?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scapigliatura

        • Yes, definitely young Boito was a scapigliato, always eager to shock and scandalize. I would not include Ponchielli in that movement. I would include him in the Late Romantic Italian Opera, together with Gomes et als.
          I Lituani is an interesting opera, full of good tunes. There is a recording with Hasuko Hayashi and Vittorio Garaventa, for those who might be interested.

      • armerjacquino

        We don’t even need to go into the musicology of it. The idea that an opera on the supernatural subject of selling one’s soul to the devil could be described as ‘verismo’ is making me howl.

        • Belfagor

          Well, ‘Verismo’ has become one of those catch-all niche marketing phrases in the music industry that basically means ‘Italian operas post Verdi some of which aren’t very famous by some people you won’t have heard of and not as musically classy as Puccini who you have all heard of but there are a couple of famous slushy tunes in there and all you opera plebs who fancy yourselves a cut above the Bocelli and co hoi polloi can feel superior because each track will be shortish and won’t stretch the attention span the way an album of Wagner excerpts would……’ -- or something like that…

          Can’t see ‘ Jonas Kaufman: Scapigliatura arias’ or ‘Jonas Kaufman Italian symbolist arias’ having quite the same ring.

          Though credit where credit’s due -La Fleming’s recent Verismo album excursion did actually try and keep, by and large, closer to actual realist operas……(well maybe not Cilea’s ‘Gloria’, but who cares about that…..)

          • Harry

            Let;s get rid of the semantics and strict time lines given for Verismo as 1890. Verismo to me is and was always was, operas (fuck the subject matter-supernatural or otherwise) that finally decided to play with shows of raw emotion ‘full on’ with blazing guttural angst expression, if need be. A place where the characters actions and reactions control the orchestra to help adding to expressing their emotions.
            As for Belfagor stating ….”because each track will be shortish and won’t stretch the attention span the way an album of Wagner excerpts would……”:is nonsensical. It all depends just where they want to start and finish a Wagner record track on a CD! In Wagner, the orchestra tell the ‘statues and symbols’ -that complete unhuman anti-matter -- what to sing? Keeping up the tradition that Wagner is endless, frightfully long, and that he didn’t know when to shut up on a musical point already made, numerous times over. A music structure built on monotonous metaphysical soap opera episodic lines that would even shame TV’s silly ‘Days of our Lives’.

            The Ring : Daddy Wotan wants to build a house, steals to pay for it, finds two of his kids having a screw. Kills the son. Daughter has an offspring who grows up and screws Auntie. That offspring goes off, Auntie believes she is two timed. Helps to cause his death and suicides. JeeeeeeeeeZ 15 or 16 hours to ‘say just that’!

          • armerjacquino

            Harry says “Verismo to me is and was always was, operas (fuck the subject matter-supernatural or otherwise) that finally decided to play with shows of raw emotion ‘full on’ with blazing guttural angst expression, if need be. A place where the characters actions and reactions control the orchestra to help adding to expressing their emotions.”

            By that deeply personal definition, AIDA is a Verismo opera and so, for that matter, is ELEKTRA.

          • Harry

            amerjacquino As far as Electra being some sort of verismo, I think misses the point. Even Strauss was then still in the Wagnerian strait jacket frame of mind where his ‘tone poem’ orchestra demands the singers compliment the orchestra exactly ‘toe to toe’, especially with things like 9th intervals flying about.

        • Belfagor

          I don’t think an equation of ‘all emotional opera = verismo’ is at all helpful…..

          The word has morphed through careless usage to become a catch-all term -- though it retains just enough of its original historical derivation to be confusing.

          • Harry

            I agree about the confusion. Peter Grimes and Dialogues of the Carmelites both would then have to be added and qualify for so called verismo status. Being, so expressively emotionally over wrought, in various places.

        • m. croche

          “We don’t even need to go into the musicology of it. The idea that an opera on the supernatural subject of selling one’s soul to the devil could be described as ‘verismo’ is making me howl.”

          Perhaps you haven’t spent enough time in Oklahoma….

      • Regina delle fate

        And verismo means “reality opera” -- so neither Zandonai’s Giulietta e Romeo nor his Francesca count -- they are more “istoricismo”, surely. Strictly speaking, neither Adriana nor Andrea Chenier can be “verismo” works either. The term has come to mean contemporaries of Puccini but its original meaning was much more specific.

        • Harry

          Regina delle fate …That is ‘too much’. Here I take special exception to this salon -like talk of ‘hair -splitting’. Tosca IS VERISMO, right! Agreed?. It is also ‘istoricimo’ being set to historical events of a Century previous. Chenier is set just a mere few years previous to that-the French Revolution.

          If one is exceptionally familiar with ‘Chenier,(1896) well knowing the music and having seen the opera multiple times as well….I will go as far as saying that Puccini and his Tosca (1900) did a good deal of ‘ripping off Chenier’ both in structure and more importantly musically, time and time again. Just one most blatant example: start of Act 4 of Chenier and the start of Act 3 Tosca. There are countless others.

        • Belfagor

          Harry, my point exactly -- of course Wagner, Janacek, Monteverdi and Mussorgsky contain events that are just as sensational as anything in so-called verismo or late Italian opera, but the music in Italy at this period is seen as profoundly meretricious and worthless by the majority of received critical opinion. Hence my dig at short attention span. Zandonai’s ‘Francesca’ was exhumed in London this summer, and some of the crits were soooooo dismissive, as if a smelly pile of doo-doo had been slapped in their oh-so-discerning faces. It’s not a masterpiece, but if a piece from a similar period from Germany was performed, they are more inclined to give the benefit of the doubt.

          It’s a hiding to nothing to try and define verismo through existing works (Tosca -- no: Butterfly -- no) -- the verismo style of singing is maybe easier to put a finger on.

          • Harry

            Belfagor: Well in England, if they performed Mascagni’s Iris they could go up to date by having appropriate doo-do smell o- vison scratch cards for the opera goers to use, when poor dear Iris finally kills herself, throwing herslf into a Japanese sewer.
            I happened to be listening to Kabaivanska’s complete version of Zandonai’s Francesca di Rimini the other night. I find it far from inferior as it has lots of daring unexpected ‘hair-pin’ harmonics in parts of it. Its long love duet….wow! I can think of a lot of operas that are less worthy.

            My contented finish to a listening evening The Cherry Duet from Mascagni’s L’Amico Fritz with Pavarotti and Freni -- then the Francesca Love Duet with Corelli and Tebaldi.

  • manou

    There is also a long article about Kaufmann in today’s London Times :

    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/arts/music/classical/article2808657.ece

    but I think you need to be registered to read it.

    If anybody is desperate, I could copy and paste it.

    • louannd

      Not desperate, but it might be interesting to compare/contrast the two articles. :)

      • CruzSF

        oh please, louannd! Own your desperation! :-)

        • louannd

          You obviously have not heard me talk incessantly about Matthew Polenzani or Peter Mattei. :)

          • CruzSF

            Polenzani, yes, and charmingly so. But Mattei? But maybe I don’t get out enough. :-D

      • manou

        Okay -- here it is with my apologies for taking up so much space :

        Neil Fisher
        Last updated November 16 2010 12:01AM
        The hottest tenor of the moment knows how to manage demanding divas as well as his own career
        It’s been a long time coming, but classical music’s biggest manhunt — the exhaustive, two-decade search for the elusive fourth tenor — is over. And the result is: missing in action.
        The candidates variously hyped as the next Pavarotti, Domingo or Carreras have crashed and burnt. Bundled together, their various mishaps could profitably be sold to more solicitous baritones as a manual for how not to cut it in opera: flounced off-stage midway through a performance; blew out his voice after too many unsuitable roles; fell out with directors; fell out with conductors; made one too many tacky pop albums. Some of them even managed to hit the bull’s-eye: they did them all.
        “It’s really difficult,” admits the German tenor Jonas Kaufmann in his careful, sing-song English, flopping down on a sofa at the Royal Opera House. He’s speaking after a day of rehearsals in Francesco Cilèa’s 1902 opera Adriana Lecouvreur, mounted for the first time in more than 100 years at Covent Garden as a vehicle for him and the formidably capricious Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu. “Not reaching the top — but staying there. You can have some short cuts, try to push yourself through, and, sometimes a coincidence helps you jump higher up, but in the end it’s a good idea to do it step by step.”
        Right now it seems as if Kaufmann can do little wrong. He is currently riding the crest of a wave of adulation, stretching from the operatic Everests of the Bayreuth Festival, Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera, down to the picky Wigmore Hall, where last month he stunned a capacity crowd — they were turning away more — by scaling down his husky tenor, adept in both heroic German and lyrical Italian repertory, for Schubert’s song cycle Die schöne Müllerin.
        After we meet he will saunter back on set to gaze moodily amid the velvet drapes of the Adriana set for The Times photoshoot. “Yes, the Latin lover type,” is his slightly pained, can-we-talk- about-something-else-now reaction to his film-star good looks.
        It’s certainly a formidable package (of the three tenor comparisons, the most common is with the equally dark-toned Domingo). But Kaufmann doesn’t so much surrender to his billing as take charge of selling it with Germanic efficiency. Divas can be gently mocked. Gheorghiu, I tell him, takes delight in announcing that she discovered the 41-year-old singer herself. “Well, she ‘discovered’ me in . . . it must have been 2002 or 2003. But I wasn’t unemployed before,” he wryly responds. “We first sang together in London in Puccini’s La rondine, and we understood immediately what to do, and, for the audience, how to put oil on the fire — so you really understand that there’s something going on. Also, we’re not doing too much together. That would probably turn into a problem after a while.”
        You could see Adriana, whose eponymous heroine, romanced by the enigmatic Maurizio, ultimately succumbs, Dynasty-like, to a poisoned bouquet sent by her love rival, as one of opera’s fripperies. Kaufmann has other ideas. “It’s not done very often and I don’t know why, because the plot is definitely less crappy than many others that are frequently played.
        “And Maurizio is an interesting character, because he’s not that innocent. He appears very nice and smooth — but in the end he’s actually betraying, all the time, one woman with another.” He gives me a potted history of the real-life historical character — an 18th-century Count of Saxony, who was fighting wars at the age of nine and had married, and divorced, a rich duchess by his early twenties — which sounds even less plausible than the opera’s lethal posy. “Knowing all that,” Kaufmann protests, “it’s interesting to play such a character, and not only do the smooth, handsome guys.”
        That Kaufmann even got a shot at playing the lovers and lotharios of the Italian rep — and he does it quite splendidly on his latest disc of verismo arias — is thanks to the sort of assiduous stubbornness that all those previous fourth tenor candidates never quite nailed. He grew up in Munich, in a Wagner-loving family (he has recently moved back to his home city with his mezzo-soprano wife and three children). He switched from maths to music while at university, but found himself lugging a voice around that no one understood.
        “Everybody said, ‘No that’s too loud, that’s too much, that’s too dark’.” And he was using it in repertoire that no one wanted to hear. “I was always auditioning with Italian arias and they would hire me, but they would say, ‘Yeah, that’s great, but you’re a German singer, why don’t you sing German roles’, and then they gave me Mozart.”
        Obstinacy on this front undoubtedly kept him back. It clearly still rankles that his home company, the Bavarian State Opera, hired him only three times in 15 years (their new management is much keener, hence his move back to Munich). But when, in the midst of the wilderness years, the Chicago Lyric Opera offered him a starring Verdi role he stunned them by asking for something smaller instead.
        “It might have made a difference if I’d accepted it,” he says. “It might have pushed me on, might have meant I got an earlier contract at the Met . . . but why hurry?”
        Lurking behind the tale surely lies knowledge of the most recent and terribly public story of artistic burnout by an operatic shooting star. Rolando Villazón was the hugely charismatic Mexican tenor who leapfrogged Kaufmann into the top rank during a meteoric rise — only to suffer from a spate of vocal problems that many now speculate have finished his career in the opera house.
        “I think it’s important that once you really reach the top level, that you . . . not that you deserve it, but that you really worked hard for getting there, to have the experience of how to deal with the pressure that will definitely come. When you become a star overnight, it’s terribly hard to sustain it, and not be drunk by the success.”
        He also says that record labels are hustling artists through repertoire that they can’t really sing on stage. “They see the dollar signs and they think ‘what the heck’.”
        Was that Villazón’s fate (the two, incidentally, share the same umbrella record label)? “I’m not saying this is what happened with Rolando . . . he sang many performances, he did prove his qualities. But it was maybe too much.”
        Kaufmann remains unsmilingly frank when it comes to the world of contemporary opera production. His biggest beef is coming up against those directors who can neither read the music nor the words in their original language. “And they sit there with the copies of the CD booklet trying to work out what’s actually going on in the scene. And you’re sitting there thinking ‘Oh, I could have done a beautiful production somewhere else, but now I’m sitting here waiting for the director to be ready to let him let us explain to him what this is all about’.”
        Ideally Kaufmann, the calculating planner, would prefer to step to his own beat than wait for someone else. If you hire him now, you do it on his terms — get him in Wagner and you need to book in some Puccini or Verdi, too — “Unless you force it, unless you push it, then they put you in a box and you’ll never get out of it.” His first Siegmund, in Wagner’s Die Walküre, is coming up in New York, but so is a stab at a new French role in London, Aeneas in Berlioz’s Les Troyens.
        Variety is the spice of this tenor’s life — and that goes for his leading ladies, too. Bad news for Gheorghiu. “I love to work with Angela — I hope you can see that on stage. But there are many beautiful, fantastic, fascinating sopranos . . .” He grins wolfishly, and Kaufmann the Iceman suddenly seems to thaw. “That’s the luxury of my job.”

        • louannd

          Thank you Manou:)

        • oedipe

          “The candidates variously hyped as the next Pavarotti, Domingo or Carreras have crashed and burnt… flounced off-stage midway through a performance; blew out his voice after too many unsuitable roles; fell out with directors; fell out with conductors; made one too many tacky pop albums. Some of them even managed to hit the bull’s-eye: they did them all.”

          Has anyone an idea who Mr. Neil Fisher is referring to in the last sentence of the above quote? (And do I detect a touch of vindictive satisfation in Mr. Fisher’s hint?)

  • NYCOQ

    I have always wondered why there are so many nay-sayers and tut-tutters when singers start to expand their rep. If not in your 40’s, when?

  • CruzSF

    Kaufmann is refreshingly honest and straightforward, at least compared to other singer interviews I’ve read.

    I especially like:

    Q: If you had not been so handsome, would you have had the same success?

    A: I don’t know. But if I am like this, it’s not a merit or a fault. The true problem is that the opera public also goes to the movies and watches TV, and therefore it has less and less imagination.

    and

    A: I would love to sing in Italy, but how is it possible? In Italy they ask for your availability six months on advance, as opposed to the five years in the rest of the world. And I can’t keep myself free for three months a year waiting for some Italian house to wake up.

  • phoenix

    such an idiomatic translation of this interview… i actually understood the entire thing with no hints or innuendos unanswered, something i can’t always manage to do reading some of these parterre.com reviews.
    — Thanks very much to Ercole Farnese for this translation; i had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Farnese Sunday evening at the Thalia & i found him every bit as handsome as Kaufmann.

    • Dawson

      Haven’t I always said that Ercole is a very handsome man, especially if you like muscle gods as much as I do? I have an idea for our doyenne: we should create a new category, the hunkencritic, or critihunk or whatever, and see who can fit in there. Ercole F. belongs in there, at the very top.

      • Is there a gay.com profile we can oggle?

          • *A-hem* or is that Amen.

          • Baltsamic Vinaigrette

            Good idea to include a few mere mortals in this picture, cara Cieca -- the Farnese Hercules (on display in Naples) is huge.

            Maybe Ercole can be persuaded to host a Parterrians event at Teatro San Carlo some time? We could detour to the Museo Arcaelogico for a good luck at the Farnese Collection while we’re at it.

    • Phoenix, you’re so kind. I am blushing…
      (I am still curious as to who this Dawson is, who seems to know me quite well)…

  • CruzSF

    Thanks very much to Ercole F. You’ve truly gone above and beyond!

    • manou

      OK OK -- I can take a hint. I shall now translate the Times article into American.

      • phoenix

        didn’t you already translate it into American? it was a very good read, too…

        • manou

          So glad you were able to understand it…

      • CruzSF

        Oh manou, I wasn’t aiming that at you. Don’t you know by now that I don’t hint. I italicize, bold, underline, and then read aloud.

        • manou

          I know I know. I was just being silly (as usual) and trying to make a feeble joke, which apparently fell very flat!

          Sorry!!

          • CruzSF

            It’s not you, manou. I have humorphasia.

  • papopera

    What!?!? No Nessun Dorma in that recital album ? Scandalous.
    I think I’m turning queer for Jonas, I am his Gustav von Aschenbach.

  • Camille

    I have read these two informative articles with a good deal of gratitude to both I’ll nostro Egr. Sigr. Farnese and la magnifique madame manou.

    It is most interesting to find that, aside from the good looks and the interestingly timbred voice, Herr Kaufmann has a quality most rare in a tenor: a brain.
    It is with great anticipation I look forward to his Siegmund which, by all rights, should be a dazzling success.

    Off topic: I am finally listening to the Carmen as all the talk has made me curious. What a beautiful voice has Miss Garanca! How dramatically inert: she may as well be reciting the phone book. I wish she were singing something else more congenial to her, uh, temperament. I guess Zach Woolfe really was right about her being the computer queen diva for this age. . She doesn’t sound like an ice-queen to me but tepid bath water. How very strange and how I wish someone would alight a fire under this tepid temperament.

    Comunque sia, molto bella voce.

    • Batty Masetto

      I was only able to catch the Card Aria last night, but on that meager basis I have to agree -- beautiful voice but she could just as well have been singing Dalila on a recital disk.

      • Camille

        Actually, it is interesting you would say Dalila as that is a role I feel would be something more congenial for her serious demeanor. I cannot quite put my finger on what she lacks, but hopefully a conductor or director or manager will make her see tht it is not enough to exhibit a beautiful voice, you’ve got to tell a story with it as well. That’s what I am not getting from today’s singers. Another case in point, Michelle de Young whose vocal quality, texture, and timbre are all beautiful and homogeneous, however, she doesn’t “speak” whilst singing.

        • Batty Masetto

          It was just odd, I kept thinking this would be exactly the right vocal color for “mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix,” rather than a woman who’s just discovered she’s going to be killed.

          I guess a monochromatic Dalila would work, wouldn’t she, if the single emotional color you picked was the right one.

  • operadunce

    I guess this is slightly OT, but Parterrians, I need your help. Do any of you know anything about a Sardinian tenor named Francesco Demuro. He sang Rudolfo this past Saturday at the Michigan Opera Theatre. A friend and I who attended thought that he was really struggling and the audience reaction in general seemed somewhat tepid considering that in Detroit we tend to love anybody who just agrees to show up. So I was astounded to read a review in one of our daily papers that said “Reluctant as I am to make the comparison, it’s only just to say that Demuro’s silvery, effortless, soaring sound afforded the most thrilling performance of Rodolfo I’ve heard anywhere since You Know Who was in his prime.” Then I looked up a review of his Seattle performance as Alfredo. The reviewer stated, ” As Alfredo, Francesco Demuro made a U.S. debut that may well turn out to have been a significant moment in the annals of American opera….To call the young Sardinian tenor a spectacular talent is to do him less than justice: this is an artist not merely spectacular but profound and potentially great.”

    Is this just the hyperbole of the hinterlands or am I truly….an operadunce. Help!

    • CruzSF

      Is that Detroit reviewer comparing Demuro to the landmark Rodolfo of Voldemort?

      • yappy

        Yep, that was before he went to England to terrorise everybody with his scary Faust act.

    • Nerva Nelli

      “…the most thrilling performance of Rodolfo I’ve heard anywhere since You Know Who was in his prime.”

      Maybe he was thinking of Ion Buzea?

      • Camille

        that’s IAN BOSTRIDGE,

        right Vicar?

        • Nerva Nelli

          Um, Camille?

          http://www.ionbuzea.com/

          By all accounts one of the worst Met tenors of the postwar period.

          • richard

            now, now now, no dissing of Ion Buzea here.

            Dontcha know that he sang at the Met in the time when EVERY performance was an iconic experience?

            That was the Golden Age when every singer was ideal for what they sang .

            And no one ever had an off night. Or so we hear….

            Actually I saw Buzea several times in his rather brief Met career. Most of his performances where in the trainwreck 1969-70 season where the opening was delayed 3 months because of a strike and many of the contracted singers were released. By the time the strike was settled, many singers had found other engagements and the Met was left to make lemonade with some of the less than terrific singers they were able to sign up on very short notice. Note thought that a number of very big names, I don’t mean to disparage them at all, held the time for the MEt even though there was no guarantee that a season would take place.

            But Buzea was one of the lemons. Nasty, tiny, constricted tortured sound in Boheme, Butterfly, and Traviata. This season was the first one I went to many performances in so I saw a lot of really thrown together performances.

            In a way, Buzea was typical of a lot of singers that sang at Bing’s Met. He had a preference for Eastern European singers, probably he saw many of them in his early days singing in Vienna. He used them heavily in Italian opera. I guess that they sounded idiomatic to him but quite a few were duds.

            Let’s not forget another iconic Rumanian tenor of the same era who also had a fabled Met career, Ludovic Spiess…..

          • Nerva Nelli

            “In a way, Buzea was typical of a lot of singers that sang at Bing’s Met. He had a preference for Eastern European singers…”

            …because he could pay them next to nothing.

            The per performance fee for Teresa Zylis-Gara was so low that Bing twice raised it out of shame once he heard her superb singing. But that was the rare case. Usually he was very content to have the likes of Buzea, Biserka Cvejic, Elena Cernei and the very sightly Ludmila Dvorakova up there honking for cheap.

            Occasionally, as with Zylis-Gara, Kabaivanska and Herlea, he netted someone worth netting, or who later improved into a fine artist (Ghiuselev, Pospis/Pospinov/Baldani).

          • Camille

            Noblest Nerva Nelli and
            regal richard!

            To think, I had lived all these long years in blissful ignorance of Ion Buzea and on this morning I have awakened to see the light! O gioia!

            Actually, I was referring to Little Master Bostridge only as I’d been preoccupied once more with my recurrent contemplation of the “WHY” of Ian Bostridge, after hearing him yodel on Sirius last night. ‘Why’ did IB leave his study of witchcraft to study singing…to en”chant” us? ‘Why’ does he think he’s a singer? ‘Why’ does the recording industry feel we need a successor to Peter Pears (whose name at least I love for its alliterative euphony), and. wasn’t the original MORE than enough of that, er, genre? USW….

            So, ya see, Nerva (and of you, I have been told by an old friend who played in the NBC Symphony Orchestra that, *you*, only got all those Verdi roles on account of the size of your baZOOMS!), ya see, I saw the “I”+”B” and, bingo, “Ian Bostridge”!

            Then, I’m so pleased that all of Alice’s labyrinth has led me to the acquaintance of Herr Buzea, as I LOVE bad tenors, so much fun.

            I follow Anna’s dictum:
            “Girls just wanna have fun!”

          • Nerva Nelli

            I agree: Bostridge, to whom the NY TIMES chief critic has NEVER given a bad review ( c.f. Ein Jedes Wort ist Falschheit…) is one of the biggest frauds going. If he didn’t look like a Home Counties Ichabod Crane and didn’t have his Oxbridge cred and the book on witchcraft, he would not have vaulted into the level of recognition he achieved.

            Like most singers, he has areas where he can perform acceptably. They do not include any music I hold dear. Even in Britten, who would want to hear that dessicated sound when one can listen to ARJ or Langridge or Ian *Partridge* on CD and to Nic Phan and Colin Balzer (coming up in a Frick Colection rectal, I read) and Bill Burden and Alek Shrader sing Britten?

          • Camille

            Just returned from Ion Buzea’s website where I was thrilled to note a photo of him as “Dick Johnson” in the 1970 production of Fanciulla @ the Met. Perhaps he would do us all the favor of favoring us once more with his “Dick” for the Centennial Production? In that way we would be assured a *stellar* evening from all principals involved, not just from our noted protagonista.

          • Camille

            “Ein jedes Wort ist Falschheit” is the best new thing on The Box!
            Trema, TT!

            The image of a “Home Counties Ichabod Crane” has given me such a spasimo of laughter, that I must hastily thank you and excuse myself.

    • reedroom

      I heard his Alfredo last season (Seattle) in the dress rehearsal and it really was quite good. Mind you, he was in the 2nd cast, but it was very promising. It was not a really big voice, but beautiful; maybe the Boheme is not right for his voice? Or perhaps you heard him on an off night (we all have ’em once in a while).

      • CruzSF

        reedroom, do you mean Valenti, Bostridge, or Buzea?

        BTW, nice to see you back here.

        • CruzSF

          Never mind, you meant Demeuro.

      • operadunce

        Thanks for the comment, reedroom. I was hoping to hear from you, but I couldn’t think of your nom de Parterre. Maybe my reaction was just the result of having seen the HD Pasquale about 4 hours earlier. :) Still always fun to go to a live performance. We don’t get that many in our area. And when Mr. Demeuro becomes the next You Know Who, I’ll have a funny “I remember when” story to tell.

    • manou

      Salut, Demuro sans allure…

      • oedipe

        Salut, DemeurO quelle purée!
        (Sorry, not great, but I am learning.)

    • All I know is that he is quite young, 32 y.o. and has been singing professionally for only 3 years. He made his La Scala debut this past season as Duca di Mantova replacing another tenor with only 5 hours notice (and he wasn’t even the cover).

      • operadunce

        Okay, thanks EF. I’m getting the picture. Guess that “operadunce” thing was more accurate than I realized.

        • manou

          (+ hilarious interview in hair and make-up)

          also a few other snippets on YouTube.

  • richard

    Right. The original term was really much narrower in scope, Cav being the definitive kind of “reality opera”, to use your term.

    Think of Le Villi, which has the haunted spirits of jilted maidens . The original story was very much a product of the Romantic Era. Certainly you wouldn’t expect to run into a group of Willies hunting down men in your everyday, “slice of life” forrest.

    Also Mascagni’s Iris has a very metaphysical final act where Iris hears voices that lull her into an ecstatic death. Mascagni also wrote several historical operas, including a classical setting.

    I think now the term “verismo” really defines a style of music with a specific type of singing using declamation, word shading, and certain specific vocal effects.

    • I think now the term “verismo” really defines a style of music with a specific type of singing using declamation, word shading, and certain specific vocal effects.

      My thoughts exactly.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Time for Walther Pondman to get away from the family before it’s too late for him to have a turn at being a contender for 4th Tenor. Lili’s intro is painful too

    • papopera

      Ghastly. Poor kid. How do you turn him off ?

    • Harry

      That photo of the Pondmans suggests each member patiently awaits, to have the opportunity to commit their own individual sonic torture procedure on their listeners.Ah! This Frankenstein-created Family of Song.

  • luvtennis

    All I have to say is that it doesn’t take much to be considered a hunky tenor.

    Kauffman is pear shaped.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      Right on! The new photo of Kaufmann makes him look like a candy cane dork.

    • CruzSF

      Excellent! Some of us like the pear.

    • peter

      And who is your pick for hunky singer, Mr. L. Tennis?

      • Dawson

        I don’t know about luvtennis, but in my book hunky singers are guys like Keith Miller and Nathan Gunn. Kaufmann has an attractive face and GORGEOUS hair, and he is tall, but I am not sure I would want to see him naked. He is lanky, pear-shaped and his arms are small. I haven’t seen his legs but from his body type I assume they would be like sticks.

        • peter

          Dawson, you make him sound like an ostrich.

        • CruzSF

          The juiciest part of the pear is the bottom, not the drumstick.

          • Dawson

            Cruz, from my experience guys with that body frame have a flat ass. Very tall guys tend not to have bubble butts or big legs. I am a competitive bodybuilder and a personal trainer, I know this stuff.

          • CruzSF

            Well, shoot. It’s not the first time I’ve mistaken fruit for something meaty.

          • luvtennis

            Cruzsf:

            Ok, that comment was totally lame, and somewhat disturbing (from a whole cannibalism-thing perspective -- btw, let me come down firmly against cannibalism while I have the parenthetical.)

          • CruzSF

            OK. “Thanks” for your feedback.

        • yes, short, wide shouldered men = the hotness.

        • luvtennis

          Dawson, your description makes it seem like he resembles the Grinch or some other Dr. Seuss character from Whoville.

    • Cocky Kurwenal
      • Thank you! Kauffman may have some love handles on him but to call him pear-shaped is a bit ridiculous.

        • Dawson

          You don’t have to have love handles to be pear-shaped. Actually, I don’t think he does. Simply, his shoulders are narrow and his hips larger. It’s just his bone frame. Genetics. Now, this could be somewhat remedied if you focuses on your deltoids when working out. It doesn’t look like Kaufmann spends much time lifting.

          • I dunno about that. He’s got some shape to his arms.

          • Edward George

            One weight that Kaufmann regularly lifts is his own. He often mentions yoga in interviews as part of his warm-up and general well-being and this is amply demonstrated 1.00 into this clip:

          • louannd

            That “Martha Martha” = the hotness.

          • Edward George

            louannd- more hotness, just for you:

        • luvtennis

          He is not fat. He is just sort of normal artsy type guy. Narrow shouldered, large waisted and hipped.

          I ain’t saying the guy is ugly, just that he is not the super stud that the hype and (around here at least) eye-batting that would suggest.

          And I think I know what to get for YOU for Christmas, Kashie. Your very own Jonas blow-up doll. Complete with poacher!