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Somebody to love

“If Jonas Kaufmann isn’t quite a household name yet, it’s only a matter of time. Not only is the 43-year-old widely recognized as the greatest tenor since Pavarotti, his much-gushed-about locks make him the closest thing the opera world has to Justin Bieber.” [Huffington Post]

340 comments

  • Donna Anna says:

    Weh! A rehearsal and performance prevented me from seeing Parsifal and the encore may not work out either. Il signore Anna attended and was blissed out. If I can’t get to the encore I’ll have to console myself with the dvd.

    As for whether the divine Herr J is a household name, who cares? Times are different and so is he. May he keep on keepin on.

  • Dolciamente Pipo says:

    It’s true that a live performance should ideally work in the actsl physical space, but that doesn’t disqualify this HD telecast from being a triumph in its own right.
    The direction, conducting and cast were all extraordinary.
    I can’t add anything to the praise already expressed.
    As I was watching, it occurred to me that this production is everything that the LePage Ring sadly is not.

  • orestes says:

    Yesterday’s HD of Parsifal has brought me out of lurkdom to join the chorus of praise. I was stunned. It was the first time at a broadcast that I have experienced the full engagement of a vivid and compelling performance in the house. And what performances! The singing was superb -- no weak links. JK was transcendent. Dalayman may have looked maternal, but she sang well. Besides, the Earth-motherly look can work for Kundry’s particular plan of attack. It worked for me and highlighted the seriously twisted, Oedipean aspect of her approach.

    It was a glorious experience, and one that will stay with me for a long time. If I were in NYC, I would find a way to experience it in the house.

    O.

  • Jamie01 says:

    “I found myself watching out for her to show up again on the screen and feeling disappointed when the camera left her.”

    I didn’t see Batty’c comment before, but this is exactly what I’m talking about.

  • Batty Masetto says:

    Except, Jamie, that nobody here is arguing basso’s straw man that the HD and the theatrical experience are the same. In fact, everybody’s acknowledging that they’re different, with different strengths that can be appreciated, as well as weaknesses.

    If I’d been in the house with opera glasses I might have found the Flower Maiden on my own, and I might have been able to watch her a bit more. But I happen to hate watching through opera glasses, so I probably wouldn’t. So I was just grateful for what the camera offered me and moved on.

    • bluecabochon says:

      I noticed her right away via my opera glasses. It’s tough trying to see everything from far away and close up. You’re right, she was wonderful. It was nice to see Flower Maiden singers who were as lovely as the Flower Maiden dancers. :)

  • Poison Ivy says:

    I’d also like to put my two cents in that sometimes HD performances can exaggerate certain artificialities that you wouldn’t notice sitting in the last row of the Family Circle. For instance, the wig lines are often VERY prominent up close in HD, as are the nude stockings that the females wear when they’re supposed to be “barefeet.”

    The most prominent example I can think of is the recent HD of Otello, where after Fleming’s “Ave Maria” she was supposed to be “asleep” but she was actually smirking at the ovation. And you could see that she was sleeping with a ton of makeup and frosted pink lipstick. When Otello “killed” her you could also see her adjusting her legs so that the nightgown would cover her perfectly.

    • Clita del Toro says:

      Of course, we all know that Rennay is the consummate actress. She was also making sure that a ton of tenor would not break her legs.

      • Poison Ivy says:

        LOL. I’m just using this as one example where HD amplified some problems that might have looked okay in the Family Circle. But okay here’s another example, very different: I saw the Anna Bolena in HD and in the house and the drabness of the costumes was more apparent in HD. In the house you kind of just noticed them running around in Tudor garb. It wasn’t till the HD that you realized how unflattering the cuts were in the necklines, etc to all the ladies.

    • Nerva Nelli says:

      Dragica Martinis is not just one of opera’s most celebrated sopranos, but perhaps its most convincing actress. A consummate artist, her one and only role when she stands in the spotlight is to breathe so much life into the opera’s main character that audiences lose themselves in her unforgettable performances. That is the passion of Dragica Martinis.

    • SilvestriWoman says:

      That says much more about Renee. On Saturday, I was struck by how relatively little makeup was used, especially before Act 3.

      • la vociaccia says:

        Wow. Makeup. What a terrible woman. Let’s ridicule the harlot

        • armerjacquino says:

          Ridiculous, isn’t it? Stage makeup always looks stupid in close-up. If there was ‘relatively little’ makeup in Parsifal, then nobody beyond the stalls will have been able to make out any facial features.

  • oedipe says:

    I have a question: I couldn’t tell from the HD what people in the house got to see right at the beginning of the performance, and I am curious if it was the same beggining as in Lyon.

    In Lyon the stage curtain had a metallic surface on which light was projected such that it became mirror-like and it reflected the rows of people seated in the first balcony. Then, the stage was lit up slightly and the metallic curtain became translucent, so that one could see the faces of the chorus members behind the curtain. At that moment one had the illusion that the people on stage were seated among the audience. Eventually the mirror image of the audience disappeared and the only ones visible were the men on stage shedding their jackets and shoes.

    • DonCarloFanatic says:

      Alas, we never saw the curtain. The HD cameras focused on the orchestra the whole time.

      The lighting was very poor when they switched to the stage. The women were nearly impossible to see. If I hadn’t read here about what they were doing, I would have had zero clue. That could have been my HD theater; the reception was definitely affected by sunspot activity. It looked like an old VCR receiving interference from other machines. Not horrible, but not as crisp as usual. It did not seem to affect the close-ups, but backgrounds were murky.

    • mountmccabe says:

      oedipe, the mirror-like curtain beginning you describe sounds very similar to what was used at the Met.

      It wasn’t clear; I could tell it was reflecting the sputniks but not details. Maybe folks from above could see those in the front orchestra, I don’t know.

      • oedipe says:

        The problem is that the reflected space is so huge at the Met that the illusion probably worked only from a small number of seats.

        • FragendeFrau82 says:

          Dear oedipe I was sitting in row D and alas the reflective scrim didn’t work as you describe. The reflective surface was dark and only reflected the blobs of lights. Reflections of the audience weren’t visible, which would have been excellent.

          • Bianca Castafiore says:

            oedipe, i had read the description before hand of the “mirror” effect of the curtain but in the house, it merely reflects the house candelabra, not the people’s faces. The lighting at the Met and this whole production was rather dark to me.

  • Batty Masetto says:

    Our Own Rowna has posted a charming YouTube introduction to Parsifal, starting here:

    I don’t know whether it was unnecessary modesty or fear of Parterrian snark-sharks that has kept her from mentioning it, but brava Rowna!

    A minor quibble: to me a “gothic mystery” is something on the lines of “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” :) The sources might be described better as “medieval epics.”

    Rowna, after all your hard work and research boning up for it, did you think the HD paid off?

    • Rowna says:

      Dear Batty -- I am very late to the Parsifal party. I just started entering it’s world a few months ago. I was very drawn to Amfortas’ music, and the chromaticsm which foreshadows musical development. I took my husband to the HD and he basically was bored. I was transfixed, although I have to say, that about 1/3rd into act one, I was hoping once Parsifal enters, things would pick up, which they did. I am not a fan of the Flower Maiden music (too long) but I thought the staging brilliant. Act 3 after about 5 minutes, made my eyes well up. Another 5 minutes, lips quivering. Then the little tears rolling down my cheeks. By the end I was a puddle of tears, with my heart racing. I was more moved by this performance than any other I have witnessed. Jonas et all were so convincing as their characters. Largest kudos go to the director who envisioned this telling of the tale, especially the theme of redemption, Wagner’s omnipresent arc. I can’t say I would want to see this again soon, but for 6 hours I loved it. The next day I gave a recital myself so I had to put Parsifal away. But the memory of my own emotional ride at the Pittsburgh Mills theater was unforgettable. If someone can tell me how to put in a link with the youtube thumbnail, I will let you all see me sing, but no laughing allowed (aloud either!)

      • Jamie01 says:

        Rowna -- This was great. Were you reading from cue cards? I can’t imagine speaking extemporaneously with such coherence for eight seconds, much less eight minutes.

        BTW -- looking good! I’m feeling those clavicles.

        • Rowna says:

          Thanks Jamei01. No cue cards or notes. I often misspeak and put on sticky notes to correct my errors. Thanks re clavicles -- just good bones -- hehe -- but I do work out!

      • Bluevicks says:

        Dear Rowna,
        As a newbie to parterre I didn’t know that you posted your reviews on YT. This was a very interesting find ( I especially appreciated your review of the Salzburg’s Cesare). Now about your post to me earlier:

        ”Detached? How did you come up with this opinion? What would have made him more attached?”

        Well, something like singing out for instance ? Using less throaty sounds? Stoping the eery pseudo dynamic modulation of the middle register? Having some chemistry with the other singers around him? Exhibiting some spontaneity for a change?

        I think that no artist one is universally loved. Still, there is a remarkable critical consensus about Kaufmann (it’s quite difficult to find something negative about his singing in the press) so I wouldn’t say that he’s ”controversial”. I would be happy to admit that I’m wrong, but unfortunately I can’t change my perceptions of what I hear. My taste may be bad but it’s mine and I’m not young enough to change it.

        ”Gurenmanz’ character, to me, represents “everyman” ”

        I wholeheartedly agree but this ”everyman” aspect has to include some human warmth IMO. I saw little of it in Pape’s portrayal. But he was indeed very ”regal and elegant” and the way in which he managed to keep his voice in shape all these years is quite admirable. It’s just that like Kaufmann, there was nothing particularly gripping in the way he sang.

        I’m glad however that so many people had such a good time with this production. After all, there is a place for everyone of us.

        • oedipe says:

          I disagree that Gurnemanz’ character represents “everyman”. On the contrary, IMO: he is the narrator, the choragos, the sage. He is affected by the characters’ plight, but he himself is more of an observer than an active participant. Thus in the case of Pape a certain detachment is understandable and being “regal and elegant” is justified.

          As for Kaufmann, I have ALWAYS found -and often stated- that he has little chemistry with the other singers (maybe with the notable exception of Harteros).

          • oedipe says:

            P.S. Sorry to be a party pooper, but I can just imagine the chemistry between “detached” Kaufmann and icy Garanca in Werther next season! Everybody will blame Massenet, of course…

          • Rowna says:

            Dearest Oedipe -- Re the character of Gurnemanz I agree he is the narrator. the other characters are either of noble birth, priests or have special powers, and as such he seems to be just trying to do what is right, without judgment.

          • oedipe says:

            Indeed. Though he DOES have the special powers of the narrator.

          • FragendeFrau82 says:

            Oedipe, I am not a betting woman, but I will be very curious to see if anyone actually blames *Massenet* for any perceived lack of chemistry between Kaufmann and Garanca. Why not hope for the best instead of expecting the worst?

            In the end I do think people see what they expect to see, or want to see, in any performance. *shrug* I’ve never had any problem seeing ‘heat’ where heat is required or distance where that is required in either Kaufmann or Alagna. Aren’t we lucky to have both? And they both can’t be everywhere at once.

          • oedipe says:

            FF,

            I can think of a few people who would likely blame Massenet for anything and everything. Just a few days ago I saw, on another opera site, a comment that went something like: “Kaufmann is great news, but why do they have him sing in that revolting crap, Werther?” So I don’t think expecting people to abhorre Massenet and adore Kaufmann is all that far fetched, do you?

        • Rowna says:

          Dear Bluevicks,
          Thanks for the response. I can’t find my “detatched” remark, so I can’t defend myself, nor apologize for showing my ignorance. Re Kaufmann, of course people will disagree -- I can’t think of ONE singer where everyone agreed on the merit of that artist, vocally or musically. Callas, of course was the one who brought out the most fanatics on both sides. However, I remember very well, heated arguments over the worth of Sills, Sutherland and a host of other singers. Re Pape -- I found him moving. We can still be friends -- you and me :)
          Yours, in newbieness,
          Rowna

          • Bluevicks says:

            Dear Rowna,
            Of course, you don’t have to apologize just because you have a different opinion from mine. After all, exchanges of opinions are far more entertaining if there are various point of views to discuss. I would be very happy to be your friend here on parterre, no matter how we would disagree in the future about musical matters :-)
            Yours
            Bluevicks (not yet VapoRub…)

    • Camille says:

      Dear Rowna,

      That transmission on TV, if it was the one with Waltraud Meier, was in 1993. Perhaps there was another one in the 1980′s — I don’t know — but it was certainly not with her, as she did not make her Met debut until 1987, and as Fricka, in “Die Walküre”. The Kundry came along in 1992 and was broadcast sometime later, in my case, I saw it around the middle of 1993.

      Also, the beginning of Parsifal is: “Vorspiel” = Prelude.

      Never admit your age. You can pass for much younger!!! Love the white sweater!!! Kudos to U!

      In fede with The Eileen Farrell Fan Club
      Camille

      • Rowna says:

        I guess I got my years mixed up but it was definitely Waltraud. And now that I think of it, I had to be living in Pittsburgh. When we moved here it was our 18th move so you can see I get a bit mixed up. So there were 20 intervening years. I remember quite vividly her portrayal of a haunted and wild woman. She was earthy, sexy and possessed. Ms Dalayman brought a sense of nobility and humility to her portrayal of Kundry, in my opinion. A little more crazy-ness would have been ok with me, but I thought she was magnificent in her own right. Thanks for the “Vorspiel” correction and no one was impolite to correct my pronunciation of GurNEmanz.
        Yours in admiration of the Great Eileen Farrell
        Rowna
        PS if you go to my youtube channel, Cantorandopera I have posted a few videos of my little concert. The music isn’t Wagner but it is beautiful nonetheless. And my oboe accompanist just retired after 41 years with the Pittsburgh Symphony.

        • Porgy Amor says:

          I think that in our own time, Meier may have spoiled me. In sheer vocal endowment, she is not the greatest Kundry of all time and and perhaps not even of her own time (Urmana, for example, was more secure and reliable as pure sound goes), but what she does as a musician and an actor is so convincing and right. It is not unusual for me in Act II to lose myself in her portrayal, to stop thinking of it as a preordained story and to feel there’s a danger that the Parsifal really is going to succumb. And there’s real terror in her screams, real madness in her cackles — she gives herself to those moments when the role leaves words behind, which are short but tend to loom in the memory. The danger, the abandon, the complete identification are rare and special.

          Fortunately, there are three DVDs and several audio recordings, and I would not want to give up any of them. This and Marie are the roles for which I will remember her most.

  • luvtennis says:

    Can’t wait for this production to come out on Blu-Ray.

    I have to say that the photoshopped Kaufbieber is very creepy and disturbing. He looks a bit like a pez dispenser.

    Also, I nominate Gergiev as the worst big-name conductor of Wagner in the last 40 years -- solely on the basis the new Walkure. Am I wrong? And if so, how wrong?

    • Nerva Nelli says:

      “I nominate Gergiev as the worst big-name conductor of Wagner in the last 40 years”

      Metropolitan Opera House
      January 7, 2008 Broadcast/Streamed

      DIE WALKUERE {513}

      Bruennhilde……Lisa (“Best since Austral”) Gasteen

      Conductor……………Lorin Maazel

  • DonCarloFanatic says:

    I have to take issue with Kaufmann as a “detached” artist. If we concentrate on his current Wagner rep, we do see him often being inward and thoughtful, which certainly is appropriate in Lohengrin and Parsifal. But if you look at him in Carmen, he’s not detached at all. Nor in several Traviatas and Toscas available on YouTube. I didn’t think him detached in Adrianna with Gheorghiu, either. In Fidelio he was very emotional, but he was playing a prisoner who was now having trouble re-connecting with his former life, including his wife. Detachment was partof the interpretation. Faust, well, I’ll grant you there seemed to be no chemistry with Popslavskaya. A recent European Werther staging was off-putting and I don’t find Koch a warm singer herself, so I am on the fence about this one. It will be interesting to see what he does with it at the Met.

    Where I see Kaufmann as detached is by comparison with Alagna. There seems to be no sexual tension Kaufman creates with his leading ladies even when there is emotional resonance between them. The audience imputes it based on his expressions of emotion and his own attractiveness. Kaufmann is not broadcasting appreciation, for want of a better term. Alagna is. Even Pavarotti, often cited as a poor actor, was a convincing sensualist.

    Others on this site have suggested that Alagna comes across as too aware of the man-woman thing. Kaufmann tends to come across as someone whose passion flows from his intellect, not from his hormones directly. Does that make any sense?

    • bassoprofundo says:

      his intellect?

      Do you know him personally? how do you know he has a strong or “passionate” intellect?

      • How do you know he doesn’t? Do you know him personally and can attest to the contrary? Seems to me that you are all too willing to challenge anyone but can not put out your evidence to do so.

        • bassoprofundo says:

          I’m not “challenging” anyone, I’m just asking a question. No, I don’t know him personally, that’s why I asked if doncarlofanatic does.

          • rapt says:

            Note to a careless reader: doncarlofanatic actually said “tends to come across as someone whose passion flows from his intellect, not from his hormones directly.” “Come across as” = gives an appearance that this spectator interprets in this way. Different from “is;” does not assert knowledge. Feel free to misread this note as well.

          • Batty Masetto says:

            If the folks at the UN used basso’s method of “just asking a question” we could have WW III up and running in about 20 minutes flat.

          • I rest my case.

            I understand that claiming innocence and the ever present (these days) “they took me out of context” will be used, but we have seen enough of your behavior around here to either know better or get a sense of what might be going on.

          • bassoprofundo says:

            Lindoro. You’re reading way too much into it. If I had given some huge rant either way, maybe I would understand your point. But all I did was ask a question, and I really have no dog in this fight. I legitimately was/am curious as to whether or not the poster knows Kaufmann personally, because otherwise I don’t see how he could know what his intellect is (or isn’t) like. That’s all.

            Anyway, rapt, fair point.

    • oedipe says:

      Others on this site have suggested that Alagna comes across as too aware of the man-woman thing.

      Well, he IS Latin, you know. Although I think the equations Kaufmann = intellect, Alagna = testosterone, are a touch simplistic, to say the least.

      And this is for Manou & francophones (very entertaining):

      http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xy0pqy_roberto-alagna-l-heure-du-psy-du-07-03-2013-dans-a-la-bonne-heure_news?start=1#.UTjTWKXhAy4

    • Batty Masetto says:

      Strange how different people read performances in different ways. Kaufmann was the one who finally persuaded me that Werther isn’t just an anemic exercise in commercial cynicism. In fact, after the extraordinary passage that begins “rêve, extase,” I found myself wondering why Charlotte doesn’t just turn to lava and elope with him on the spot. From Koch’s acting (which I also like very much) I think she’s wondering the same thing.

      • louannd says:

        I think rather than say he is a more *intellectual* performer, I would argue that he uses his VOICE to shade and color and provide the emotional communication that evoke a strong emotional response, perhaps more so than Alagna who is a “sex machine” as James Brown might say. Let’s face it, these days, Jonas Kaufmann has more of an instrument than Alagna but RA has always been the most charismatic of performers using *everything* he has to perform.