Cher Public

Beyond the sea

Jonas Kaufmann has been absent from the US for quite a while, but he’s scheduled to return on the final day of 2017 for the Met’s new/old production of Puccini’s Tosca. In the meantime, previewing Monday’s Met season premiere, “Trove Thursday” presents Mozart’s Idomeneo with the superstar tenor in the title role. 

Mozart played an important part in Kaufmann’s early career. In the late 1990s he sang Ferrando in Così Fan Tutte at the Piccola Scala, and Idomeneo (in which he sings the original florid version of “Fuor del mar”) and Tito eventually followed.

Following his debut run at the Met as Alfredo in La Traviata, the next time I heard Kaufmann there was as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte in October 2006 and he was marvelous—lyrical yet heroic—but I suspect it was one of his final performances in a Mozart role.

This live recording (not in the best sound) also features the much underrated Slovak soprano Luba Orgonasova as Elettra. Though this performance might not show her at her best, her gleaming voice was especially thrilling in Mozart, particularly her fierce Aspasia in Graham Vick’s Mitridate at Covent Garden (where it is being revived later this season) and her Konstanze in John Eliot Gardiner’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail.

After an absence of more than a decade, Idomeneo returns to the Met on March 6 in the 35-year-old production by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle; at its premiere (I was there) the cast included Ileana Cotrubas, Hildegard Behrens, Frederica von Stade and Luciano Pavarotti. Monday’s revival features Nadine Sierra, Elza van den Heever, Alice Coote and Matthew Polenzani. Let’s hope it can begin to compare to the superb concert performance led by René Jacobs heard at Alice Tully Hall during last summer’s Mostly Mozart Festival.

Mozart: Idomeneo
12 March 2003

Ilia: Malin Hartelius
Elettra: Luba Orgonasova
Idamante: Liliana Nikiteanu
Idomeneo: Jonas Kaufmann
Arbace: Miroslav Christoff
La Voce: Giuseppe Scorsin

Conductor: Christoph von Dohnanyi

This week’s offering can be downloaded via the audio player included on this page. Just click on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

In addition, Idomeneo, last week’s Giulio Cesare and nearly 60 other “Trove Thursday” podcasts are available from iTunes (for free!) or via any RSS reader.

  • Marcello

    The 2003 Idomeneo is from Zurich.

    • ines

      I saw him in this Idomeneo.
      His curls were all the way down to the shoulders, and he was pretty placid…( as was the production)- sang well though. But Orgonasova got the biggest hand…. the superstar was still in the making

      • I found Orgonasova a more convincing, moving Alcina in Carsen’s (cool) production in Paris than Renée Fleming.

        • I really like Orgonasova’s Donna Anna on the Gardiner Don Giovanni.

          • Luvtennis

            Yes!!!!! As you may recall, I have pushing la Luba for decades! Lol! She remains for me the great lyric of the 90s. Love her!!!

    • Armerjacquino

      This fits with my ‘if it’s Nikiteanu, it’s Zurich’ theory.

      • Marcello

        She is still around.

  • I didn’t know Kaufmann sang Idomeneo, with the florid version of “fuor del mar” yet! Thank you!!

  • Ivy Lin
    • Kullervo

      Regarding Gelb’s last words, I do find it reasonable to leave the door open in spite of the administrative drama his cancellations cause, since he really does have a big fan base in the states who would travel to see him (and they definitely need that…).

      But you start to wonder how many of his fans will proceed ‘with caution’ as well. At least in this case the cancellation happened early enough to prevent inconvenience for those who planned to see him.

  • MissShelved

    So now he intends to stay “beyond the sea” a little longer. At least he didn’t wait until Christmas to disappoint us.

  • Camille

    The only thing that I think of when hearing Kaufmann’s name announced is whether or not Fragende Frau will be booking another flight+accommodations and have a cancellation to face. At least this time, she won’t have that problem.

    Perhaps he knows best. In light of his recent vocal/health problems, the change in his personal life in the last few years, and the pressure of being Numero Uno Mondiale has taken its toll, and he doesn’t want to stray that far afield or perhaps just doesn’t care as much anymore. He’s a made man and not a kid any longer, and he’s probably got about ten years left and wants to play them cannily. Ten years, that is, unless Domingo granted him immortality status along with the title Number One Tenor in the World, which is always possible.

    I’m just glad Fragende Frau won’t be disappointed this time around, that’s all.

    And thank you very much for this lovely Idomeneo, which I hope to cram into my schedule sometime before the opening. Should be very interesting to compare his earlier Mozartian style and voice with what we have become acquainted with in this later day.

    • QuantoPainyFakor

      That’s all very compassionate, but Kaufmann has shown great disdain for the MET, its management, and for his fans in the USA by this cancellation. These days, it’s much more comfortable to remain in Europe.

      • Cameron Kelsall

        I was thinking the same thing. True illness is one thing. I don’t want to rehearse over Christmas is another thing altogether.

        • grimoaldo2

          R. Alagna! New dates for your diary!

          • Camille

            No, please don’t wish that on him or you won’t get a good Canio, the one he is scheduled for. This rush, rush and push, push kind of last minute deal is what happened last time with his Pagliacci and the Manon Lescaut, for which, by his own admission on the radio, he rehearsed for without really sleeping for over a week. That is too much, and it showed in his singing.

            Although, come to think of it, he DOES know this role inside and out, it’s not like he has to cram it in ten days.

            • grimoaldo2

              Yes, I was sort of joking, I don’t really want him to do that. He is very game and never cancels, that I know of.

            • Camille

              by the way, grimoaldo, are you coming up for Alagna’s Cyrano in May?

              The first two are broadcast (Listen Live the 2nd and then Toll Bros.on the 6th) then there are two additional performances. Supposing you may listen first and then decide?

            • grimoaldo2

              Exactly Camille, I do not know that opera at all to be honest and not sure if I would like it enough to make a special trip to NYC for it, Alagna notwithstanding, Also May is likely to be a very busy time for me, but as you say I will listen first and then decide.

            • Camille

              Neither do I know it well but I look forward to it.

              In the meantime there is this from Montpellier in 2003 in a charming staged version.


              Of course, it won’t sound the same but it gives one an idea of what it’s all about.

              And sorry to post here but there is no Daily Thread and we have started this conversation here , so

            • Cameron Kelsall

              Well, it’s not going to be Alagna, as has already been announced. But yes, there’s a big difference between trying to learn a brand new role in two weeks time and singing a role you’ve performed hundreds of times. That said, I don’t think Alagna would relish the idea of singing Tosca, Cav, and Pag over the same time period.

              In hindsight, it wasn’t the greatest idea to have Alagna jump into ML last season. He definitely was underprepared and didn’t give the best performance. He probably would have made a great Des Grieux is he had adequate time to learn the role. But I understand why Gelb approached him--he felt he needed a star name to compensate for JK’s late in the game cancellation. Gelb has been good to Alagna throughout his tenure at the Met, and Bobby probably felt obliged to do the house a favor.

            • Camille

              Wasn’t it the case that Alagna also did the house a huge favor a few years back when he subbed as a Radames at the last moment and turned it into a big personal success? I don’t know as I wasn’t even here at the moment but I heard about it and it was a big deal for him, vis-à-vis that fiasco at La Scala he had suffered a couple years before.

              That he would have made an excellent Des Grieux some time back is quite probable, and he had even studied it but apparently the production was shelved. It requires a degree of lightness and reach, coupled with a powerful top, that really doesn’t sound like what he’s been heading for, what with the Eléazar, and the Otello and Calaf, and the Samson, and that genre, for some time now. With all that said, he has the wisdom to STILL include Nemorino in his work load, and if he can manage that, it’s smart== but it may likely have sentimental reasons attached to it, don’t know.

              And I always prefer his singing in French, in any case. I thought of œdipe’s words about him many times when I last heard him sing Don José--they made all kinds of sense to me.

          • Cameron Kelsall

            Vittorio Grigolo is already announced as Kaufmann’s replacement. It will be his role debut, and now he has nine months to adequately prepare.

      • Camille

        I don’t know if it is compassion or simply trying to look at things from both sides and accounting for the fact I have no hard facts, nor do I care to have them!!! You would know better than I, and this is only guesstimating at things. That he does have a fanbase that may now be shrinking somewhat is probably so. He has a lot served up on his personal plate and probably wants to not stretch himself, and it may come out better for all of us in the end.

        However: Mr. Gelb has enough problems to handle and the cancellation a scant--what--ten days or so after the announcement of the season does seem unwarranted and somewhat lacking in professional courtesy, I’ll grant you that. (And lacking in professional courtesy as it probably could have been done three weeks ago). But I do not know his mind, and knowing singers’ minds as I do, they are just unpredictable and pursued by many Furies. God only knows what’s really at the bottom of it all. Maybe $$$$ — the common denominator of most everything these days. Perhaps the divorce has cost him more than had been anticipated?
        Ich weiss nix, gar nix. Just guessing.

        • QuantoPainyFakor

          Ich care nix!

          • Camille

            hahahahaHA! Now, now then.
            You don’t recall the Alceste with Rose Bampton, René Maison and Leonard Warren from 1941, offhand, do you? It has just come up on the broadcast and think I’ll give it a listen as I’ve never been fair to Rose, not liking her Fidelio/Toscanini, as I do. So far, she is sounding quite good. Don’t know as I can make it through the entirety of Alceste, though. I once fell asleep to a Flagstad recording of same.

            ‘Ich care nix’ is my new motto.

            oops — she just went up to a B flat very easily and well, so I guess the mezzo days are past here. Ciao Maestro!!!!! Statti bene!!!

        • Luvtennis

          Yes, and I can see him not wanting to forego the potentially lucrative Christmas concert or three.

        • nola colman

          Kaufmann has concerts scheduled in China in November (see H.Deutsch site) and Japan first week of January. When did he sign those contracts? Sounds like double-booking to me. Either he doesn’t have a good calendar program or somebody isn’t being straight with the public. Actually I think both (Gelb & Kaufmann) are less than candid.

    • fragendefrau

      Dear Camille, that is very kind of you! I had not made plans for New York yet but would certainly have bought a ticket or two--but not at the outrageous prices I used to pay. I am considering the Carnegie Hall gig, which is still on, but I could only get a ticket for his previous recital there through the kindness of friends. I’m not sure if his reluctance to appear in an opera on these shores will make CH tickets easier or more difficult to get! I did see his recital and concert in London which were both very good. Sadly he canceled the Vier Letzte Lieder but I will (eventually) get my money back for that ticket and I’m glad to visit London and my friends, even if he’d canceled the entire Barbican program.

      • Camille

        Well, glad to hear you are out there and doing your thing! Not kind at all just practising a bit if mindfulness, which I ought to do more often.

        Just to mention: it COULD be that the entire Kaufmann Konzert will be broadcast via and you may hear it gratis BUT that will not be revealed until sometime in the autumn when the new season broadcasts will be made known. Anyway, just so’s you nose!!

        Don’t forget to warm up that screen for the upcoming Andrea Chénier aus München--sure to be fun!

        Ciao 4 now!

  • eric (new york)

    I’ve been stood up by JK in New York in the past few years, for Manon Lescaut and Carmen. Neither opera was one that I was excited to see again, but I certainly wanted to see Kaufmann again. But he canceled both.

    When I was planning a trip to Italy last fall, I saw that he was singing Meistersinger in Munich in early October, and decided to make a side trip to Munich. I figured he wouldn’t cancel in his hometown. But he did.

    I wonder if we’ll ever see him again in New York.

  • eric (new york)

    From a 2015 interview:

    Kaufmann also dislikes the fact that he is expected to go on stage when he is unwell. He has said in the past that every time he sings someone in the audience will be recording it, it’ll be up on YouTube within hours, and a bad performance will stick to him. He contrasts the criticism heaped on singers who cancel with the latitude given to footballers. “If football players are injured, or have problems, or can only play half the game because they are not fresh enough, everybody says ‘Ah the poor guy’. They don’t say ‘Bastard! Why didn’t you warm up properly?’”

  • QuantoPainyFakor