Cher Public

How to train your dragoon

Forty-five years after Herbert von Karajan founded Osterfestspiele Salzburg in 1967 as an opportunity for his Berliner Philharmoniker to act as a pit band, the orchestra and its latest maestro, Simon Rattle, decamped for Baden-Baden. Rattle’s farewell production in March 2012 was Carmen starring Magdalena Kozená (Mrs. Rattle), Jonas Kaufmann, Genia Kühmeier, and Kostas Smoriginas. 

Kozená was a bit of an odd choice for Bizet’s earthy gypsy: she rose to international prominence as Cherubino and other Mozart mezzos and maintains a relatively light repertoire. Carmen is not even mentioned in her Wikipedia biography.

Smoriginas was new to me, and I must admit to not being impressed, although I now see his name on rosters all over Europe.

Let’s be honest: I was there for Kaufmann and Kühmeier, two of my favorite singers, and I was deliriously happy when I landed a ticket in the sixth row of the Großes Festspielhaus.

Kaufmann is, well… you know: some of us adore him, while others constantly deride his vocal production and other idiosyncrasies.

Kühmeier has suffered a string of personal crises, including widowhood at an early age, and has been absent from the stage for the past several seasons. This is truly sad and a great pity, as her voice is absolutely angelic.

Aside from Kaufmann’s hushed, eloquent “La fleur que tu m’avais jetée” the highlight of the evening came early for me: the Act I duet between Don José and Micaëla. Blessings on the Regisseur who staged it downstage right, directly in front of me. It remains one of the most certifiably religious moments I’ve ever experience, in or out of a theater.

I could barely breathe during the duet. By the end, I looked down and saw that the entire front of my tuxedo shirt was soaked with tears. I glanced over at the woman next to me with whom I had chatted before the performance in time to see her nab a handkerchief from her purse and wipe the tears from her face. She saw me and flashed a quick smile which precisely asked, “Did we really just hear what we heard?”

It called to mind a New York City Ballet performance of Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco after which the little old lady in front of me turned around and said, “It’s enough to make you believe in God” – one of those moments that we all hope for but rarely experience.

  • Camille

    As this pertains to Jonas Kaufmann I’l plant this here: if you plan on attending his performance as Tristan in its Act II only excerpt next year on Thursday April 12th at Carnegie Hall, and as conducted by Andris Nelsons leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra, you might just want to start a piggy bank savings for it NOW, as balcony seats start at US$131 and $161 and that’s only the beginning. That’s for ONE ACT! And it may be the only one we get here, who knows?

    See Carnegie Hall website for more information; 2017-18 season.

    • Williams

      Cheri, The price you mentioned is for a three evening subscription. That said, considering Herr Kaufmann’s unenviable cancellation history, one might have some reluctance.

      • Camille

        WHAT?? Oh goody, I’m so glad. I can spend at least a part of that piggy bank at Sephora instead.

        • Olivero Fan

          He is scheduled to do the same concert with the Boston Symphony, but I don’t expect there to be any single tickets available. The last time Kaufmann appeared with the BSO the concerts sold out to subscribers. I checked his appearances this year. His performances are available on 2 different subscription series. The cheapest seat for the series is around 400 dollars. There are people who will subscribe in order to obtain a ticket for Herr Kaufmann.

          • Bill

            I would most of the Boston Symphony patrons (subscribers) would subscribe anyway (out of tradition) whether an individual singer such as Kaufmann is programmed or not. The advantage of a big name of course sells single tickets and if the only manner in which some fans can obtain tickets to hear a popular favorite soloist is to purchase tickets on a subscription with other concerts which are not of interest to the subscriber I guess one has to go that way. Are the performances of the Boston Symphony in
            Symphony Hall generally sold out on a routine basis ? Have the number of patrons taken subscriptions dwindled over the years in Boston in similar fashion to the decline of sales of subscriptions at the Metropolitan Opera ? I doubt that many patrons of the
            Metropolitan Opera would take a full subscription just to obtain a seat for
            Tristan or Der Rosenkavalier this year the two operas on the schedule which seemed to be the most appealing at the box office this season with pretty much full houses if not always entirely sold out (both German by the way). Both, of course, had famous
            sopranos in the cast, and that helps bring in the crowds.

          • John L

            The last concert he had was the season opener with Opolais and Nelsons, so maybe that also played a factor in being completely sold out. I’d be surprised if one can not find single tickets when ticket sales go to the general public. I plan to subscribe for the first time anyway, since there at least 7 other performances that interest me.

    • Lady Abbado

      Deja vu all over again -- you can watch Kaufmann and Gheorghiu Monday May 8th in a live streaming from Vienna. Not clear if it will be Tosca or “No abbiamo soprano”:

  • Cameron Kelsall

    Kuhmeier’s Micaela here is about as good as it gets! Just stunning. I feel privileged to have caught one of her two Paminas at the Met a decade ago (seems unfathomable it’s been that long), and am sad that her tragic personal circumstances have curtailed planned returns.

  • DonCarloFanatic

    Speaking of concerts, the Netrebko-Eyvazov concert in L.A. is nowhere near sold out, and single orchestra seats (not pairs) are only $124.