We waited eagerly to hear the Munich-born Jonas Kaufmann make his role debut as Manrico at the Bavarian State Opera as well the German-Greek soprano Anja Harteros take on Leonora’s bravura difficult arias. Local press called it “Belcantos Fest” and  “Hochkarätige Besetzung” long before the production started to run. The management decided to broadcast the premiere–Opening of the Opera Summer Festival–through radio and digital devices on June 27; then, on July 5 we had the pleasure of a complete performance on the site of the Opera house as as part of the company’s outreach program, which is absolutely remarkable. 

First thing first:  Kaufmann did not sung “Di quella pira” in order to reach the famous (unwritten) high C, but only a more comfortable key of B natural, as has every post WWII “tenorissim0”  except Bonisolli.

So all the German critics should take a break from telling us how and pure is Kaufmann’s top range. At 43 he’s possibly the most-in-demand tenor in the world today. Good looking, extremely receptive to directors and conductors,  he is notable as well for the wide range of his repertoire: Wagner, French opera, and increasingly the heavier Verdi and Puccini roles. And he clearly intends to keep it that way: in fact being a guaranteed sellout is a very well-rewarded job. Don Alvaro of La forza del destino is coming next Fall still in Munich, Otello is already planned as well, but, considering the fatigue displayed as Manrico, one worries what will become of his voice in three years.

The real winner of the soiree was Harteros, a fierce yet delicate Leonora with warm acuti,  opulent centri and a powerful projection: a good mix of Mediterranean temperamento and German  tradition, with occasional lapses in projection of the text and florid passages.

The biggest fraud was the maestro Carignani, driving the orchestra only in the slowest or fastest gear.  Passion does not mean “chaos” even in an absurd plot. Markov and Manistina were up and down all through the show, more ups to him, more downs for her.

As to the already famous Olivier Py production IMHO it was not made to send the Golden age of opera lover to an asylum, but to emphasize what is the contemporary “theatre bourgeois”: big visual icons easy to fill with pop cultural references for a mainstream adult audience. Do you think I’m telling lies? Well who did not danced thinking of a burning cross and wearing  skin tight (leather) trousers to Madonna’s “Like a Prayer?” We could go on for  ages debating whether the violence and nudity on stage was from Rob Zombie or Murnau but the performance itself was slickly done even with all those things happenings. And apparently this style is in the ascendant in Europe, since Py is the new artistic director of Festival d’Avignon and signed for three production in the next two years in Paris, including Aida.

For EU consumers, the quality of the telecast provided from Bavaria was fantastic, pity it was not possible to record or it is not planned to be commercially distributed.

Photo: Wilfried Hösl