Review: The Met's Back, with a Live Concert Series Kicked Off by Jonas Kaufmann

By: Jul. 19, 2020
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Review: The Met's Back, with a Live Concert Series Kicked Off by Jonas Kaufmann
Photo: Gregor Hohenberg
/Sony Classical

When was the last time you heard a concert at the Met for $20? It could have been Saturday afternoon--with Jonas Kaufmann kicking off an online, live concert series, MET STARS LIVE IN CONCERT.

It helped to remind us what we're missing without live opera and stars worth going out of the way for.

Of course, we weren't in the house, which remains locked tight thanks to COVID, and only had to go as far as our phone, tablet or laptop for a great seat. We were in the grand Polling Abbey outside Munich, Kaufmann's home territory, and he showed up (hooray!), for the concert hosted remotely, and charmingly, by soprano Christine Goerke.

Review: The Met's Back, with a Live Concert Series Kicked Off by Jonas Kaufmann
Kaufmann as Canio in Salzburg. Photo: SN/APA

The good news is that he was in fine fettle--in marvelous voice for the dozen arias and song he sang live, though a couple of the choice selections, for me at least, were clips from staged performances, which proved what a stage animal he is. (There was a look at his gorgeous Siegmund from the Met's DIE WALKURE and a rarity, a work-in-progress that has progressed pretty far: his only appearance to-date as Canio in I PAGLIACCI from Salzburg.)

Review: The Met's Back, with a Live Concert Series Kicked Off by Jonas Kaufmann
Kaufmann as Siegmund at the Met.
Photo: Ken Howard/Met Opera

Kaufmann's voice is, of course, quite distinctive--like having a tenor and baritone in one body. (It reminds me of all those mezzos who insist on not being pegged as such, so they can dip into the soprano rep.) Maybe someday he'll be Siegfried and Wotan in the Ring (simultaneously), but he certainly isn't taking on any Scarpias or Pere Germonts right now--merely bringing that reverberating tone to all those tenor arias on the program.

Indeed, he doesn't skimp on the high side of his voice--not on this program, at least, filled with plenty of familiar arias that audiences just love. There was a plethora of Puccini on the bill, "Recondita armonia" and "E lucevan le stelle" from TOSCA and "Nessun dorma" from TURANDOT, to which he brought his most ardent, heart-felt singing, filled with plenty of shading. Other verismo highlights, filled with passion, came thanks to Cilea's ADRIANA LE COUVREUR and the lesser known L'ARLESIANA, and Giordano's ANDREA CHENIER.

He also included some wonderful arias in French, including two of my favorite pieces in the concert, which showed the elegance and power of his voice: "O paradis sorti de l'onde" from Meyerbeer's L'AFRICAINE and "Ah! Tout est bien fini ... O Souverain, ô juge, ô père!" from Massenet's LE CID. (Naturally, he included "La fleur que tu m'avais jetée" from CARMEN, which he does in the most sensual manner.) Kaufmann also included one wonderful Italian song that's showed up in some of his concerts, Licinio Refice's "Ombra di Nube," which certainly deserves a larger profile.

Surprisingly, there was nothing in German, except for the WALKURE clip--surprising since he's been pretty vocal about how much he likes to sing in his native tongue. But I was happy to settle for that clip from WALKURE that makes you forget the problems with the Met's Ring production and long to hear it live (with him, at least).

Last, but certainly not least was the flawless work of Kaufmann's longtime collaborator Helmut Deutsch at the piano. Deutsch got some time in the spotlight himself, playing piano transcriptions of the intermezzi from I PAGLIACCI and MANON LESCAUT.

The concert was a grand way to kick off the Met's new series--and can be seen On Demand through July 29. The series of Met Stars in Concert is set to run through December, until just before the Met is hoping to open its doors again. For the complete rundown of performers, including Renee Fleming's August 1 concert from the Dumbarton Oaks estate in Washington, DC, and tickets, see the Met's website.

The Kaufmann Program

"Recondita armonia" (TOSCA)
"E lucevan le stelle" (TOSCA)
"La fleur que tu m'avais jetée" (CARMEN)
"L'amour, l'amour ... Ah! lève-toi, soleil!" (ROMÉO ET JULIETTE)

"O paradis sorti de l'onde" (L'AFRICAINE)
"Ah! Tout est bien fini ... O Souverain, ô juge, ô père!" (LE CID)
"Cielo e mar" (LA GIOCONDA)
"L'anima ho stanca" (ADRIANA LECOUVREUR)

"Ombra di Nube" (Song by Licinio Refice)
"Un dì, all'azzurro spazio" (ANDREA CHÉNIER)
"È la solita storia" (L'ARLESIANA)
"Nessun dorma" (TURANDOT)

Film clips from DIE WALKURE (The Met) and I PAGLIACCI (Salzburg Festival).


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