BWW Review: JONAS KAUFMANN - DOLCE VITA at Berlin's Waldbuehne

BWW Review: JONAS KAUFMANN - DOLCE VITA at Berlin's WaldbuehneLast night, Friday the 13th proved to be lucky for Jonas Kaufmann. Despite threatening clouds all evening, Kaufmann's DOLCE VITA was spared from the predicted rainstorm and was an elegant evening under the stars at Berlin's spectacular amphitheater, the Waldbuehne.

Mr. Kaufmann is probably the most sought-after tenor on the planet today. His DOLCE VITA concert last night proved exactly why.

Let's state the obvious. Mr. Kaufmann is a tall, very handsome man, who's in very good shape both vocally and physically. He has been blessed with a dark-hued, baritone-like tenor voice complete with very secure, clarion high notes, that he uses with great intelligence and enormous musicality. This is one of the most unique voices singing classical music today.

During the last few seasons, Mr. Kaufmann has had some personal and health issues and has canceled a number of high-profile performances. These cancellations led to murmuring in the classical-music industry of a possible "vocal crisis." On the basis of last night's performance, I am happy to report that Mr. Kaufmann's voice is in very fine shape. The voice was even from top to bottom. He sang a few spectacular high notes moving from a pianissimo with seamless crescendos to forte and fortissimo. Mr. Kaufmann's renowned musicality was in full evidence and he showed his voice to be the finely-nuanced instrument that it has always been.

Jochen Rieder conducted the marvelous Berlin Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra. Their playing was nothing short of magnificent. It must be said that the amplification of the orchestra in an amphitheater with 22,000 seats was first-rate. Starting with the Overtüre from Verdi's I VESPRI SICILIANI, Mr. Rieder extracted an extremely nuanced orchestral performance in a venue more closely associated with large rock concerts.

Joining Mr. Kaufmann for two solos and two duets was the Mezzo-soprano, Anita Rachvelishvili, a rising star in the world of opera. To this critic's ear, Ms.Rachvelishvili's "operatic" singing was not as effective as her "pop" singing in the second act. Her rendition of Lucio Dalla's "Caruso" was the most beautiful, moving rendition of that song, I have ever heard. In the first act, her aria and duet from CAVALLARIA RUSTICANA were both very sensual renditions, but her singing remained very soft-grained. There is a constant, somewhat worrying, breathiness even in her loudest notes. While this breathiness served her extremely well in the "Caruso" it was out of place in the Mascagni pieces.

Mr. Kaufmann is a great technician with a gorgeous voice. What he is not, is a showman or a very emotional singer. This is a tenor that one admires for his technical facility and for the beauty of his sound. He is not a huge personality in the style of Luciano Pavarotti. He is studious, correct and very German in his approach to singing. This has preserved his voice throughout his career, but in a concert like DOLCE VITA, one wished for more emotional fire and passion. Everything "sounded" right, but not much emotion came across the footlights.

The performance was being filmed for ZDF television, Germany's equivalent of CBS or ABC, and for a DVD release. Mr. Kaufmann's choice of songs also left something to be desired. While his performance of CAVALLARIA RUSTICANA was admirable, heavy dramatic operatic excerpts are not what one expects in a concert titled DOLCE VITA. Unlike Mr. Pavarotti who knew how to use classical music to create a commercial entertainment, Mr. Kaufmann's musical choices ensured that he will not "crossover" to a wider "general" audience.

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From This Author Mark Janicello

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