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Jonas Kaufmann’s Otello: So how was it for you?

June 22, 2017 by norman lebrecht

15 comments.


The first newspaper review this morning of Kaufmann’s role debut says it ranks with the finest.

Barry Millington writes in the Standard freesheet:

​For perfectly sound reasons, the Otello in Verdi’s opera falls prey to jealousy even more precipitately than his Shakespearian counterpart. Rarely has that gnawing suspicion seemed as convincing or moving as in the keenly awaited portrayal by Jonas Kaufmann, making his debut in the role, as directed by Keith Warner. Kaufmann may occasionally resort to stock gestures but he modulates effortlessly between the amorous and the unhinged, grippingly charting the character’s psychological decline.

Warner’s thought-provoking production, with stylishly abstract, Moorish-inflected sets by Boris Kudlicka and elegantly timeless costumes by Kaspar Glarner, constantly deepens the perspective…

No other reviews in yet.

Were you there?

UPDATE: NY Times gets in first


Comments (15)

  1. Nik says:

    JK certainly lived up to expectations for me. He sang beautifully, his acting was intelligent and moving, and he knew how far he could push his voice and have plenty left in the tank. He didn’t try to sing the loudest Esultate or Pel ciel marmoreo giuro in history. He didn’t need to. It was perfect.
    I now completely understand why Tézier was fired in favour of Vratogna. Vratogna is not an elegant singer, he lacks vocal heft and often resorts to shouting and barking. But never mind any of that: the man IS Iago. He is a bundle of pure evil energy and charisma, and his chemistry with JK was breathtaking. I tried to imagine Tézier in this production – he would have given us lots of smooth, noble legato singing, some impressive top notes and a terribly dull characterisation. I was happy with the switch. Others may disagree.
    Agresta for me was nothing more than an adequate repertory Desdemona. She got through it. Can’t really say much more in her favour. Her voice sounded dry and strained, and she has no stage presence whatsoever. Why on earth didn’t they give the whole run to Röschmann? She doesn’t seem to have anything else on this week.
    I liked the staging very much. Of course there were the obligatory boohs for Warner and his team. I’d love to hear from those t**ts and find out what made them think they could have done a better job.

    1. clarrieu says:

      “I tried to imagine Tézier in this production – he would have given us lots of smooth, noble legato singing, some impressive top notes and a terribly dull characterisation.”
      That’s fabulous, the summum of musical critic: you’re carefully reporting about a performance that never happened. Go ahead, we can’t wait to know more about Richter’s rendition of Prokofiev’s 3rd Concerto, or how Horowitz did with Ravel’s complete solo works.

  2. DESR says:

    Yes, and no – was at the general rehearsal. He is still a little bit tentative (though less so than a few months back at the Barbican Walkure) but vocally this was a fine performance. His interpretation will doubtless grow, though it is a good one already. He has all the vocal equipment for the role, I think, at least on this showing, though one wonders how it will affect his voice if he sings the role a lot – as he will be asked to do. The only real issue was volume, at points, though one could argue this was as much to do with Pappano letting the orchestra rip as anything.

    I am not a worshipper at the Kaufmannite shrine but have admired much (not all) of what he has done.

    Rather tragically, on social media early viewing suggests that some lusty Jonas fans – mostly, but not exclusively, women – seem instead preoccupied with the tightness of his Act 1, 2, 3 and 4 trouserings…

  3. Peter says:

    I was at both first night and the rehearsal. I thought generally everybody was more tense and tired than at the rehearsal, it was of course very hot. Kaufmann provided a subtle yet intense psychological approach. His Otello is clearly fighting internal demons from the start. His singing was lyrical and heart felt. Vratogna was excellent and Agresta was a creamy and sincere Desdemona . First Otello I saw was Jon Vickers and thats always been a hard act to follow.

  4. Elizabeth Owen says:

    He gave an interesting interview on BBC’s Newsnight last night saying that Placido Domingo was his hero and he had tried to emulate him but someone warned him that no one could do as much as Domingo’s varied career “It’s Placido” shrug.

  5. Jack S says:

    Musically I thought he was very good. Gorgeous tone, though overpowered by the orchestra and others often in the first half. Much better in the more intimate moments (Act I duet, Act III monologue), and generally more confident in the second half.

    I thought his acting was just not there. I didn’t get any sense of a general from him in the first half and the psychological torment was in the music but not on the stage for most of it. Some very beautiful moments and i’m sure it’ll develop as the run (and others, hopefully) goes on. It just needs time.

    Also, i hated the production

  6. Colin says:

    Since when did it become acceptable to comment on dress rehearsals?

    1. Peter says:

      I think it is reasonable not to mention the rehearsal before the first performance so that no one has their experience spoilt by revealing details of staging. But that is increasingly ignored on Twitter. Any existing conventions were formulated before the advent of social media. I have been going to rehearsals for years and never been required to take an oath of secrecy. Perhaps s sense of proportion is required here.

    2. DESR says:

      I booked only the rehearsal in case he cancelled, so it is all I have to go on after the first night. As it turns out, much less money was nevertheless well spent.

      Kunde might now be worth checking out. Suspect less beauty of tone but more inside the role, and will go for it…

  7. Davidson in Manhattan says:

    I have had two cancellations by Kaufman at the Met. Because of his track record, I have lost interest. Also I cut my operatic teeth on Corelli. Only Madame Caballe could be forgiven for cancellations by me. I always showed up for her, even if she didn’t.

    1. Anonymouse says:

      ‘I go airport!’…

  8. Katherine Roppel says:

    That last bon not is from Ariadne auf Naxos but mine is to say how grateful I am that Jonas Kaufmann made this Otello possible. My hope is that he will be confident to perform the entire Tristan–he can handle the singing and the smouldering eroticism–IMHO.

  9. Katherine Roppel says:

    Sorry opera lovers–I meant “bon mot” in my last comment.

  10. Martain Smith says:

    Well Davidson, if you cut your operatic teeth on Corelli I can only draw comparison with learning to drive in a Ferrari, and then be reduced to a Fiat.
    Both may get you from A to B – but the question is; HOW!


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