Sicklist3: Jonas Kaufmann gets substituted at the Met

Sicklist3: Jonas Kaufmann gets substituted at the Met


norman lebrecht

March 04, 2014

His replacement last night as Werther was debutant Jean-François Borras. Anyone catch the show?

UPDATE: Here’s one. He was ‘major-league’… ‘brighter’ (than Kaufmann)… ‘more forward.’ Any more?

 h/t Yehuda Shapiro

Jean-François Borras


  • Richard Naxos says:

    I wish I was there, but I can tell you Borras is a wonderful warm-voiced and nuanced artist.

    It’s great to see a singer who is already a name in Europe making it to the MET. I believe Borras has a wider colour palette than Kaufmann and certainly brings a better French élan to the French repertoire, much like the early Alagna. Wish him well.

  • jane levenson says:

    A lovely surprise. Disappointed to hear of cancellation of Kaufmann but from his warm tones and good French élan the evening became excellent and I hope to hear him more.

  • Dimitri says:

    A career-making performance! J-F has a lovely, mellow, controlled, and ample voice. The large number of those in attendance who were prepared to slit their wrists because Kaufmann was absent were 1) mistaken and 2) will be lining up for future appearances by Jean-Francois Borras.

    Bravo, Borras!


  • Jan says:

    We were so disppointed to her Kaufmann was ill, but Borras made up for it. So happy to be at his Met debut, and I’m sure we’ll see more of him.

  • Gailita says:

    After initial disappointment, Borras not only did not disappoint, his voice is warm, lyrical and his French phrasing and high notes rang more romantically than the wonderful but darker (sturm und drang) Kaufmann. Hope we hear him in ny more often. Sophie Koch was magnificent, as is the production.

  • Karin says:

    Borras has a lovely voice, and sang the role very well. Especially, under the circumstances. The supporting cast and the production were fabulous

    But Borras was not graceful onstage, and it didn’t help that they dressed him in a coat that fit like a paper bag. He deserved a flattering costume. He was unconvincing as a young poet, and there was zero chemistry between Borras and Koch. Koch’s singing was uneven.

    I had high hopes this debut would be one for the ages, even though I’ve been looking forward to my annual Kaufman experience at the Met. But I left the Met feeling cheated emotionally. Looking forward to going to an HD screening.

  • Sarah says:

    I was there last night and was definitely disappointed not to see Kaufmann, but his cover was terrific. Borras has a lovely sweeter sound with good heft, and strong, relaxed high notes. It was a great debut for him, and the audience responded with loud cheers. It is a beautiful, interesting production, with great singers. The mezzo Sophie Koch is wonderful.

  • Gary says:

    I was there. Unfortunately it was a a huge disappointment to sit through this evening after paying top prices for Kaufman. Borras was irritatingly slightly off pitch on most of his high notes before intermission. He also has a very fast vibrato like a lamb bleating or he was showing nerves, which is understandable. Audience reaction was pretty much absent until middle of Act Three, at which point the hand the aria got may have calmed his nevers because his voice got a lot better and brighter. But his acting is pretty much the style that was present on opera stages when Massanet wrote the opera, very hammy and presentational, and we are well done with that in the 21st century. There was as much spark between him and Koch as you’d get between a bucket of sand and a glass of water. It also has to be said, since I suspect he has friends on this board, that his being greatly overweight did not do him or us any favors during his moments of embracing Charlotte on the floor, it caused a lot of people to laugh in the grand tier. He needs to get his diet in order before he turns into another Botha.

  • Melitta says:

    Feel the same as Gary, Borras’ voice was lacking in substance before intermission, got better later on. But his acting was wooden and unconvincing, and in the last scene it was somewhat unbearable to watch. His size did not help at all.

  • Pelleas says:

    Borras has a refined and elegant voice. He gave a magnificent performance, especially considering the circumstances. His acting was not the greatest, but before condemning him I’d rather wait to see how he does when he’s had ample rehearsal time. Yes, he is stout, but I’ll take a round singer over a skinny one with no voice. And another thing that can be said for Borras, at least he was good enough to show up for the performance.

    • Gary says:

      Considering the circumstances and lack of rehearsal, Borras did a heckuva lot better than other replacements I’ve sat through at the Met and he deserves credit for that. Nevertheless, he’s singing in the 21st century and a lot of subscribers (like in my group) go to the opera expecting great theatre along with our singing, and a singer’s physical appearance and ability to move on stage plays into our appreciation, I would hope his management and friends would help him to support his improvement in that regard. I sat through the last seasons of Pavarotti so I feel like I’ve given enough patience and dollars to performers who are disinterested in staying fit. Meistersinger is my favorite opera, but there is no way I will pay to watch Botha on stage next season.

  • CastaDiva says:

    I was at the Mon. night performance, and liked Borras very much. His voice is much more suited to this opera than is Kaufmann’s, with its baritonal hues. Yes, Borras is not as physically attractive, but since when has this been a criterion for a good voice? Would you have refused to watch Pavarotti because you found his girth off-putting? If you want to see beautiful physiques watch the Mr Universe contest.

    The production was awful. All that busyness on-stage, women setting the table, children running about, etc., distracted from the main event, i.e., the lovers’ anguish, so that the audience was never really pulled into the pathos of the story. The old production was more effective.

  • Stan says:

    Although I was disappointed (as was everyone else) that Kaufmann did not sing, I was overwhelmingly surprised by Borras and actually happy that I caught him instead of Kaufmann because his voice is much more suited to this opera than is Kaufmann’s. One might say that he has the very elusive, ideal sound for “Werther”. I even liked him better than the late, great Alfredo Kraus, who I heard several times in this role. Almost from the beginning, I felt that I was witnessing the arrival of a major, major new talent. In act, he stopped the show in the middle of the first act duet with Sophie Koch (also superb) after beautifully floating an ethereal, high pianissimo. To sum up, WOW!

    • Gary says:

      C’mon Stan, I was there, he did not stop the show in the first act. One or two people began to applaud, realized the rest of the house was remaining silent for the music, and stopped applauding.

      I agree with CastaDiva, the production is pretty bland and sterile and Met money would have been better spent by Gelb on not replacing yet another old production that worked and only needed powerhouse singers(especially given the cost to float in and hover that Act IV set over the stage floor).

  • Odabella says:

    Going tonight. Borras performing again. Trepidation, but hopeful.

  • Anna Romanyschyn says:

    I planned the trip since August 2013 and bought very expensive tickets to hear Jonas Kaufmann. With the cost of plane tickets (from Toronto, for 2), hotel and living expenses, “this” Werther came up to about $3,000- a huge sum for a senior on a limited income. And then, NO SHOW by Jonas! I did like Mr. Borras VERY MUCH, but was disappointed that Jonas Kaufmann cancelled- we only found out at appr. 4PM.. And I will never again plan any trips “around” Mr. Kaufmann’s schedule; as he is too unreliable…

  • Pelleas says:

    I have to agree. I cut short a trip to Europe and spent a fortune to see him in Walkure and he cancelled last year. Never again.