Breaking: Jonas Kaufmann cancels rest of the month

Breaking: Jonas Kaufmann cancels rest of the month


norman lebrecht

September 23, 2016

We have just been informed that the German tenor has pulled out of the Meistersinger revival in Munich (September 30, Oct. 3 and 8) and from a Budapest concert Sept. 25, dedicated to an idol of his, the Hungarian tenor József Simándy.

Last week he cancelled the opening concerts of the Staatsoper in Berlin.

Something must be seriously wrong.

jonas kaufmann godfather

UPDATE: He will be repalced in Munich by Burkhard Fritz.


  • Marianne says:

    “Something must be seriously wrong”. What a valuable remark. Any real research or information to be expected?

    • norman lebrecht says:

      As soon as we learn more we will share it.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Probably the man is simply getting stressed-out of all the expectations surrounding his every note.

        • B Bailey says:

          Mr. Harry Truman had the cure for that. Heat, kitchens and all.

          • Una says:

            Yes, but they were different times – just television and newspaper reviews. Now every note and nuance is trolled over the internet, mobile phone recordings, and replayed by back-seat singers. It’s no wonder that we have a higher rate of cancellations, or blokes walking out to apologise for the singer having a cold. We will end up with just the mechanical singers and not the artistic ones, and just doing a few very highly paid jobs to keep going. Truman never had to put up with what so many have to put up with today, and everyone watching expects perfection. They raise them up on pedestals and then knock them down. No one and no thing is perfect in life. You may all disagree. Let’s hope Kaufman gets a rest and gets better as the case with Simon Keneleyside.

        • Marilyn Quinn says:

          If you are a singer, all stress, all illness, and all fatigue go straight to the voice. He goes at breakneck speed through each year and is obviously too hard a worker. I just saw my new DVD of him singing with Kristine Opolais in Manon Lescaut. Opera looks exhausting to me.

  • Csilla says:

    Replaced by Rafael Rojas in Budapest concert dedicated to József Simándy.

  • Asdrubal Perez says:

    The concerts in Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and Lima (August) were surrounded by much hype. But the vocal results were not good. Much of them is to be found in youtube.
    He has vocal problems, that are to be adressed periodically.

    • Marshall says:

      Certainly I hope there is nothing seriously wrong with him medically.

      But I’ve said this before here, and elsewhere that the problem is his odd voice, the technique, this artificial top-and it was my feeling from a lifetime of listening that there would be problems. At his age, and the presumed mastery of technical issues at this point in his career, he would be singing a lot, everywhere, at his best.

      You may presume I’m not a big fan-not as a spinto Italian tenor-no I’m not

      • Aje says:

        With you on that. Badly produced voice. I have worked with him. He’s a nice bloke.

        • Olassus says:

          Badly produced voice? What a ridiculous comment. The man has been singing professionally for 22+ years and has, as noted below, a remarkably broad range of repertory and accomplishment.

          If the voice is badly produced, why does it sound so good? How has it lasted? Why would a musician who phrases lines so intelligently be so stupid as to produce sound the wrong way?

          I know, I know. You only mean it well. But it seems to me he’s been getting and following some pretty good advice for years already.

          • MC says:

            Shame the actual sound of his voice isn’t that good

          • Marshall says:

            It’s not a question of how many roles he’s sung, or that he is the current rage, He may be the best that we have today, but the question is how well he does the roles, how definitive the interpretations. Almost everything he does is good(enough), but for me, none of it is great. The problem is how appropriate the essential sound is for many of the roles which under other circumstances he would not be singing. By the way, he hasn’t been singing 22 yrs. this way-with this technique. I don’t know why he has been canceling so much in the last few years-so much so that many people have given up getting tickets because he cancels so often.. At 47, these should be the absolute prime years for him-singing a lot, easily and with confidence. Remembering that the tenor voice often fades before some of the lower male voices-and thinking that two legendary tenors-Caruso and Bjorling were dead at 48 and 49.

            It could well be some vocal issue because of the way he sings, which in many people’s opinion, may prove unsustainable. That dark baritonal bottom of the voice (is he a baritenor?-I only heard of the term a couple of years ago)is not even the same sound of a big heldentenor, if that is the argument.The production is back in the throat, where is the ease through the passaggio? the brightness and gold of the classic tenor. And while the top is there, and strong-though he does such facial movements to make ithem- (does it have squillo, or dramatic main force?) and he hits them, but one hears stress in sustaining them.

            I think he’s a fine Lohengrin, a beautifully, but not deeply sung Parsifal,-never heard his Walter These roles, later maybe some more Wagner- is what his voice sounds suited for. (be great for Weber) But it is only the dearth a real large voiced Italian tenors that allowed him to fill the vacuum-which is perfectly understandable. But if you know the tradition,or had the experience of other great tenors in these roles-you might have a different view of them. I think many of the Kaufmann fans have not had this experience, or know what it can be like.

            I remember a few years ago when K was singing Siegmund, and then soon after Cavaradossi at the Met. His more rabid fans compared his Siegmund to Vickers, and then a few weeks later his Cavaradossi to Corelli’s. I remember remarking that clearly these people had seen neither Vickers or Corelli.

            Since this discussion began I happen to hear a recording on the car radio of K of the two main Trovatore arias-I don’t know if they were studio or live-but given his daring, provably studio. My reaction was nice, nice enough-and I’m not damning with faint praise. Did they even began to erase the memories of some of the famous ones we have available to us-no-and my overall reaction was still the wrong sound. But then in a little barely sung section between the two arias, when Ruiz comes in just before the pira, there’s an exclamation-Ah Dio-followed by O Ciel-and there it was, a kind of symbol of what I find lacking in these roles. Anyone of 2 dozen “Italian” tenors could do it better, more authentically more idiomatically-it has to be in your genes to shout that out with that abandoned urgency, with that edge in your voice, with the right gristle and garlic. Herr Kaufmann doesn’t have it-maybe no northerner does? Which brings me to one of best reactions to his singing-a largely favorable review by someone who likes his voice more than I do-and was complimentary but…..-and it crystallizes my reaction to him in THIS repertoire.

            Michael White on Kaufmann’s London Chenier of last year:

            “In many ways he is: On opening night, his firm, darkly defined tone and sophisticated eloquence were wonderful. But his performance was lean, without the fleshy fullness or high-lying ping of a true Latin voice. And it was far too tasteful, robbed of the emotionally crucifying sobs and tears that are the guilty pleasures of late-19th-century Italian repertoire. This was verismo lite: refined, attractive, sleek, but not what you could call the true experience.

            Verismo lite-not the true experience-indeed

      • Olassus says:

        Well, Marshall, after hearing him live in Beethoven, Bizet, Duparc, Liszt, Mahler, Puccini (2 roles), Schubert, Schumann, Strauss, Tauber, Verdi (4 roles) and Wagner (2 roles), I’d say the voice is anything but odd or artificial. He has also, you know, sung Bruckner, both Mendelssohn oratorios, and at least 2 complete Mozart roles.

    • Mike says:

      Sang with him. Heard him many times in large halls. Despite all the ‘englightened’ and oddly patronizing criticism of his voice, it is almost perfectly produced. Not as broad and loud as Domingo, but more refined and in control. Of course, there are quite a few other tenors that are amazing. Kaufmann is really exceptional though because not only does he produce his sound perfectly, it also has such a dark, beautiful timbre. Every note and every body movement has a purpose and absolute support. There is never a hint of tension where it shouldn’t be. Anyone talking Kaufmann down who claims to know about all the good ‘ol singers of the past is simply kicking a gift horse in the mouth. Of course there lots of other good singers, but Kaufmann stands way above them all, according to the public and opera audiences. This is for good reason! He should be appreciated and I hope he will sing in Toronto soon!

      I’m pretty sure he has had cancellations all along and it never seems to stop the gold coming.. If anything, he has maintained a good strategy in dealing with this new harsh, unsympathetic social media atmosphere.

  • Tinkerbell says:

    There sure is a lot of hype around him
    But the ladies adore him

  • lunzi says:

    As a leading tenor he’s not young anymore, as a “Baritenor” he’s been using up his voice to the limitation. I wish him a swift recovery, although it might need some time. Do not want another sad story happening like we all know who.

  • mariella says:

    Great artist, wonderful interpreter, generous man. He adores life. Fragility? He needs rest? He needs a real stop? He needs to reconfigures choices? … It is a turner point … we have to wait and to bay all cd dvd blu ray of his spectacular interpretations

  • Raouf Zaidan says:

    John Reed, famous Gilbert & Sullivan patter baritone , told me that he never read his reviews, ever . Maybe good advice to all singers. But I think , trust your voice , keep breathing freely , drink lots of water , enjoy nature and get away whenever you can , streams , forests , mountains , lakes , the sea . Cook and eat a home meal shared with friends and loved ones , be tender with those who love you . Sing only what you love to sing , as much as possible , warm up gently , treasure your voice and your whole body , be kind to your instrument . Singers are generous souls who share their all with the world. They need their private peaceful moments . Much love to all singers from an older , and hopefully wiser, baritone.

    • Lois Freia says:

      Yes I appreciate your remarks. I do hope all of us, him included, recover from illness and and disappointment soon.

  • Tinkerbell says:

    Seems he is consistent in cancelling in autumn & in February & March – at least in the last 2 years. He overbooks
    & then is too fatigued to honor his commitments. Just look at his schedule for 2016-17 & this includes the challenge of Otello which I still don’t believe will happen. His fans adore him & object to any criticism but he certainly is aware.

  • LoisFreia says:

    Comparison is while not odious limited to belief and preference, mainly. For me, the connection between the music and the audience, through the medium of the singer, is the key. What moves, what lifts, what doesn’t, what soars, what springs new, what is adventurous, what isn’t… that’s what gives the breadth of the experience in listening. JK has great charm and warmth in presentation and intelligence, whatever he does. What comes across as limited or false can just as easily fall away as what is fresh and alive may just as easily create new paths. Here’s to more and long-lived…

  • JackyT says:

    His forthcoming Otello at Royal Opera House, Covent Garden was mentioned during last night’s HD screening of Norma. I hope he will be well and able to sing the role. It’s a long time to wait and then be disappointed!