Jonas Kaufmann: How I fell out with the Met

More revelations from my interview with the German tenor in today’s Spectator:

Kaufmann makes no secret of his discomfort with New York’s Metropolitan Opera. ‘The productions have not always been that great. The HD [cinema screenings] are a big success but many people don’t see the need to go to the show in New York any more. These people are not going to come back. The Met can’t even sell out a Tosca.’ When Kaufmann, missing his children in Munich, tried to shorten his run in the Met’s ill-starred Tosca, he was ‘disturbed’ to read in the New York Times that he had cancelled. ‘It was not a cancellation from my side. I asked for a reduced rehearsal period and fewer performances. But they wanted all or nothing,’ he explains. He hates to be seen as a shirker….

Read more here.


Kaufmann in Parsifal at the Met

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  • Seems that Kaufmann is set on falling out with Munich too, which is odd when under the current intendant it has given many more successes than any other house, Paris and ROH included. But then it could just be that NL is putting his own spin on this given his view of Bachler and his likely successor, just as Mr Jurowski might be less than appreciative of the implied unfavourable comparison with the current musical director amongst others. Parsifal and Siegmund might represent his last appearances there, assuming that he doesn’t catch a cold between now and July.

    • You honor your name !

      Beeing honest may be old fashined, but some keep being like this!
      The München audience will require Jonas, or the times of sold out performances will be over………….. Never mind, we will go to Wien then!

  • Well, the MET can’t sell out a Tosca, among other reasons, because people sense how “fake” and fabricated everything now is.
    The big stars know this best.

  • The Met gas 3800 seats +200 standing room. Exactly how many seats do all these sold out houses hold?
    Ah he was missing his children – how sweet.

  • “When Kaufmann, missing his children in Munich, tried to shorten his run in the Met’s ill-starred Tosca, he was ‘disturbed’ to read in the New York Times that he had cancelled. ‘It was not a cancellation from my side. I asked for a reduced rehearsal period and fewer performances. But they wanted all or nothing,”

    Is it that wrong for an opera company to want more rehearsal and commitment from the singers? Doesn’t that help quality? Didn’t Kaufman know what he signing up for in the first place? Or is it all Peter Gelb’s fault?

    • Does not a singer like Jonas Kaufmann (not only he) know his Cavaradossi in and out and needs only short rehearsal for staging? Tosca is not such a long and complicated opera, especially when Mc Vickar does the staging……….

      • Yes, singers of this level surely come prepared, but the most important content of the music, the spiritual connection – the oneness with the part, is something nobody ever really “owns”, and it has to be evoked anew every time. And it cannot be done immediately – it needs some time.

        One hears this a lot from professionals in this world, regarding repertoire pieces: “we know it in and out, we need hardly any rehearsal, if at all”. But that is, in my opinion, missing the point of why any performance art is done in the first place.

        • “Yes, singers of this level surely come prepared, but the most important content of the music, the spiritual connection – the oneness with the part, is something nobody ever really “owns”, and it has to be evoked anew every time. And it cannot be done immediately – it needs some time.”

          Blocking and tech rehearsals aren’t the time to find a ‘spiritual connection.’ Tosca is staple and a role he’s been singing since his conservatory years, ie decades. If you haven’t found the connection to the music by rehearsal time you aren’t going to find it by performance time. His excuse is a lame cop out. He signed the contract knowing what the terms and demands of the contract.

          • This kind of thinking is exactly what I meant.

            Yes, there are also technical rehearsals, but taking for granted that someone “has it” because he has been “singing it since decades” is entirely missing the point, not understanding what “this” is, and, worse still – making sure “it” won’t happen in the performance.

            This attitude is not new, it governs management levels and leads to such planning where everyone has to “know everything already” in order to bring things on stage with as little rehearsal as possible, especially repertoire pieces – which are the majority of what is being performed anyway. When rehearsal time is at hand, it is dedicated 99.999% for the staging, taking the music for granted. The result: “everyone knows it”, and nobody knows anything properly.
            The musical level all in all plummets for quite a while now, and it is not for lack of talent.
            It’s the big white elefant in the room and active artists today knows exactly what I’m talking about.

            It is this attitude that made a once-artistic world into the empty pseudo-industry it now is.

        • Bravo, Leo.

          When I hear claims made about singers being able to perform roles in their sleep, I recall that I’ve seen a lot of performances in which the singers LOOKED as though they were performing in their sleep. Those are not the ones that keep me coming back. They also aren’t the ones that made Kaufmann’s name.

      • I agree with Mr. Riegler. Kaufmann can sing Tosca in his sleep. Yet he does the role with intense spiritual connection each time he performs it. He signs on way ahead of the performance date. Things can change in one’s life in the interim. I am not angry at Mr. Kaufmann. He has earned the right to have a life outside contract commitments. The Met in its struggles to fill the hall needs to loosen up a bit with those who have obviously earned the kind of accolades for roles they frequently perform.

      • “Does not a singer like Jonas Kaufmann (not only he) know his Cavaradossi in and out and needs only short rehearsal for staging?”
        Does it ever occur to you that JK is NOT the only person on the stage, and rehearsals are not organized just for his sake for all the artists, the orchestra, the chorus, the technical departments, etc.

        “‘It was not a cancellation from my side. I asked for a reduced rehearsal period and fewer performances. But they wanted all or nothing,’ ”
        Well, wasn’t all this detailed a long time ago in contracts he signed and agreed to ???
        This is a totally lame excuse. And the MET should be commanded for not putting up with this kind of behavior and contempt.

        • If I were him I would never ever appear at that house. Audience can be happy that he is thinking about them and comes back for Fanciulla.

    • It’s not wrong for an opera company to want more or less rehearsal. But Jonas can’t change the terms of the contract, especially after the season has been already announced. He knew full and well what he was signing up for and likely had the contract for years. In this case, he did pull out of the contract because the Met didn’t want to work with his sudden new terms. It was Jonas’ fault completely on this one. He is a classic canceller.

      • As You can read here and on other places, he did not fall out the conract but was asking for a less time abroad. Seems they were talking about that fact too long or Gelb thought that he could fix JK when he puts him into the cast when the season was announced. I am sure, JK had talked about his conditions long before . Gelb not even did inform him personally, that he had made a contract with VG. JK got to know it from the media…………..Simply strange.

        • He is only due for 4 performances but he has Carnegie Hall too so he may show up. Wonder how Rudolph Bing
          would have handled him

          • In the present situation of the Met every director must be happy to have one more “seller” to fill the house for et least those 4 performances.
            There are lots of world-class singers who never go to the Met and they do not miss the pace.

          • Bing would have said out u are i have del Monaco, Corelli, Tucker, bergonzi, labo, di Stefano, peerce, Gerda etcetcet go back and sing in duisburg Jonas

          • This is a comment on Fred’s reply about Rudolf Bing. As great as Bing may have been, he would have bent over backward for Kaufmann. Bing is long gone, but he knew a superstar when he met one. And the great singers named, Corelli, etc. are from years ago. Kaufmann is compared favorably to Corelli and Wunderlich, although Kaufmann has numerous other uniquely positive quirks to his art and person. Opera needs stars like Kaufmann. All “classical music” needs new audiences and new funding. Kaufmann can help all that. There are other great tenors out there whom I enjoy tremendously, but I like to play all of them back to back (audio and video) for comparison, and Kaufmann scores a home run each time.

  • Why can’t Mr. Kaufmann bring his kids with him to New York City and let them enjoy one of the world’s great cities? Many artists performing at the Met in the past have done so.
    As to those rehearsals, this was a new production and the days are over a century gone when an Adelina Patti could send her maid to rehearsals for her.

    • A responsible parent would not bring his kids to the US at all, where they have a high chance of being murdered or be introduced to drugs by other kids. American kids are messed up like their parents and can be dangerous.

      • A responsible parent would not bring his kids to Europe, where they have a high chance of being murdered by Muslim immigrants or be infected by lunatic political philosophies or the rampant Jew hate that have been the hallmarks of that now-decrepit place.

        • Wow, your perspective is ‘special’… While we still wait in Europe for children to be murdered by muslim immigrants, in the US a few hundred people daily die from gun violence alone, also school children.
          You should get out more into the real world. Your TV feed is not real.

          • The difference between us is that you actually believe the cartoon views of the US vomited by your state-run media.

    • I suspect that Mr. Kaufmann is interested in being more of a part of his kids’ lives than their being a part of his. Who knows? And I really don’t want to know. That is his private life. That is my guess. And if he is busy in rehearsal, who would look after all three kids (especially if they are teenagers….as seen by this working mom) ?

      I think the one-two week rehearsal time for the revival of an extremely popular, frequently done opera could provide an attendance exception for an opera superstar.. especially in the age of the internet, good enough for “extremely fast learners” like Mr.Kaufmann, as one musician who had worked with him told me. Anyway, we shall see how it works next fall.

      Perhaps Mr. Kaufmann can explore coming to Philadelphia, my home territory, where Mr. Neguet-Sezin conducts regularly, and where an award-winning Opera Philadelphia company is attracting great singers and exciting new repertoire… not to mention the many great music schools, including the Curtis Institute.

      • I admire Jonas Kaufman for wanting to be near his children. They need the stability of a home life, not travelling around and I do not understand why the Met management could not understand that. I would much rather watch a live performance than a recording, but sadly not living in a capital city, that is not always possible. I do wish people would not denigrate each other’s countries- good and bad in both USA and Europe. Just enjoy his wonderful voice and acting

    • Children are children. You don’t enjoy NY as a child on your own, like an adult can. Nothing particularly pleasant about NY from a child’s perspective, quite to the contrary. And daddy is working. So you have a nanny. In that Moloch of a city. In a foreign country. And you have to take your kids out of school at home. Why should a responsible father do that to his children?

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