Jonas Kaufmann: I may not sing again at the Elbphilharmonie

Jonas Kaufmann: I may not sing again at the Elbphilharmonie


norman lebrecht

January 14, 2019

The tenor, who faced audience shouts that they could not hear him on Saturday night during Das Lied von der Erde, has hit back in an interview with the Hamburger Abendblatt, blaming the hall’s ‘filigree’ acoustics.

‘I have no sympathy for the audience reaction,’ he said. ‘That was not the (regular) Hamburg audience but people who came to a tourist magnet.’

He went on to say: ‘This hall does not help… As for my next concert engagements in Hamburg, I ​​do not want to say “never again”. But I can well imagine giving the next recital in the Laeiszhalle. It’s wonderful there.’

Read on here.


Kaufmann sings Das Lied tonight in Lucerne.

UPDATE: So singers, is the hall really that dim?


  • Caravaggio says:

    Pity party. Anyway, yes, Laeiszhalle is a wonderful hall with wonderful acoustics. The famous Maria Callas concerts were presented there. But back to crooning.

  • Tamino says:

    Now, Dear Jonas Kaufmann, please lobby for Munich, that the madness doesn’t continue there with the new halls about to be built there.
    Certain names of visual designers imposturing as ‘acousticians’ are to be heard again, same people as for that circus in Hamburg.
    You have a strong voice, you can help to give Munich a hall for the music, not for circus spectacles.

    • Mike Schachter says:

      But surely everyone now need to spend 800 million euros on a concert hall! The one in London is in suspended animation, given more pressing economic and political issues.

  • Andrew Powell says:

    Tonight’s is in Lucerne (with Sinfonieorchester Basel). Traditional shoebox hall, so voices are supported.

  • waltraud becker says:

    Next stop of the tour today at Luzern in one of the best halls.

    • aj says:

      If he knew the hall to be so bad why did he sing there in the first place….it is interesting how
      he blames the audience and not his own so called
      artistic integrity….it is what happens when you
      begin to believe your own publicity, One suspects
      he thinks he is the celebrated tenor Jonas. Kaufmann. .

      • waltraud becker says:

        Its the decision of the tour management. Yesterday Kaufmann published his decision, to sing the next Liederabend at the old Laeiszhalle.

  • anon says:

    At the Elbphilharmonie New Years concert (Die Fledermaus), certain singers were miked.

    Its hall design, like that at the Philharmonie de Paris, is seriously flawed: there are accoustical dead spots, notably on the sides and behind the stage, but also elsewhere, where one might as well be sitting outside the auditorium, the sound is so muffled.

    To begin with, they need to get rid of all the seats behind the stage, and those far up on the sides of the stage, it’s unconscionable to charge anything, even 10 euros, for those seats.

    Management will never do that. So it is up to artists to not book those halls.

    Management still won’t give up precious real estate: It’s a fine hall for the souped up contemporary shows that Alan Gilbert wants to bring to the hall.

    • We privatize your value says:

      Does Alan Gilbert really “want to bring souped up contemporary shows to the hall”? What does that even mean? Broadway on the Elbe?

  • Cantantelirico says:

    Will you address all of your detractors Mr.Kaufmann? Perhaps you should maintain your “strong silent type” image and refrain from whining. Losing volume with age is one thing, alienating your audience is something else entirely.

    • waltraud becker says:

      Has nothing to do with “volume”. The same problem can be observed often at that expensive hall, but now, after 2 years, it is time to say the truth: the hall can only be used for orchestra, not for orchestra + singers, or they stop selling the places behind the musicians. Sitting at the backside of the orchestra means to hear only percussion, trumpets and basses and of course not a singer singing far away across the orchestra in the opposite direction.

  • Hilary says:

    The orchestration needs thinning down, especially in Song no.1
    Mahler would undoubtedly have made revisions had he conducted the piece. A job for an expert orchestrator.

  • Helen Dutton says:

    All concert halls should be shoebox shaped for optimal acoustics. Architects seem to care little for the hall acoustic, preferring to make a name for themselves with some dazzling design. They were about to make the same mistake in London, but the whole thing seems to have been kicked into the long grass for now. Jonas Kaufman is right to speak out. Why should he have to put up with bad behaviour from an unsympathetic audience. If I was him I certainly wouldn’t go back again.

    • aj says:

      The bad behavior is on his side . people paid to hear
      him he didn’t deliver so they complained , and he took offense and rudely denigrated them as boorish
      tourists .Since people could not hear him did he
      offer another venue or return his fee ……betcha
      he didn’t ….just played the affronted artist….
      a dime a dozen.

  • the hall , not Kaufmann says:

    yes, the hall (Elbphilharmonie ) is very problematic for singers . the audience sitting behind the singers ( which is more or less the half of the hall) has problems to hear the singer. of course a capable conductor could help, but it remains difficult

  • Karl says:

    Who designed that hall? It’s horrible for singers. I’d ask the people who built it for a refund.

  • Gustav Mahler says:

    It is completelely understandable that Jonas Kaufmann is considering not to sing again in this “concert hall” – well it’s mainly a tourist meeting point to watch the harbour with a hotel etc. And why should he sing again in a Toyota (Elbphilharmonie) if he can sing in Hamburg in a Mercedes Benz (Laeiszhalle)? Almost the same amount of seats so he doesn’t loose audience.

  • Rod Cleary says:

    It’s one thing to criticise the acoustic of a concert hall ( which is shocking in terms of the amount of money that has been spent on this hall !) and another to badly knock a singers confidence with uncouth barrage of abuse from the audience…..shame on all that did this.

  • Peter Smith says:

    According to Wikipedia, the Elbphilharmonie “is one of the largest and acoustically most advanced concert halls in the world”. I wonder who wrote that.

  • Hmm … I heard (and yeah, I really did) Rolando Villazon in the Elphi – and though I was behind him and the orchestra I didn’t have a problem in listening to his voice (the voice from which so many people say it’s not in order anymore. Well, at this night it sounded great).
    Hmmm … I can’t judge about a concert I haven’t been at, but I’m now waiting to listen to Benjamin Appl singing Wunderhorn in the Elphi. I mean he isn’t what one calls a “Verdi-Bariton-Stimmritzenprotzer”, so I don’t expect him to yell like a Neapolitan market woman. We’ll see if he’ll be to be heard at the places at the back of the orchestra …

  • Mariam says:

    I admire Kaufmann as a singer and as a great marketing manager. He has become a mass phenomenon, so surely he should not complain if “tourists” and not real music lovers go to see him. Fame and publicity are two-sided swords. Kaufmann has become a star like Messi or Ronaldo, and maybe the audience is not as musically educated as he would expect.

  • fflambeau says:

    It’s a for pay web site so I left without reading the article.

    Kaufmann is an international star so his thumbs down will have lots of negative meanings for this building; too many have been built to achieve an architect’s personal nirvana rather than for musical reasons.