Kaufmann at Covent Garden? It’s a 5-star

Kaufmann at Covent Garden? It’s a 5-star


norman lebrecht

March 22, 2019

The first reviews are just in.

Richard Morrison in the Times:

Anna Netrebko is in magnificent, anguished form as Leonora.

The voice has even more power in the lower register these days, but not at the expense of her timbre, which is still voluptuous right up to some exquisite floated high pianissimos. When she delivers Verdi’s radiantly arching motto-phrase – the musical embodiment of divine grace – 2,000 spines tingle.

Jonas Kaufmann can’t match that kind of sumptuous lustre, but I liked the way he matches his characterisation of her lover Alvaro (the chap who’s careless with the pistol) to his rugged and volatile but sometimes uneven vocal delivery.

Rupert Christiansen in the Telegraph:
Anna Netrebko and Jonas Kaufmann are in magnificent voice…

Zachary Woolfe, New York Times: As good as it gets in opera.

Ms. Netrebko, in particular, gives one of the performances of her career. Singing Leonora for the first time, her voice is startlingly voluptuous and generous in the middle and lower registers. It’s down there where this pitifully persecuted character — violently separated from her lover, who in turn has aroused the eternal ire of her brother by accidentally killing their father — really lives….

In her duets with Mr. Kaufmann, his voice’s duskiness unsettles into stormy passion. His sound shadowy and haunted, with tears at its core, he is adept at playing outsiders like Don Alvaro, but occasionally he can seem muted on stage, merely grumpy. While the exciting bit of strain and hint of wear in his tone can conjure thoughts of Mario del Monaco, Mr. Kaufmann doesn’t go for del Monaco-type Italianate recklessness; sometimes he seems too obviously to be pacing himself.

But he gets Alvaro’s wounded dignity and wariness, and he feeds off other singers, whether Ms. Netrebko or the robust baritone Ludovic Tézier.


photo: ROH/Bill Cooper



  • Alexander says:

    I don’t know who is Richard Morrison but I liked his review in the part where he describes his own impressions on Anna’s voice. Have never heard somebody can depict it so creatively and benevolently at the same time before.
    As for the second part of his passage – tastes differ, so everyone has the right to speak out in a democratic society ( and everyone who identifies himself with that society has the right to accept or reject his counterpart’s opinion).Any way it was interesting to read.

    • Anon says:

      Richard Morrison is a very respected music journalist primarily for The Times. Also a published author. Factual, pragmatic and honest.

    • Bruce says:

      In my opinion that’s what good critics do: instead of pretending to be “objective,” which often ends up with reviews like “Forza del Destino is an opera. Ms. Netrebko sang in it,” make clear your own preferences and describe how the person lived up to them or didn’t, so that someone reading the review can tell if they would like it based on your description. Sometimes bad reviews make me interested; for instance his description of how Kaufmann matches his vocal unevenness to the character’s erratic nature. (Not that this was a bad review, but someone who requires rich luscious tenor sounds might take it as a warning to stay away.)

  • Vladislav says:

    Clearly paid by the claque to up talk Netrebko and down talk Kaufmann. Netrebko is vocally mediocre now and a terrible person yet she is spoken about as if she is Callas.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      A terrible person? Do you have any odea what you are talking about?

      • Novagerio says:

        He just might! Divas can of course be terrible to staff or even fans, but courteous and outmost
        charming to influential critics and bloggers (!) – What’s new under the sun?…

      • LEWES BIRD says:

        I assume the OP meant that she’s a bit of a Putin puppet, viz. her public positions on gays, on Ukraine, on a few other topics; her cancellation of the BySO Tosca to sing for him at the Kremlin, etc.

        I’m not really taking a position on this one — otherwise I’d have to cancel my ticket to Lohengrin this summer just to be principled; I’m merely, as the kids say, #justsayin — since you asked.

        • Viola da Bracchio says:

          [[ I assume the OP meant that she’s a bit of a Putin puppet, ]]

          Never assume. It makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’. So take your neoliberal trumpeting elsewhere – it’s been comprehensively trashed by the truth.

          [[ as the kids say ]]

          How are the kids of Donbass doing? Still cowering in bomb-shelters from your Merkel-funded nutcase in Kiev?? You must be so proud of him, 7000 people killed by being shelled in their own homes? Quite an achievement. And you say Netrebko is responsible, eh?

          [[ I’m not really taking a position on this one ]]

          Kiev’smurderous junta thrives on useful idiots in the Tory Shires.

          • LEWES BIRD says:

            Вюла, devochka, take your medikamenty, please!

          • Viola da Bracchio says:

            Yeah, shelling pensioners in their own homes because they won’t vote fascist is all just one BIG LARF for you, innit?

            Keep your know-nothing views about Ukraine to yourself. Go and take a Sunday walk in Priory Park, and a pub lunch at The Rights Of Man – since you are so ‘well-informed’ about human rights?? And read your Daily Mail over lunch, to fill your little mind with the little you know. Learn Gavin Williamson’s latest speeches by heart, so you can spew their content here.

            You know *nothing* about Ukraine. *Nothing*. Ever been in Ukraine? But you set yourself up as the arbiter of others fate there, don’t you?

            Give thanks that you live in a country where you can stroll along the high street and not be strafed by a guerilla militia of irregulars funded by Angela Merkel.

            Thanks for reminding me why I left Britain. It’s your sort that make me happy I have never gone back.

    • Viola da Bracchio says:

      It looks like it was *you* whom they paid to write piffle, Slava?!

    • Tiredofitall says:

      You could not have ever met Anna if that is your takeaway. We can criticise what we hear in performance, that is subjective, but her personal character is unassailable.

      • AndrewB says:

        I admire Anna Netrebko greatly. She hasn’t fallen into the trap of believing her own publicity. She always seems to have her doubts and a very simple approach to life. She doesn’t appear self satisfied. During her lengthy career she has set herself challenge after challenge and produced some stunning results in the world’s greatest opera houses.
        She is not known for tantrums , but will always try to follow the producer’s ideas – even in some of the more iconoclastic productions she has taken part in. She is a truly professional artist.

    • tristan says:

      any comparison with Callas is ridiculous but let’s be glad she is around

    • Saxon Broken says:

      A writer for The Times isn’t paid by the claque. By all means call him a fool, but not a knave. (Actually, that goes for all the broadsheets).

  • Nik says:

    Kaufmann was on top form and got better and better as the evening progressed. An absolute treat. Great singing from Netrebko, Tezier and Furlanetto as well.
    But the Preziosilla? Is this Katona’s idea of a practical joke? She’s clearly not a trained singer, or at least not to operatic standard. A kind description of the sound she made is indeterminate shouting. What were they thinking? This isn’t meant to be a silly bit part, it used to be sung by the likes of Troyanos and Simionato.

  • Caravaggio says:

    The hype industry surrounding these two goes into overdrive once more. That is what this is. Despair in desperate times.

    • Nik says:

      Which section of the house were you sitting in?

      • Cynical Bystander says:

        Probably not there, preferring to be at home reminiscing about the revised 1869 version and how it really was inferior to the 1862 premiere even though he thought the singing could have been better in both.

    • Viola da Bracchio says:

      Alberich turned himself into a revolting toad. I see you’ve learned the same trick? Except you’ve forgotten how to change back.

  • RW2013 says:

    “the chap who’s careless with the pistol”
    Kindergarten writing.

  • Cantantelirico says:

    Wonderful!!! This should go a long way towards solving Britain’s Brexit Boondoggle.

  • Cynical Bystander says:

    Well, many of us need to be eating more than a small slice of humble pie this morning. Good that we naysayers were proved wrong and that ROH and the cast have triumphed.

    • Martain Smith says:

      “Triumphed” – by whose standards must one ask (and that includes “professional” critics)?
      There’s no possible way that JK will have abandoned his gutteral production, or AN will have acquired solid intonation between low Eb, and F# on the upper stave for this showing!
      For those who don’t mind… a unqualified triumph!
      Decades ago, Bergonzi, Arroyo, and Milnes tred the same boards in the same work.
      Check live recorded documents for standards set – without all the hype!
      In the world of sport, it would be a no-go!

  • Myra O'Norma says:

    No point in writing exaggerated comments to make a point, I have found. But let me just say that Netrebko’s performance in last night’s Forza was one of the 3 or 4 best evenings at Covent Garden in the 45 years I have been visiting. Also outstanding was Furlanetto. Neither the tenor or the baritone were in best voice. As for the production, it’s a shame Covent Garden could not afford more than a single set for this 4-hour opera, considering the prices they were charging.

    • Viola da Bracchio says:

      [[ it’s a shame Covent Garden could not afford more than a single set for this 4-hour opera ]]

      You’re not wrong there! 🙂 Particularly because the action calls of a sequence of locations of increasing desperation, as Leonore’s life skids off the tracks.

  • Andrew says:

    The production itself left me despairing at times. Why couldn’t we have the wonderful overture on its own, without the distractions of three little playlets? It added nothing to the story. What an earth was Padre Guardiano wearing? Surely he could have worn more formal wear than his black shirt and trousers. On the plus side Netrebko was sensational and Furlanetto full of magisterial gravitas.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Oh, God, they staged the overture? Amateur hour.

      • Ms.Melody says:

        The overture is over three minutes long which is an average attention span in our wonderful age of cell phones and video games. Imagine, sitting in the dark and listening to music for this long! I intensely dislike action during overtures, but the directors feel compelled to entertain and stimulate at all times.

        • Tiredofitall says:

          I could (kind of) understand if the director was new and from a different world (film or theater), but Christof Loy has been around for a very long time and should know better. Why can’t they just trust the music?????