Jonas Kaufmann explains his cough

Jonas Kaufmann explains his cough


norman lebrecht

May 12, 2019

A message from the German tenor:

Dear Friends,
Regrettably, I am forced to take a short break due to a slight mishap: I choked on some food, and could only clear my throat through very violent coughing. Unfortunately, this bout of coughing was not good for my voice. Luckily, the irritation was found very quickly and therefore we are confident that my voice will recover soon. To be on the safe side however, we will unfortunately have to cancel part of the Tosca performances in Paris.
I will keep you posted,
Jonas Kaufmann



  • Mike Schachter says:

    Must have been very scary, and the outcome could have been much worse.

  • David Rohde says:

    I am prepared for this entire message board to fall on me for saying this, but so be it. In America at least, one of opera’s greatest challenges (and opportunities) is to get the musical theater audience to even consider going to the opera. If the Metropolitan Opera, for example, could get even a fraction of the hoards of people every night 20 blocks to the south to ever take the two or three more subway stops north to Lincoln Center instead, the Met’s seatmap problems would be solved for years.

    From that perspective, the daily drumbeat in the news of opera singers cancelling their commitments is frankly quite damaging. Theater in general, and musical theater in particular, has a very strong “the show must go on” culture. This operates both within the perspective of productions as a whole and individual stars specifically – covers and understudies notwithstanding. In opera, the sense that there is a whole range of reasons, from the absolutely valid to the somewhat nonsensical and occasionally simply untruthful, that the biggest opera singers trot out to avoid upcoming performances is at serious variance with this.

    Of course it is wonderful that there are so many other singers who have these roles and sometimes the specific productions in their mental inventory to step in on short notice. I am only commenting here on the marketing and PR aspect of this phenomenon. Meanwhile, it is also obvious that emerging artists in all of the classical music fields have not nearly the luxury to make excuses for the many hidden problems and hassles of their existence (which the big stars also have, but tend to make a big deal of), so they don’t. They perform and keep going.

    While I’m on the subject of attracting culturally aware audiences who still somehow never show up at the opera, another thing I’d love to see is for reviewers and writers about the art form to stop complimenting singers with great stage presence for their good “acting.” As in, “he/she is also a good actor” or “his/her acting is really good.” From the perspective of a Broadway showgoer, the LAST thing they want to see on stage is A-C-T-I-N-G and it’s exactly what many of them are afraid they’re going to see at the opera. The irony here is that many of the current stars – to take among American sopranos and mezzos, Ailyn Perez, Joyce DiDonato, and Isabel Leonard – are exceptionally fine in their own individual ways in interpreting and embodying their roles while singing incredible music. I just don’t think enough of this comes across the right way in a lot of writing about opera, especially about other emerging singers, that newcomers may encounter. If people could find a different way of describing this, much more akin to the way theater in general is properly spoken of, I really think it would do a world of good.

    • William Evans says:

      ‘Though I’m not a professional singer, I have had the frightening experience of choking on a piece of bread, which lodged in my pharynx, preventing me from exhaling (‘though not inhaling, strangely!). It left me quite hoarse for a couple of days, so I can fully understand this particular cancellation by Mr Kaufmann.

    • Alessandra Petrina says:

      Dear David, I see your point, but I would add that “the daily drumbeat in the news of opera singers cancelling their commitments” that you rightly lament is a recurrent characteristic of websites such as this one. In the case of Mr Kaufmann, this website suspected cancellations that did not happen (as in the case of Forza in London) and insisted on the topic even when the tenor did not cancel anything for over a year. I would suggest it would be more interesting for all concerned if websites such as this were devoted to a discussion of actual singing, rather than of hypothetical non-singing…

      • David Rohde says:

        “… even when the tenor did not cancel anything for over a year.” Is that the standard? I think that actually makes the point for me.

        But thank you for your friendly and sympathetic comment. “Daily drumbeat” is a turn of phrase. I would say there’s plenty of reliable news out there on the drop-out front, even without the kind of ramp-up you sometimes see at this website in several quick posts before the complete facts are in on any given situation.

    • JSP says:

      Anything which affects the throat or lungs is a reason not to sing – however lowly the singer – unless they don’t care to have a career. Instrumentalists don’t have the same problems – but even those who sing in church choirs for no money at all can’t sing with bronchitis (and will make themselves much more ill if they try to do so).

      It’s not about excuses, to sing at the wrong time can shorten a career by decades and young singers are encouraged to care for their instrument as much as the established stars – you just don’t hear about it because no one notices the change of body in a minor role.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    The beautiful voice (and bod!) needs protection.

  • Jean says:

    Eating soups might be a safe choice….

  • Jason Cowlishaw says:

    Having managed to secure Kaufmann tickets for Tosca, to say we are disappointed is an understatement. This is in view of the fact we are from England, so paid for Eurostar, also train tickets to get to London it has proved to be an expensive adventure one we will not now be taking.

    We’ve chased this man for a few years now, trying to secure tickets particularly at the ROH to no avail, unless you’re a friend of Covent garden any hope of securing said tickets is slim. The ROH promote themselves on the basis of Opera/Ballet for all, but is far from the truth and the continued snobbery of such establishment remains. Don’t get me wrong myself and wife have attended our fair share of operas and ballets at the ROH over the past few years.

    My point is and I can agree with David to a point, is that its difficult to attract people to the Opera. I myself until I met my wife 9 years ago wouldn’t have entertained such events, but I’ve certainly changed. Tosca is my favourite opera, Kaufmann very much the pinnacle of my list of artists I wished to see live however he does have previous of doing this. Goes with terrority I guess, can’t be helped but 2 people here in the UK that are disappointed we wont get to see his musical genius.

    • Eleganza says:

      The positive is that you’re still going to see a magnificent production of Tosca, in Paris, with an an undoubtedly excellent cast, good orchestra etc etc.

      If it’s not Kaufmann, it’s not Kaufmann. There’s not much to be done. Sick is sick. Unable to perform. There’s no way of magically waving that away. Singing when sick, or singing on damaged chords, can cause irreparable further damage.

      It happens absolutely all the time every where. Every opera house around the world every season there would be covers going on once a week. They might be in the small roles which you don’t really pay attention to, (but believe me, management are paying attention to see how the understudy performs!!), they might be big roles that you do notice. There’s probably one or two of the chorus sick. Because singing is simply not possible when you are sick. (Strictly speaking, most singers can sing over a head cold, their technique enables them to still perform; it’s when an infection moves to the throat and chest areas that it becomes an impossibility, and risks damage.)

      You have probably seen many understudies perform during the years you have been watching opera, and barely even noticed. It just so happens that this time it’s Mr Kaufmann, and it just so happens that websites like this like to jump up and down with glee reporting such cancellations, presumably because any Kaufmann headline is an easy click.

    • Pilar says:

      My thoughts exactly. In this case travelling from Spain at great expense and expectations.

  • CarlosMontané says:

    It is very understandable, especially when a singer get his high fee, people expect the best of him.

    • Eleganza says:

      This swings both ways:

      Firstly, when people expect the best of you, you don’t want to get up and do a bad job. If you are sick, you’re sick. What do you do? Get up there, sing anyway, sing badly, sing flat, have the voice crack everywhere, run out of steam completely in the third act, etc etc? We’ve all seen this happen – what singer of Kaufmann’s reputation would EVER consider offering that up to an audience?

      B) nine times out of ten, singers are paid per performance, and when they cancel, they don’t receive their performance fee. So singers never, ever take cancellation lightly.

  • Tina says:

    Wer glaubt denn das noch?
    Er hat wahrscheinlich wieder zu viel gesungen und zum zweiten Mal die Stimme beschädigt.
    Die Höhe war ja eh schon weg.