Just in: Jonas Kaufmann barely survives Fidelio

Just in: Jonas Kaufmann barely survives Fidelio


norman lebrecht

March 01, 2020

It appears he did not give a full performance this afternoon after missing the dress rehearsal. There was an announcement before curtain-up that he was feeling unwell, but would sing regardless.

There was some booing at the final curtain, unusual in London.

First review, by Rupert Christiansen, here:

.... there’s something broken-backed about an opera that starts as a quasi-realistic domestic comedy before passing through political melodrama into a symbolic journey from darkness to light and ending up in the visionary realms of the finale to the 9th Symphony and the Missa Solemnis....



  • Waltraud Becker says:

    “Jonas Kaufmann sang very well (and was wrong to be announced suffering). But the triumphant lady of the evening was Lise Davidsen, who swept away all the reservations I might have had on the occasion of her Elisabeth in Bayreuth. Magnificent.”

  • MusicBear88 says:

    Why does Kaufmann have to do Florestan, Siegmund, Lohengrin? I heard him in Faust and he was glorious but these Heldentenor roles are too big and even healthy he’s not going to be at his best in them, not for long anyway. Those are roles for a Jon Vickers-size voice.

    • Waltraud Becker says:

      He is the one and only Florestan, Siegmund, etc……. Vickers-size is out; trumpets are for the past. Sensitive presentation is what is up to date now!

      • Diane Valerie says:

        Oh, for pity’s sake, get over your idolatry. Mr. Kaufmann is a fine artist but he is not “the one and only” anything. There is room for more than one style of interpretation.

        • Jonathan Sutherland says:

          I agree entirely. Waltraud Becker’s infantile idolatry of Jonas Kaufmann borders on the psychotic. Did she ever hear truly great Florestan’s such as Vickers, King, McCracken or Kollo live? Next Madame Becker will aver that Kaufmann’s stylistically vapid, artless crooning in ‘Mein Wien’ is commensurable to Richard Tauber or Rudolf Schock. Such aberrant deification surely merits the description ‘Kaufmaniac’.

          • sycorax says:

            Absolutely. Besides the attempts to supress every critic on Mr Kaufmann – even factual, founded and politely expressed – tells me a lot about this kind of idolatry.

            I’m married to a singer and of course, he’s my favourite in most things he’s done. Nevertheless I wouldn’t name him “the one and only one” (if I’d do he’d asked me if I’m out of my little mind) and the best there ever was (though I have to admit: In my heart I feel so).

            No singer – not my beloved, not Mr Kaufmann, not Kurt Moll whom I adored, not Tauber, not Vickers, not Björling, not Fischer-Dieskau were “perfect”. They all had sometimes a not so good day, almost all of them sang sometimes a role which didn’t suit them too well.

            I’ve never ever attacked Mr Kaufmann ad hominem, I don’t have anything against him as a person. I don’t know him, so I can’t say anything about him. However, I think especially around people who think themselves a bit more “educated” in matters of singing, factual critic and expressing an opinion should be allowed.

            Criticless idolatry looks – sorry to say it so blunt – sometimes rather idiotic. And in the case of Mr Kaufmann the fanatism of some of his hardcore fans makes already for people rolling their eyes. One can’t take someone who writes lines like “he’s the one and only one” not take seriously anymore.

          • Ruth says:

            I loved Kurt Moll too. I’ve been a huge fan of Jonas Kaufmann loved his superb voice and skilled use of it, but in my opinion it does not suit all roles and sadly has not sounded right recently (Othello where I thought he was outsung by magnificent Marco Vratogna). Due to overwork, surgery, who knows? I hope he can take time, reduce his schedule and allow his beautiful voice to soar again…in the right role.

        • LydiaWahlberg says:

          Good for you for saying that. What is wrong with people that insist on idolizing a narcissistic man with a fair to middling voice
          I won’t get into his personal life.

      • Ms.Melody says:

        The trumpets are Not for the past. Sensitive presentation is an excuse for undeveloped voices to sing parts that are unsuitable They are the cannot produce a sound to fill the theater and are inaudible half the time. And this fraud is getting passed for musicality and sensitivity.
        There is nobody today who can be compared to Vickers or even Heppner when he was young.
        We just don’t have any true Heldetenors singing today. Lise Davidsen is indeed a phenomenon .and next to her most singers sound suboptimal. I just hope she paces herself and doesn’t ruin her voice with the heavy roles she is taking on.

        • sycorax says:

          You are so absolutely right! „Sensitive presentation“ is the one thing (but who would dare to say that a Windgassen or a Kollo weren’t able to give them?), but the „no trumpets“ – sorry, but a Heldentenor needs the qualities I connect with a trumpet. He needs the silvery sound, the shining ad even the „wom!“ effect.

          And that’s where Kaufmann in my opinion even then lacks when his voice doesn’t sound overstrained (which it unfortunately has done often in the last years). As I’ve often said before: I loved him as a lyrical tenor. He did a marvellous Mozart and there this almost „baritonal“, velvety quality of his voice suited the roles.

          These days I was a bit in „Pearlfisher’s Duet“. I heard it live at a student’s concerto in Durham with Sir Thomas Allen and a young tenor. It was great because the both voices were so „different“. Allen with his 75 years still velvet, milk and honey – and the young tenor is perhaps one to become a Heldentenor once. He had the silver and the „trumpet“ tone which makes this wonderful contrast to a soft baritone.
          And then I compared. Alagna/Terfel – well done though Alagna isn’t an Heldentenor either. Hvorostovsky & Kaufmann – a picnic for Hvorostovsky, strain for Kaufmann’s voice. In the end I found the best recording I could find was Pavarotti & Ghiaurov. There I got the „contrast“ which makes at least a part of the charm of this duet: Ghiaurov almost a „black bass“, dark and warm, Pavarotti with the radiant shining which made (a part of) his appeal.

          I find myself in a rather odd position. Actually I highly dislike the people who always maintain that in former times singing was better and swoon about heroes long gone. Of course, Björling was great and I won’t deny the appeal of a Callas (though I never really got it), but to say we don’t have real good singers anymore – no, absolutely not. I listen very often too young singers and I’m often blown away how damn good they are! With the baritones – I’ve got a special fondness for baritones, I have to admit it – take people like Jacques Imbraillo, Johannes Kammler, Benjamin Appl and – okay, not so young anymore – Christopher Maltman. With the ladies: If you get a chance to listen to Wallis Giunda – do! She’s wonderful.
          However, when it comes to tenors … buh. I know a young lyrical one from whom I think he’d deserve a great career (Luis Gomez), yet I don’t know of a Heldentenor in the making. I haven’t heard one in the last time.

          Even worse: Among the people on the big stages I don’t know a real Heldentenor either. Heppner was the last I’ve heard (though I have to admit: Being not too much in Wagner I don’t know what Bayreuth got to offer in this field. Perhaps there the young Heldentenors are showing up?). So I can imagine how big the pressure on tenors is to take over roles like Florestan or Othello. And it’s certainly tempting and hence I understand why some take over roles which aren’t for them. Problem only is that they often ruin their voices with it. I even think Beczala isn’t well advised when taking over heavy Wagner roles. In the last times he sometimes sounded a bit „over the top“ too.

          Perhaps I’m too critical. But I’d love to hear a real, shining, strong Heldentenor again – and I’m sad that Kaufmann isn’t doing the roles anymore in which he was great.

          Just a word to Lise Davidsen: I don’t think her voice will suffer from doing the “big” roles. She isn’t 17 as Anja Silja once was. Her voice has already settled and I think she’s clever enough to manage the balance between giving it rest and using it. I have big hopes for her. The voice is so beautiful, she’s musical, she’s got charisma – actually I thought already in Glyndebourne as she did “Ariadne” that there a star is born.

      • Neil Eddinger says:

        Anyone who actually saw and heard Vickers as Florestan could never take your comments seriously.

    • He’s been singing Florestan for 18 years.

    • OM says:

      I would add to the list Otello.

      • david hilton says:

        Kaufmann was wonderful in Otello opposite Renée Fleming at Lyric Opera of Chicago 19 years ago. Best Cassio I ever heard.


    i heard no booing of Kaufmann, who certainly did not deserve it

  • C Porumbescu says:

    I heard no booing for Kaufmann, and there was a huge ovation for Davidsen. The director, however, was booed when he came on after all the cast had already taken their bows.

  • Barry says:

    The English never got over Gilbert and Sullivan did they?

  • Bloom says:

    It is Lise Davidsen s big night. This is all that matters.

  • Helen says:

    The booing was not for Kaufmann, but for the production team. Booing is not appropriate whenever or whatever.

    • QN says:

      If performances are practically free, yeah it would be disgusting to boo. But not when they are $100+ a seat.

  • John Borstlap says:

    “……. there’s something broken-backed about an opera that starts as a quasi-realistic domestic comedy before passing through political melodrama into a symbolic journey from darkness to light and ending up in the visionary realms of the finale to the 9th Symphony and the Missa Solemnis….” Here we have again the stupid arrogance of a critic who knows better than Beethoven. Fidelio is a great opera and that trajectory, and the mix of different elements, is part of its greatness.

  • mary says:

    The days of braving through a cold and singing is over. A singer is literally opening his mouth wide over and projecting air, spittle, germs at his colleagues. Stay home. You’re a contagion. And that’s in any ordinary flu season.

  • alasdair steven says:

    Linda Davidsen was indeed given a warm reception – not something that can be said for the production team who were roundly booed. Kaufmann was given polite, rather sympathetic, applause. He came forward and gave one bob and scurried back.

  • Gustavo says:

    “…but then it is the cold season…”

    Coronas Coughman!?

  • Borech says:

    Indeed, there was no booing of Kaufman but not either, the enthusiastic applause he might normally get , in lighter roles. An earlier comment pitches it just right. He is not a Heldentenor and should’t attempt these roles.

    The production staff were booed by some in the audience, unfairly, I thought.


    I also heard no booing for Jonas Kaufmann who did a great job considering he was feeling rough – Lise Davidsen was indeed sublime

  • Lisa K says:

    Were we at the same performance? I didn’t hear any booing for Jonas Kaufmann (and would be stunned if this was the case). The booing was reserved for the production team.

    • EDWARD says:

      To be fair, it’s not specifically mentioned that the booing was directed at Jonas. But the insinuation creates scandal and makes you click – it’s kinda the norm here.

  • Miss T Jackson says:

    The boos were for the production team NOT Kaufmann

  • penelope simpson says:

    A truly terrible production. Lise Davidsen not enough to carry it, even with Jonas who was fine. Awful staging, meaningless psychobabble completely destroying the emotion. Heart-breakingly and eye-wateringly expensive.

  • Jane says:

    An interesting perspective to take, given that reviews have largely been warmly positive about the cast as a whole and have offered superlatives regarding Ms Davidsen’s performance – this ‘article’ rather misleadingly implies the boos were for Mr Kaufmann, though I expect regular visitors to SD will have somewhat wearily come to expect such sensationalising commentary. Bordering mysogynistic.

    • Diane Valerie says:

      Don’t you mean misanthropic? I find the brick bats are dished out fairly evenly between males and females here …

  • Robin Worth says:

    Booing at the ROH has become less unusual

    The lamentable Herheim Queen of Spades was soundly jeered at its first performance (I was there)

  • Maria says:

    The booing was for the staging, not the singer. Writing garbage in slipped disk is not new.