Jonas Kaufmann launches wan Met recital

Jonas Kaufmann launches wan Met recital


norman lebrecht

July 19, 2020

The first of the Metropolitan Opera’s star recitals went out last night. It featured Jonas Kaufmann in a Bavarian Baroque library at Polling Abbey.

Viewers paid $20.

Early responses focus on its lifelessness.

Word around town is the the Met is budgeting $400,000 to $500,000 for each streamed recital.

That’s a lot of $20s.

Here’s one free clip:


  • A.L. says:

    Constipated is right. Listen to the ‘lucevan’ clip and that is exactly what you get.

    • Jay says:

      Constipated ? how about bad taste where he ruins
      the line so he can give the gallery the pianissimos
      they come to expect .Vulgar is his calling card.

  • I wonder how they ever came up with such a obscure, hidden venue as Polling, in which Konzertdirektion Hoertnagel Munich was/is ? a frequent and successful presenter.

  • Aubrey Hepburn says:

    Jonas Kaufmann finally turns up for concerts and now the audience can’t make it.

  • Ken says:

    Oh, for Christ’s sake.

  • sam says:

    1. First of all, it’s hard to get into it when you know he’s emoting to an empty corridor.

    2. You know why the concerts during the quarantine were interesting? Because they explored a different repertoire or different instrumentation. With these concerts, and others coming out of quarantine, we’re getting the usual E lucevan stelle, Beethoven 7th, etc, etc, it’s like, oh, I haven’t heard Jonas Kaufman singing Tosca since…oh… 2 weeks ago on Vienna State Opera streaming.

    3. By the way, basta with these massive close ups of singers where we can see their tonsils and teeth fillings. It’s singularly unattractive.

  • Mimi T says:

    It was wonderful and can be viewed again and again and well worth the few dollars outlay.
    Performances will look and sound different without applause and the lack of soft materials to absorb the vibrations gives a direct starkness to the experience. It was amazing to hear live music once again, especially from this brilliant partnership of Helmut Deutsch and Jonas Kaufmann. The program was a delight for opera lovers and included video clips from past Met productions. It was an emotional experience for all.

  • BL Lee says:

    I was really happy to see one of my most favorite singers, Jonas Kaufman, presiding inaugural event for “Met Stars Live in Concert” series yesterday afternoon. The choice of elegant site of Polling Abbey for his recital couldn’t be better. Aside from his flawless singing, I was deeply moved by our “master” singer’s final remarks appealing for the support of great cultural tradition of opera. But I would like to express my candid opinions about this recital and its program. First of all, I perfectly understand the organizer’s motivation of inserting ‘various segments of video highlights of greatest on-stage moments’ for our beloved singer to achieve maximum publicity for Met activities. Despite its good intention, the organizer put too many segments disrupting a continuous flow of elegant music recital. Particularly with the presence of a moderator explaining each segment of video highlights, it was difficult for me to judge whether the whole event is for live concert or outright campaign for Met’s fund raising effort. I wish they could put the segments including a moderator’s introductory talks after the recital is over. Second, I am wondering why the recital was exclusively dealing with Italian and French operas and did not cover German repertoire where Jonas Kaufman’s singing truly shines.

    • The View from America says:

      “I am wondering why the recital was exclusively dealing with Italian and French operas and did not cover German repertoire where Jonas Kaufman’s singing truly shines.”


  • Viola jane says:

    I thought it was rather marvellous – a varied programme, perhaps a cautious start (understandable, given the novel circumstances) but on the whole courageous and committed performances from both artists.

    Though I did enjoy clips and reminders of JK’s Met performances from the past (plus an extract from a non-Met Pagliacci), perhaps some reflective conversation on the impact of the pandemic on music and art across the world would have been more humbling and preferable.

    Anyway, 20 quid for all that felt like a bargain. I loved it.

    Darent say much more lest I am accused of being a Kaufmaniac*


  • RonK says:

    While I willingly confess to being a Kaufmaniac, this particular performance was underwhelming. Many of the top notes were tentative and effortful and, in some cases, he cut them short. He also appeared to be suffering from a cold or other respiratory challenge as you could hear him clearing his throat between arias. The impeccable musicianship and immaculate legato were very much in evidence but, in general, it was not Jonas at his best.

  • IntBaritone says:

    Anyone else think Jonas looks like Placido with the greying beard and hair length?

  • Marshall says:

    Probably now is not the time to get into a discussion of the limitations of his voice;let’s see if i can resist it.

    I don’t like recitals that are one big opera aria after another with a  piano accompaniment  as a matter of principle. Remember Jon Vickers would say arias don’t belong in recitals out of context, but even at his recitals people wouldn’t leave until he sang Wintersteurme. Even Pavarotti, who could pull that sort of thing off, and generally had an entire orchestra backing him, would intersperse it with lighter pieces. I paid the $20 (big deal) to support the entire enterprise. Because the announced program was all “big’ arias (well except 1), I still delayed purchasing until the last minute. (i could have waited because they had a technical hitch for a while, quickly corrected)

    So  it was the right enterprise to support. It had some nice moments, he always has a certain charm,and it was important to get into the spirit of it given the global situation. (I noticed on Netflix there are already short films on the pandemic-after all it’s been 5 months already!) Also Kaufman’s financial contribution at the end, reminded us that most rank and file musicians etc. don’t have the opportunity for this kind of event. (or bank account) I thought it was unfair to the live singer to show clips from staged operas-sounds like a Gelb idea of filler. Why not some more piano pieces, or taped interviews with Kaufman on what he is singing etc. Who wants to be compared to yourself on tape? Of course, it’s very odd to sing particularly opera arias without any applause at the end-couldn’t they have had a select live audience distanced properly-but then I guess you’d have a smattering of applause which really wouldn’t do it.

    I wish he had sung some German arias-I said arias, I get that it was not a lieder recital. Also strangely absent was any Verdi-because it would impose a certain kind of vocal discipline and no room for some of his fudging?

    In any case I said I would try and resist a critique of what he did, and just say I was glad it took place, and there was, I hope, a nice spirit in the air, or on the internet.

    (one question-what’s the deal with C. Goerke? She didn’t participate in the free Gala, and is not doing any of these recitals.)

    • Old Man in the Midwest says:

      Agreed. And very few opera starts can pull off the intricacies of a good lieder recital.

      Trying to do opera arias as a recital leaves one lacking and not what I would pay $$$ for.

      But give me a wonderful recital of Schubert and Schumann song cycles in an intimate setting and that could be magical.

    • Janet Bishop says:

      The Met tried to stream Goerke for the free Gala but she didn’t have a device (phone, tablet or compute) that could pick up her powerful voice. She blew them all out!

      • Marshall says:

        A bit of an exaggeration there. I mean her voice is hardly THAT powerful. So why isn’t she in this new series?- being done with professional equipment.

  • Parrot Road says:

    What it cost to present is surely to some degree mitigated by the sponsorship of Sony & Rolex, clearly acknowledged at the outset

  • William Nicholas says:

    I thought it was wonderful given the fact that we won’t see live opera in this country for at the very least a year. $20 is nothing to pay for this level of entertainment.

  • Stephen Manes says:

    Despite the “nit-picking” of some of these comments; it was a wonderful event, and I thought he was in brilliant voice. One can quibble about the repertoire etc., but so what; at least—in these days when we can’t go anywhere to hear live music—this was a treat, and at $20, well worth it.

  • Ethel N Johnston says:


  • M. L. Liu says:

    In Japan, pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii has been offering online concerts since June, streamed from a small studio in tokyo. At 1,800 yen per view, his 5 online concerts so far reportedly attracted 1,000-3,700 viewers each.

    Not only do these concerts keep Tsujii and his staff active, but according to his management, the online streaming serves to broaden the audience base, and will be adopted in future live performances to compensate for limited seating due to COVID.

    Another online concert is already on sale, this time with a commercial sponsor, and at 2,000 yen per view.

  • Sabrina Ellis says:

    Overall I think Jonas sang fairly well but what concerned me a bit is that the singing at times seemed forced and effortful especially the high notes. Maybe he had a cold but for some reason it wasn’t his best singing. Also, some of the repertoire didn’t seem to suit him as well as perhaps 10 or 15 years ago. The voice has gotten even heavier and darker. I would have loved to have heard him sing some Wagner or other German repertoire for variety. His performance lacked a little emotion but it’s very difficult to sing without a live audience. I think the accompanist is fabulous. I look forward to hearing future concerts.

  • The camera work was execrable. I saw enough of Kaufmann’s tongue to last me for a lifetime.

  • Zee says:

    Very underwhelming. A music student might be more exciting.

  • Carol Rooney Hart says:

    Jonas is a great singer!

  • Kaufmann fan says:

    Well, Slipped Disk, I usually appreciate your reviews, but I must say, you are not helping matters (“a lot of $20”) by panning the performance. Thank you for posting the clip; I’m so glad it accompanies your laconic review. Watching this, I don’t think there is enough difference in energy level between this and other performances where the audience is small or non-existent (like videos of taping sessions — where, at least, there is dynamic between the orchestra conductor and the singer for him to play off of, & we get to see him between takes). As a extrovert former teacher imagining trying to address a classroom by video with no feedback, I understand what an effort he is making in this performance. Having seen the clip, I will spend the money, now, and refer my friends, despite your review.

  • Paul says:

    It was a strong reminder that some careers don’t really last that long and this with good reason… a 8 year career at the Met (it’s been only 14 years since his Met debut, adding a Met break of 6 years) is after all not such a long career.
    “Met star”? Oh, please…
    JK has been suffering in the last years for too many times and for too long (years, not weeks!), and unfortunately we could see and listen to his suffering throughout the whole recital. His last recordings (Otello, Aida, Winterreise) showcased a fading voice, with no support and a lot of struggles, nothing memorable and with a poor supporting cast.
    Opera arias should not be sung with piano unless you have the perfect voice, the piano is for songs or lieder which he would have probably sung much better.
    Given that the recital was not live streamed but precorded, I was really surprised of the end result and of how much his voice has altered, it felt like JK’s farewell…

    • Marshall says:

      There were some segments that were from previous opera performances, the recital itself was live streamed-the whole point of it.

    • Scott says:

      PAUL: The concert WAS LIVE-STREAMED!!! I should know – I was on the production team.

  • Linda Blandford says:

    Cold, dry room beautiful as ice, if not as interesting. Jonas Kaufmann in the Met Gala 2020 was wonderful – personal, alive, one of the great voices of the age. This one was plain old-fashioned.

  • Diane Valerie says:

    Could we please have a 3 month moratorium on Met bashing on this forum? It’s becoming tedious and predictable.

    • Artist Activist! says:

      When they stop acting like entitled democrats and PAY THEIR SINGERS, PLAYERS AND STAFF…sure.

      You have an awfully long wait dear girl.

  • Micaela Bonetti says:

    Want to listen to an incredible opera arias recital with only piano accompaniment, a very difficult task even for the best singers?
    I would then recommend the sublime Jon Vickers Pasadena Recital.

    • Jay says:

      Vickers for all his faults was the great artist, Kaufmann for all his faults is not .Kaufmann
      is an imitation,Vickers was the real thing.

  • Susan Weinman says:


  • Kathleen O says:

    This is spectacular singing. So glad to hear it sung with power and taste.

  • Ann Raven says:

    I very much enjoyed this concert! I think the acoustics were hollow because of the empty auditorium. Jonas was magnificent as he could be without the give and take from said audience. Singing like that must have felt strange to him!

  • Mumsy says:

    He was at his best when he was drop dead gorgeous.

  • Noelle G. says:

    It was wonderful to see and hear Jonas Kaufmann live, in such an intimate setting. His singing was beautiful, as usual! He is such a magnificent artist, and the clips from his past performances at the Met reminded us how great a performer/actor he is. I am very grateful to the Met!!!!

  • No it was our privilege thank you Jonas!