Wanna see Jonas Kaufmann in Aida?

Wanna see Jonas Kaufmann in Aida?


norman lebrecht

February 20, 2021

It’s showing here, from Paris.



  • sam says:

    1) so Aida is about a guy who falls in love with a marionette? (anyone else find the marionnette far from”celeste”?)
    2 so if you can’t find a black singer, you can now use a black puppet?
    3) if they must use puppets, can’t they find marionettists who are less distracting?
    4) Why does Kaufman always sound like hiis mouth is packed with cotton?

    • A.L. says:

      Note too that the Aida barely sang the exposed high C in ‘O patria mia’. It disappeared into the ether and could not be heard. It came out like a falsetto squeak. No need for me to get into the rest of the disaster that was this mess.

      • Carlos says:

        This problem was caused by the orchestra or by the balance of microphones.
        I’ve heard Mrs. Radvanovsky singing this note pianissimo on stage twice (Vienna and NY), and it sounded beautifully, focused and well projected.

    • Bouncer99 says:

      This is quite the most appalling production I have ever seen of anything anywhere. Preposterous. ‘ Ritorna Vincitor ‘ sung by an Aida separated from the conductor by a life size puppet, a man crawling along the floor moving the puppet’s feet and a further 2 puppet operators standing and animating the arms. Occasionally Miss Radvanovsky was however visible. Jonas Kaufmann can now apparently only deliver a sort of muffled half voice for most of the evening. For years he has been under-singing much of the time in order to spare his fading vocal resources for a high note or two. Tristan in the summer in München – I don’t think so. Sad really, and deeply frustrating to see public money being squandered in such a way and even more sad to see a conductor of Jourdan’s stature being involved in this mess. State finances are in ruins now coping with a pandemic. There are very dangerous times ahead for subsidised arts. Many theaters may not reopen at all (the Met?) I fear. It is most laudable that many companies are still still managing to give the opera loving public some form of semi-live performance. But this sort of tosh will not encourage financial support whether public or private.

      • Allen says:

        “There are very dangerous times ahead for subsidised arts……But this sort of tosh will not encourage financial support whether public or private.”

        A very good point. Some companies and individuals show little awareness of how they are perceived by large sections of the public. Some of the comments in national newspapers make me cringe – yes, they are often based on ignorance of the genre, and occasionally spite, but these people still pay taxes. Ignore them at your peril.

        And no, I’m not advocating the André Rieu/Andrea Bocelli/Katherine Jenkins approach, before anyone suggests it.

    • Y says:

      Live opera is best enjoyed over the radio these days.

    • Olassus says:

      Anything positive to say?

  • mason3530@gmail.com says:

    The English titles are laughable. Revenge for Brexit?

  • Hugh Kerr says:

    It looks awful masked opera and puppets worked well in Butterfly but here!

    • Mvarc says:

      I think the puppetry would have worked well from the auditorium, as the Butterfly did in London and New York. Unfortunately the far-too-frequent close-ups of puppet, 3-4 puppeteers and singer destroyed the intended illusions – long shots were very effective. In the 70s I saw a very clever production set in a Victorian Egyptology museum (bit of déja-vu in this Paris production!) where each of the main characters arose out of mummies! The triumphal March was displayed on a film screen showing Elizabeth Taylor’s entry in Cleopatra! Brilliant and the programme included a credit to the film’s makers!

  • JussiB says:

    overrated tenor in eurotrash opera.

  • SMH says:

    Makes me miss Domingo, at any age……

  • RW2013 says:

    yeah, ahm gonna.
    Hideous production.

  • Cynical Bystander says:

    Aida is difficult to stage at the best of times. I have never seen a totally successful staged production. Not even the MET’s 3 ring circus attempts can stifle the yawns. Maybe it is better unstaged, although given the dearth of competent singers maybe unheard as well. This pathetic attempt most certainly needs never to be seen again. I quite enjoyed the Tableaux Vivants triumph scene but the rest was not even worth the term park and bark. The singing was sub par with Kaufmann’s even worse than that. All Opera Houses struggle with this piece but if you want to deconstruct it better to do it with at least a scintilla of an idea beyond 2 puppets and some vague allusions to cultural appropriation. A total disaster on every level.

  • Jane says:

    Having watched the production last Thursday, I will be purchasing an extra large bag of popcorn in anticipation of the comments on this page later today

    Kaufmann was great once he warmed up – acts 3 & 4 most successful. I have heard some bloody awful Radames (what *is* the plural of Radames?) in recent years – Kaufmann’s was very good. The production is… interesting though not altogether successful. If only the puppets – whose movements were actually rather, er, moving – were used to visually represent the singers rather than the singers being relegated to narrators of the puppets. Tempi were pushing too fast for my taste but it was energetic and exciting so I can live with that. The tableaux in the Grand March are worth watching, whether one agrees with them or otherwise – very clever.

    Right, I’ll get the popcorn on.

    • Mvarc says:

      Thanks for your open-minded and objective comments! Such a rarity here when any new productions are discussed!

    • Barbara Maria says:

      I agree very much with Jane, great singing by Kaufmann in Acts 3 and 4. In spite of the puppet, the ending was very moving. The production would have certainly been better if each soloist had been represented by a puppet.

  • aja says:

    We want Muffin, Muffin the Mule….

  • Corina says:

    The idea of introducing life-sized puppets added to the dramatism of the scenes. I should think it was a daring attempt. I found the performance really moving and I don’t think the simple production of high pitches should be the main aim of an opera. It is the emotion that the sound conveys that matters.

  • Brenda says:

    The answer is NO, although I did watch it. Why? because we miss new productions and art in general. The question is that this was anything but art. Aida transformed into a horrid puppet, the most interesting thing to watch looked more like Mussorsky’s pictures in an exhibition. Kaufmann posing as a painting himself and behaving like a clown : the hero who is about to die of love!!! All in all, it was awful and I would suggest Lotte de Beer to begin a career as a shop windows designer. What was she thinking of ? Please, de Beer, show respect and keep your genial ideas to yourself.

  • Chuck says:

    You have to ask, Who are the dummies here? I guess they couldn’t afford elephants…?

  • Luca says:

    The great conductors of the previous generation would have refused to participate in such a farcical production.

    • Ms.Melody says:

      I don’t think any of the great Aida of the past would touch this pathetic, unholy mess. Can you imagine Price, Milanov or Tebaldi crawling on stage behind a hideous monster that is supposed to represent Celeste Aida? Did anyone noticed Kaufmann’s facial expressions in act 1 while he is talking to Amneris?. He looked like a teenage boy whose mother found a copy of Playboy under his bed! Those shifty eyes! Would you ask your daddy to entrust him with command of the Egyptian army?. I know we are not supposed to feel for Amneris until the final act but must this poor girl be stuffed into hideous pink satin dresses? She may be mean, but she doesn’t have to be ugly too. Singing was patchy. I was impressed with the young bass who sang the pharaoh. I really feel sorry for Sondra Radvanovsky. I don’t love everything she sings but she is a serious artist and it is a shame she had to be a part of this undignified display. Singing from the chorus was also very uneven. Not enough time or space to write a full review, but..no, just no, this is not Aida.

  • Pippa says:

    I saw a Liceo production in Barcelona with wonderful stage design,so it can be done. Even if Aida is not my favourite opera,at least one expects bright Egypt instead of a bleak museum? and real performing singers instead of crawling puppets pushed around. Te singing was not out of this world either,but for once we are talking about Lotte de Beer’s awful mess of a direction and not the looks of Jonas kaufmann.

  • Bloom says:

    Some fine moments from Sondra Radvanovsky ( she was really able to breathe some life into the puppet and to portray a very moving Aida eventually despite some vocal mishaps) and from Ludovic Tézier – very noble , tragic , dignified Verdi singing. The production, on the whole, was a pretentious mess with flickers of beauty in the second half.

  • Guus Mostart says:

    The main problem is that Ms De Beer lacks basic stagecraft. There is no Personenregie to speak of with the result that her dramaturgy becomes unstuck.

  • Player says:

    Don’t get it: was there an audience or not? How can any semblance of verisimilitude be attained while wearing face coverings ON STAGE? Might as well as not bother.

  • kundry says:

    The production is a sinister joke.
    Musically – everyone should go back to school about basics – tempi, articulation , phrasing, not to speak of diction! The piece is unrecognizable. Maybe start by getting some Verdian voices and if possible, with some understanding of the Verdian style. In case they are not to be found, don’t do it!
    Here is a suggestion of how it should sound ( at 1 hour and 5 minutes)

  • Absolutely riveted by this production!!! Musically and visually!!! (for once we heard the B-flat of Celeste Aida pp. Bravo Jonas! and a lot of other details which have been reworked out from routine performances…)

  • Joao almeida says:

    Felizmente a musica de Verdi e grande qualidade dos cantores esmagaram esta patetica encenscao o autor devia ser preso..como e possivel marionetes horriveis.viva a musica de verdi

  • joao Almeida says:

    Detesto encenadores a quererem ser o donos da opera felizmente estes grandes cantores arrasaram esta palalhacada cujos autores deviam ser penalizados por tentarem assassinar uma obra de arte.Vi em Lisboa Corelli,M.Freni Linguabue Ivo VInco. Muito bom ja la vao muitos anos mas encenacao normal/ correcta

  • Helen says:

    Kaufmann bashing again I see. You must really enjoy your sport. How sad and bitter most of you seem!

  • A shame! Le monde est devenu fou. Verdi doit se retourner dans sa tombe. Une si belle musique. De si bonnes voix. Mais quelle mise en scène ridicule! Le pauvre Kaufmann ne sait pas comment se tenir. Il n’aurait pas dû accepter ce rôle. Des Egyptiens en costume de sous Napoléon III. De Egyptiennes devenues nanas sorties d’un salon parisien à la Païva. Et leur matrone…
    J’ ai vu ” Aida” il y a 55 ans aux Thermes de Caracalla à Rome. Et les éléphants n’étaient pas des marionettes. Maintenant l’opéra ne vaut pas d’y mettre un pied ou d’y dépenser un sou.

  • Anabelle says:

    De Beer’s interpretation of Aida is simply outrageous. One does not watch an opera to appreciate the use of symbolism by a stage director; her message is not that important , we are not there for racism, sexism colonialism or any other ism. We are there for Verdi’s music and the singer’s efforts and art, the beauty of their voices . If you want to express ideas or messages , do it without using the work of others as your basis and excuse.

  • Luis Marquez says:

    I wonder who is in charge of all these ridiculous “productions”. They got confused between a musical and an opera. Are you truly serious about these stupidities?

  • Neil Eddinger says:

    Bende per tutti!

  • Oski says:

    After watching dozens of Aidas this new stage is very interesting specially liked the Triunfal March and settings ,the puppets worked well and offers a different view ,is not the definitive version ,but is a new view.The singing very good for the mezzo and Tezier ,not dissapointing for Sondra and Kaufmann ,more or less.

  • Madeleine Richardson says:

    Obviously the budget didn’t run to authentic costumes. Looks like they made do with some old ones they found from an ancient production of La Traviata.