December 10, 2021
The greatest tenor of his generation talks cancel culture, booing fans, and problematic roles
Jonas Kaufmann: ‘Opera can’t stand still. We are not bearers of a museum piece. It has to be alive’
‘I don’t want a lot for Christmas,” whispers Jonas Kaufmann into my ears. “Make my wish come true / All I want for Christmas is you.” I don’t know whether to laugh or hit shuffle. It’s three hours before my interview with the world’s most celebrated Singer, a man with a voice as golden as Pavarotti’s but with Hollywood looks, and I’m preparing by listening to a Kaufmann mixtape.
The 52-year-old’s peerless voice still in my ears, I stroll through Naples towards Teatro di San Carlo – the world’s oldest continuously active opera house, and where last night he sang Verdi’s Otello. His is a voice built for Italian opera: “I have a German passport,” he once said, “but an Italian voice.” The New Yorker critic Alex Ross described it as having a baritonal strength in the lower register, cleanly struck high notes (including a top C in Otello), a tenderly shimmering mid-range – all laced together in a luxurious legato.
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