|Jonas Kaufmann accepts bouquets|
Therefore I had high hopes for Kaufmann's concert at Carnegie Hall. It was also titled "You Mean the World to Me" and promised an evening full of operetta hits. The positives first: he showed up? The cancellation-prone tenor I think now knows how antsy his fans are about his appearances, so his Instagram account even had pictures reassuring his fans that he did indeed get on a plane to NY. Can't believe this but this is the third time I've seen him this year. And I'll see him again in Fanciulla del West at the Met (fingers crossed).
The second positive is his voice seems to be in good shape. Stentorian when it needs to be, healthy upper register, good control of his vibrato. He ended "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" both times (one regular program, the other the last encore in English) with a ringing high note. Obviously singing Lehar standards is different from singing, say, Dick Johnson, but after hearing both Roberto Alagna and Aleksandrs Antonenko scream and shout for hours it was great to hear a tenor who can actually ... sing.
And now the negatives. Oh boy, where do I begin? First of all, the stage had huge boomboxes on the sides, as well as smaller amplification devices lined on the lip of the stage. Jonas sang into a mike. He explained that many of these songs were radio hits and meant to be sung with a mike. Fine, but from where I was sitting the amplification of the orchestra was so loud that these romantic, gentle melodies lost much of their charm. Carnegie Hall is widely considered to have some of the best acoustics in the world -- I've heard many smaller voices sound actually LOUD at Carnegie Hall. The miking needed to be adjusted to accompany the acoustics of Carnegie Hall. "Girls Were Made to Love and Kiss" lost all its whispery sexiness with the over-miking. It was as if an intimate recital decided to have the same sound system as a Metallica concert.
How unnecessary this was was driven home when Jonas did 4 encores. All of a sudden the miking and amplification were dialed back around 100 notches, and all we heard was Jonas' voice and the orchestra in a very natural acoustic. Those were by far the best four numbers of the night -- the presentation had the intimacy and sweetness that these songs demand.
Another disappointment was how much of the concert was broken up by orchestral pieces (led by conductor Jochen Reider, who also conducted Kaufmann's studio cd). Overall there were six orchestral numbers and only 8 official solos by Kaufmann, which gave the concert a rather skimpy feel. I mean with all due respect to Reider and the Orchestra of St. Luke's but the sold out audience came to hear Jonas Kaufmann. The orchestral pieces were stuff like the Waltz from Merry Widow and overture to Land of Smiles. Very Viennese New Year's concert stuff.
Thankfully Kaufmann did supply four encores but many audience members were so upset that they didn't even bother staying for the second half of the concert. The sold out auditorium had scores of empty seats after the intermission. When Kaufmann came out for the second half you could tell he was surprised to see all the empty seats. I was also disappointed by a few omissions. I missed the sublime Marietta's Lied. I know it needs a soprano but couldn't they have found a soprano to do some of the famous Tauber duets?
But great opera divas/divos are often frustrating people. Just this morning Spanish diva Montserrat Caballé passed away. In her time she was known for her frequent cancellations and burst of giggling in the most serious operatic moments. But she had a great voice and to listen to Caballé is often akin to falling into a rabbit hole as that shimmering soprano has a drug-like effect and before you know it, hours have gone by and you're on your second bootleg recording of a Maria Stuarda. In one day.
Jonas is a frustrating artist. I was disappointed by the skimpy program, the over-miking, blah blah blah, but when he sang his third encore "Don't Ask Me Why" all those gripes disappeared. He seemed to be singing directly to the audience: "Don't ask me why I've leaving, don't ask me why/Don't ask me why I'm grieving, don't ask me why/I only mean to tell you I miss you so" ... The audience actually clapped after he said "I miss you so" as the legion of NY Jonas fans (of which I consider myself a proud member) have missed him so, and it is so wonderful to have him back.
And now, Caballe. RIP. This is a clip from her legendary Lucrezia Borgia from 1965: