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20 QUESTIONS WITH: Tenor Jonas Kaufmann

By Albert Imperato
13 Jun 2011

Jonas Kaufmann

Jonas Kaufmann has been making waves at major opera companies on both sides of the Atlantic in recent seasons. With his ardent performances and charismatic stage presence, the Munich-born tenor is now established as one of the world’s most important singers.


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His eagerly awaited role debut as Siegmund in the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Die Walküre has been widely acclaimed, described by some critics as one of the standout performances of the year. The New York Times review called Kaufmann “handsome and brooding,” and noted “the audience fell in love with the new Met Siegmund” and his “dark, textured and virile voice.”

Kaufmann records exclusively for Decca Classics, which last month issued Verismo Arias, described by Gramophone as “a perfectly recorded and stunning recital.”

1. A few works of classical music that you adore:

The symphonies of Gustav Mahler and Dmitri Shostakovich and always the opera I currently perform (Wagner’s Walküre right now).

2. Classical music recordings that you treasure:

Bach Goldberg Variations: Glenn Gould (Sony 1981, DVD); Mahler Symphonies: Vienna Philharmonic/Leonard Bernstein (DG); Mahler Das Lied von der Erde; Wunderlich, Ludwig, (New) Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer (EMI); Schubert Die Schöne Müllerin; Aksel Schiotz, Gerald Moore (HMV/Danacord); Wagner Die Walküre: Traubel, Melchior, Varnay, Schorr u. a., Metropolitan Opera/Erich Leinsdorf (live, 1941, Naxos); Dvorak Cello Concerto: Jacqueline du Pré, New Philharmonia Orchestra/ Daniel Barenboim (EMI); Josef Metternich: Opera Arias (Electrola 1953/54, Preiser)

3. Favorite non-classical musicians and/or recordings:

The Beatles 1967-70 (Blue Album, EMI); Domenico Modugno: Tutto Modugno Mr. Volare 1956-64 (WEA); Georg Kreisler: Die alten bösen Lieder (Preiser); Dire Straits: Money for nothing

4. Music that makes you cry – any genre:

"Soave sia il vento", Trio from Mozarts Così fan tutte

5. Definitely underrated work(s) or composer (s):

The verismo composer Riccardo Zandonai and his opera Francesca da Rimini

6. Possibly overrated work(s) or composer (s):

Every composer has got weak und strong points, even Giuseppe Verdi.

7. Live music performance (s) you attended – any genre – that you’ll never forget:

Barbara Cook’s concert at the Metropolitan Opera (January 2006); Bruckner symphonies with the Munich Philharmonic and Sergiu Celibidache (Munich, early 90’s)

8. A few relatively recent films you love:

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Das Leben der anderen (The Lives of Others)

9. A few films you consider classics:

All about Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz), Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock), Star Wars (George Lucas), E la nave va (Federico Fellini), Il Postino (Michael Radford), La vita e bella (Roberto Benigni)

10. A few books that are important to you (and why):

There are just too many to mention. Thanks to the invention of iBook my bookshelf with favorites is portable now.

11. Thing(s) about yourself that you’re most proud of:

I don’t play golf

12. Thing(s) about yourself that you’re embarrassed by:

My longing to be perfectionist

13. Three things you can’t live without:

Family, music, nature

14. “When I want to get away from it all I…”

… go sailing.

15. “People are surprised to find out that I…”

…. am one hundred percent German

16. “My favorite cities are…”

New York, London, Munich, Paris, Rome, and many smaller cities like Edinburgh and Salamanca

17. “I have a secret crush on…”

Gummi bears

18. “My most obvious guilty pleasure is…”

Coffee and sugar

19. “I’d really love to meet (or to have met)…”

Carlos Kleiber

20. “I never understood why…”

Opera isn’t more popular, ‘cause it’s so much fun


Past installments of 20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS:

Soprano Christine Brewer

Soprano Kate Royal

Baritone Paulo Szot

Baritone Nathan Gunn

Bass-Baritone John Relyea

Pianist Yuja Wang

Pianist Kirill Gerstein

Organist Cameron Carpenter

Choreographer Peter Martins

Soprano Diana Damrau

Pianist Simone Dinnerstein

Pianist David Fray

Violinist Sarah Chang

Pianist Ingrid Fliter

Mezzo-Soprano Joyce DiDonato

Pianist Yefim “Fima” Bronfman

Soprano Sandrine Piau

Soprano Natalie Dessay

Harpsichordist and Conductor Christophe Rousset

Guitarist Xuefei Yang

Tenor Giuseppe Filianoti

Soprano Nicole Cabell

Pianist Jonathan Biss

Tenor Ian Bostridge

Soprano Danielle de Niese

New-Music Sextet eighth blackbird 

Composer and Violinist Mark O'Connor 

Composer Jake Heggie

Composer Ricky Ian Gordon

Pianist David Greilsammer

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Albert Imperato, a music promoter who co-founded 21C Media Group in January 2000, writes frequently about the arts for various publications and blogs. 

His new series, 20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS, is his take on (and nod to) Vanity Fair's "Proust Questionnaire." Email him at aimperato@21cmediagroup.com.





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