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  • Listen: Jonas Kaufmann - 'There are two types of musicians. I always belonged to those in the passionate group'

Listen: Jonas Kaufmann - 'There are two types of musicians. I always belonged to those in the passionate group'

The German tenor tells BBC Radio 3 his thoughts on Regietheater and gives hints at future plans.

By Chris Shipman (Content Producer (Social Media and News))

2 June 2014 at 5.29pm | Comment on this article

Jonas Kaufmann was the focus of a special edition of BBC Radio 3's Music Matters, during a break in rehearsals of Jonathan Kent's new production of Manon Lescaut.

Jonas spoke to Tom Service about what drove him to pursue a career in music:

'There are two types of musicians - the ones that are really passionate about everything and only seek emotion, and those that seek perfection and technique. I always belonged to those in the passionate group', said the Munich-born tenor. 'My family loved music so I grew up listening to classical music all the time, especially meaty and heavy classical music - not just Mozart and Bach, but the real things: Mahler, Strauss, Wagner, Bruckner, Shostakovich. Things with lots of power but not opera.'

'I had some key moments when I saw an opera performance and I realized I could be part of that. It's a step further being a musician in the middle of an orchestra as opposed to being accompanied by the orchestra and being on the set with a costume, make-up, and wig. It seemed like the ideal situation to be in if you really want to say something.'

He spoke of the challenges faced by singers, unlike those faced by other musicians:

'The problem with singing is it's such a different way of teaching something - with an instrument you can show how to hold the violin and the bow. [With singing] your teacher tells you, "When you inhale it's like you're smelling a rose, and when you open your mouth it should be like you've put a pear in it, or a hot potato". There are all these crazy little images that they give you! We don't have a common language.'

'Through the experience that I've had in the last five or six years, I can estimate how my voice is going to change and what a part is going to be like,' said the tenor about how he plans for roles within an art form that sees him booked for new parts many years in advance. 'We get stuck with the things we planned five years ago. You have to plan in a way that's healthy.'

'The moment you don't have anyone waiting at stage door for you, it's probably terrible. I don't want to think of that day. But sometimes you have the impression there are fans that with the ticket, believe they've bought a part of me too. It's not just a performance,' said Jonas of the pressures of being one of the world's top opera singers. 'It's difficult to combine the two worlds [of personal and private]. Nevertheless, it shows you the power of what we're all doing.'

The tenor saved special praise for the Covent Garden audience: 'Compared to other venues, they're very good listeners. You can feel that they're there. It's very intense.'

He also gave his thoughts about how opera stays relevant and Regietheater (director's theatre):

'We are the preservers and conservers of an art form that had its peak in the past. Opera itself is not outdated - it still works and it still pushes the button in the right spot if it's done in the right way. I'm not against renewing operas, especially in terms of productions. The idea [of Regietheater] is very good because you need do ensure [the art form] doesn't get stuck. Great opera is based on instincts that have never changed - we still fall in love with each other, we still hate each other, we still fear death. If you give the piece the chance, even if it's 300 years old, it will still do the same thing. '

Jonas also gave his thoughts on music written in the second half of the twentieth century, his future plans, and the differences in how singers connect with live audiences between opera and more intimate works such as Lieder.

Manon Lescaut runs from 17 June–7 July 2014. Tickets are still available.
The production is generously supported by Rolex, with generous philanthropic support from Mrs Susan A. Olde OBE, Lord and Lady Laidlaw, Mrs Philip Kan, Marina Kulishova, Mrs Trevor Swete, Quentin Holland, Mercedes T. Bass, Bruce Kovner, the American Friends of Covent Garden and The Manon Lescaut Production Syndicate.

The production will be relayed live to cinemas around the world on 24 June. Find your nearest cinema and sign up to our mailing list.

By Chris Shipman (Content Producer (Social Media and News))

2 June 2014 at 5.29pm

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged BBC Radio 3, by Jonathan Kent, interview, Jonas Kaufmann, Manon Lescaut, Music Matters, Production

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