Since his sensational début at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in a performance of La Traviata in 2006, Jonas Kaufmann has numbered among the top stars on the operatic horizon. The international press has singled him out as the “new king of tenors”. Insiders praise him as the most important German tenor since Fritz Wunderlich.
Jonas Kaufmann comes from Munich. He completed his vocal studies there at the local Music Academy, in addition to which he attended master classes with Hans Hotter, James King and Josef Metternich. During his first years on stage at the State Theatre in Saarbrücken he continued his training with Michael Rhodes in Trier.
After engagements in Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Milan – in Giorgio Strehler’s production of Così fan tutte and Fidelio with Riccardo Muti on the podium – Kaufmann moved on to the Zurich Opera in 2001. From there he began his international career. Appearances at the Salzburg Festival and the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Paris Opéra and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London, La Scala Milan, the Deutsche Oper and the State Opera in Berlin, the Vienna State Opera and the Metropolitan in New York. In 2010 he made his début at the Bayreuth Festival as Lohengrin in a spectacular staging by Hans Neuenfels.
Kaufmann is just as much in demand internationally in the Italian and French repertoires as he is in German opera. He has sung Massenet’s Werther in Paris and Vienna, Cavaradossi in Puccini’s Tosca in London, at the Met and La Scala. His intensive characterisations of Don José in Bizet’s Carmen and Werther in Massenet’s opera took opera fans throughout the world by storm. Kaufmann loves portraying shattered characters, immersing himself in their world and making their thoughts and emotions strikingly believable.
Besides his vocal and musical qualities, it is his total identification with his roles that has been received with such enthusiasm by press and public. This was the case at his role début as Siegmund in Die Walküre at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in the spring of 2011. The eagerly awaited new production, masterfully conducted by James Levine, and transmitted world-wide on radio and in HD to cinemas, allowed audiences to hear the special quality of Kaufmann’s Wagner interpretations in detail: The blend of “German” expressive power and Italian vocal finesse. When Kaufmann afterwards had such a great success performing the title role of Gounod’s Faust (a new production that could also be seen in cinemas all over the world) he showed once again his vocal and theatrical versatility.
On his home turf in Munich, Kaufmann has thus far been heard as Tamino, Lohengrin, Don José, Cavaradossi, Florestan in Fidelio and Don Carlo. In 2012 he gave his debut as Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss at the Salzburg Festival. In Salzburg he was also heard as Don José in the new production of Carmen conducted by Simon Rattle and in a performance of the Verdi Requiem conducted by Daniel Barenboim, which has been also performed at La Scala and at the Lucerne Festival. In December 2012 he came back to Milan for the opening of La Scala’s new season with the new production of Lohengrin, conducted by Barenboim and directed by Claus Guth.
2013 was the year of Wagner and Verdi: After the Met’s new production of Parsifal and the revival of Don Carlo at the ROH in London, Kaufmann portrayed the title role in Don Carlo also in Munich and Salzburg. Furthermore he undertook two Verdi roles for the first time: Manrico in Il Trovatore and Alvaro in La Forza del Destino, both in new productions at the Bayerische Staatsoper. In February and March 2014 he portrayed Massenet’s Werther in a new production at the Met, in June he gave his debut as Des Grieux in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the ROH in London.
Kaufmann’s versatility is documented on a number of CD’s and DVD’s in performances of such works as Lohengrin, Walküre, Parsifal, Königskinder, Ariadne auf Naxos, Don Carlo, Tosca, Adriana Lecouvreur, Faust, Werther and Carmen. His solo albums Verismo, Wagner and Verdi were bestsellers only a few weeks after being released. In 2011 he was presented the coveted “Opera News Award” in New York. An article in Opera News heralded this selection with the words: “His intensity and elegance, the smoothness of his voice and his body language, combined with his musicality and his glowing appearance make him the very definition of a 21st century opera star.” Shortly afterwards Kaufmann was named a “Chevalier de l’Orde de l’Art et des Lettres” by French culture minister Frédéric Mitterand. Kaufmann has been selected several times as “Singer of the Year”, by the classical music magazines Opernwelt, Diapason and Musical America as well as by the juries of “Echo-Klassik” and the inaugural “International Opera Awards” (London 2013).
Kaufmann is also a familiar figure world-wide on the concert and recital platforms. He regards art song interpretation as “The Royal Class of Singing” since this genre calls for considerably more finesse and differentiation than any other vocal discipline. His partnership with pianist Hemut Deutsch, with whom he worked as far back as his student days in Munich, has proven itself in countless concerts including one on October 30 2011, on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. This was the first solo recital given at the Met since Luciano Pavarotti’s back in 1994.