Lyric Opera of Chicago picked the ideal vehicle to open its 2008-09 season Saturday night: Jules Massenet's "Manon," a showpiece for great singing, acting, dancing and stagecraft.
And when it comes to great singing, the Lyric has cast what general director William Mason calls "two of today's most extraordinary stars," in French soprano Natalie Dessay in the title role and German tenor Jonas Kaufmann as her on-again, off-again paramour, the Chevalier des Grieux.
"Manon" is based on a famous 18th century French novel (a real potboiler in its day). It worked so well in the hands of opera composer Jules Massenet in 1884 that his Italian counterpart, Giacomo Puccini, created his own successful version for the stage in 1892, titled "Manon Lescaut."
But the "Manon" of the moment is that by Massenet, last presented by Lyric Opera in 1983 with the estimable Italian diva Renata Scotto in the title role. But in 2008, the opera world is blessed with a superstar French coloratura soprano in Dessay, who brings spectacular artistry to one of the great French opera roles, which is now firmly established as as a major element of her repertoire.
Dessay did not disappoint Saturday night, bringing all the drama and nuance Massenet and his librettists, Henri Meilhac and Philippe Gille, created for thr multi-faceted character of Manon Lescaut.
And this opera doesn't begin and end with the leading soprano.You must also have a world-class tenor to portray De Grieux, who loves Manon deeply but is hurt deeply to see her stray into the arms of a rival in the middle part of the opera. Kaufmann, who made his Lyric Opera debut as Cassio in "Otello" in 2001-02 and returned as Alfredo in "La traviata" the following season, shows how much he has grown as an artist in the intervening years as he takes on this challenging role for the first time.
Most operas make do with one or two love duets, but Massenet has written four. Two of them are spectacular: the dramatic rekindling of their love ("Toi! Vous!") closing Act 3, and Manon's death scene ("Ah! Des Grieux") at the final curtain.
The strong supporting cast is uniformly excellent. Of particular note is American tenor David Cangelosi, who has made a career of bringing creative musicality to often-overlooked character roles. In this case, there could hardly be a better fit than for the middle-aged Guillot de Morfontaine. But cut through the outer buffoonery (fluffy powdered wig and cane, etc.) and you have a man on his own special kind of mission. Cangelosi brings out all Guillot's frolics and foibles, still reserving a hint of the character's subtle villainy.
Stage director David McVicar created this production for English National Opera with a revival in Barcelona, Spain, before bringing it to the Lyric. His unit set (designed by Tanya McCallin) has a timeless look, with McCallin's traditional costumes firmly planting the opera in the reign of Louis XV, in the mid-18th century. Stage lighting is usually hidden, but McVicar, in collaboration with lighting designer Paule Constable, has visibly integrated them into the scenery to dramatic effect.
Massenet's haunting score, with its recurring 10-note "Manon" theme prominent in the first half of the opera (before things really become dramatic in Acts 4 and 5), is conducted with passion by Emmanuel Villaume, at home in his native French repertoire.
Donald Nally's Lyric Opera Chorus acquitted itself with its usual virtuosty throughout the evening, in particular the large crowd scenes of the Paris Cours-la-Reine in Act 3 (which also included a fine contribution from the Lyric's ballet corps) and the lively casino scene in Act 4.
"Manon" Where: Ardis Krainik Theatre, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive. When: Additional performances at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 1, 7, 11, 18, 21, 24, 27 and 31; 2 p.m. Oct. 4 and 15 Tickets: Call (312) 332-2244, Ext. 5600, or visit lyricopera.org, for availability and reservations; major credit cards accepted. At a glance: Opera comique in five acts by Jules Massenet, with libretto by Haneu Meilhac and Philippe Gille. David McVicar, stage director; Tanya McCallin, set and costume designer; Donald Nally, chorus master; Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Emmanuel Villaume. Starring: Natalie Dessay as Manon Jonas Kaufmann as Chevalier des Grieux Raymond Aceto as Count des Grieux David Cangelosi as Guillot de Morfontaine Christopher Feigum as Lescaut With Jake Gardner, Andriana Chuchman, Kathryn Leenhuis, Katherine Lerner, Sam Handley and Angela Mannino
Jonas Kaufmann La Scala 2015
|Born||(1969-07-10) 10 July 1969 (age 48)|
|Occupation||Opera singer (tenor)|
Jonas Kaufmann (born 10 July 1969) is a German operatic tenor. He is best known for his performances in spinto roles such as Don José in Carmen, Cavaradossi in Tosca, Maurizio in Adriana Lecouvreur, and the title role in Don Carlos. He has also sung leading tenor roles in the operas of Richard Wagner with success in Germany and abroad, most notably the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He is also an accomplished Lieder singer. In 2014 The New York Times described Kaufmann as "a box-office draw, and... the most important, versatile tenor of his generation."
Early life and education
Kaufmann was born in Munich. His father worked for an insurance company, and his mother was a kindergarten teacher. He had one older sister. He started studying piano when he was eight, and he sang in his elementary school choir. Although he studied for mathematics entrance exams, in the summer of 1989 he began his vocal training at the University of Music and Performing Arts Munich. While studying, he sang some small roles at the Bavarian State Opera. He graduated from school in 1994 achieving distinctions both in opera and concert performances.
In 1995, after a vocal crisis, Kaufmann received help from American baritone Michael Rhodes who taught him a "new way of singing" and how to become "more relaxed in my voice and in myself." In Kaufmann's book Meinen die wirklich mich? he said, "To find a Michael Rhodes that can really help you and bring you to success is really a great stroke of luck."
He began his professional career at Staatstheater Saarbrücken in 1994 and was soon invited to make debuts in German theaters such as the Stuttgart Opera and Hamburg State Opera, as well as international debuts at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Opéra National de Paris, and La Scala. He made his Salzburg Festival debut in 1999 in a new production of Busoni's Doktor Faust and returned there in 2003 as Belmonte in Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail and for concerts of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic.
He performed in Covent Garden in 2006/7 in the role of Don José in Bizet's Carmen to critical acclaim. He made his debut as Alfredo in Verdi's La traviata at the Metropolitan Opera alongside Angela Gheorghiu in 2006 to great critical acclaim  and also sang the role in 2007 and 2008 at The Met and in Covent Garden in 2008. In May 2008, Kaufmann made his role debut as Cavaradossi in Puccini's Tosca in Covent Garden, again to critical acclaim.
In 2008/9, he performed in Massenet's Manon in Chicago opposite Natalie Dessay and in the title role of a new production of Wagner's Lohengrin at the Bavarian State Opera. He also sang Lohengrin at the Bayreuth Festival opening night performance of the 2010 season; the production was staged by Hans Neuenfels and conducted by Andris Nelsons.
His debut recording with Decca, Romantic Arias, was released in January 2008. He has also recorded a Schubert song cycle on the same label and the role of Pinkerton in Puccini's Madama Butterfly for EMI.
In January 2010, he assumed the title role in Massenet's Werther at the Opéra Bastille; the performance was recorded and released on DVD in November 2010.
In April 2011, he returned to the Metropolitan Opera as Siegmund in director Robert Lepage's new production of Wagner's Die Walküre, scheduled to be presented in its entirety during the 2011/12 season. In September 2011, he underwent surgery to remove a lymph node from his chest. In December, he was back, performing the title role in Gounod's Faust.
On February 15, 2013, Kaufmann made his first appearance in the title role of Wagner's Parsifal at the Metropolitan Opera. His performance received rave reviews from critics. In July of that year he was named a Kammersänger of the Bavarian State Opera by the Bavarian Ministry of Arts. In December he sang the role of Don Alavaro in Verdi's La forza del destino with the company.
In February 2014 Kaufmann sang the title role in Massenet's Werther at the Metropolitan Opera. He followed this by touring with the Schubert Winterreise song cycle with Helmut Deutsch. In June 2014 he made his debut in the role of Des Grieux in Puccini's Manon Lescaut at the Royal Opera House in London. That November he sang the same role in another production of Manon Lescaut at the Bavarian State Opera.
On September 12, 2015, Kaufmann became the first German to perform the British seafaring anthem Rule Britannia at The Proms' Last Night.
On February 23, 2016, the documentary Jonas Kaufmann: An Evening with Puccini is scheduled for release in select theaters in the United States. The film centers around Kaufmann's 2015 performance at La Scala Milan and will feature rare footage.[needs update]
Kaufmann was married to mezzo-soprano Margarete Joswig. They separated in April 2014. They have three children.
His new life-partner is the opera director Christiane Lutz.
|2006||Strauss Lieder||Jonas Kaufmann / Piano Helmut Deutsch||–||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|2008||Romantic Arias||Jonas Kaufmann / Prague Philharmonic Orchestra / Marco Armiliato||31||–||–||148||–||–||–|
|2008||Puccini: Madama Butterfly||Angela Gheorghiu / Jonas Kaufmann / Enkeleida Shkosa / Fabio Capitanucci / Orchestra e Coro dell' Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia Roma / Antonio Pappano||–||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|2009||Sehnsucht||Jonas Kaufmann / Mahler Chamber Orchestra / Claudio Abbado||48||–||–||119||–||–||–|
|2010||Schubert – Die schöne Müllerin||Jonas Kaufmann||–||–||–||133||–||–||–|
|Verismo Arias||Jonas Kaufmann||51||–||–||68||–||–||–|
|2011||Die Superstars der Klassik – Singen die schönsten Opernarien||Erwin Schrott / Anna Netrebko / Jonas Kaufmann||34||1||–||–||–||–||–|
|2012||Königskinder – Engelbert Humperdinck||Jonas Kaufmann / Isabel Rey||–||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|2013||Wagner||Kaufmann / Runnicles / Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin||43||30||99||76||–||–||–|
|Verdi Requiem||Anja Harteros / Elina Garanča / Jonas Kaufmann / René Pape / Orchestra e Coro del Teatro alla Scala / Daniel Barenboim||37||51||–||–||–||–||–|
|Best of||Jonas Kaufmann||–||–||148||–||–||–||–|
|Jonas Kaufmann||Jonas Kaufmann||–||59||–||145||–||–||–|
|The Verdi Album||Jonas Kaufmann||16||7||120||53||58||55||100|
|2014||Winterreise||Jonas Kaufmann, Helmut Deutsch||38||22||111||87||1||73||–|
|Du bist die Welt für mich||Jonas Kaufmann, Julia Kleiter (de) (soprano), Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, conductor: Jochen Rieder||11||9||–||84||–||55||–|
|2015||The Age of Puccini||Jonas Kaufmann||–||56||–||–||–||–||–|
|Nessun Dorma – The Puccini Album||Jonas Kaufmann||10||8||161||23||–||26||22|
|Aida||Jonas Kaufmann, Anja Harteros, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Ludovic Tézier, Erwin Schrott, Antonio Pappano & Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia||55||74||–||–||–||–||–|
|2016||Dolce Vita||Jonas Kaufmann||7||7|
|2017||Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde||Jonas Kaufmann||26||43||136||122||78|
|"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.|
Kaufmann's repertoire includes the following:
- ^"Profile". The Times. Retrieved 2017-07-14. (subscription required)
- ^ abTommasini, Anthony (21 February 2014). "A Tenor Finds Energy for Intense, Lyrical Pain". New York Times. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
- ^Christiansen, Rupert (19 December 2014). "Opera Review of 2014: the start of opera becoming the domain of the elite?". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
- ^Woolfe, Zachary. "For a Sage Tenor, It's All in the Timing". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
- ^"About me". Kaufmann website. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
- ^Micklethwait, Brian (14 February 2008). "The teacher who saved Jonas Kaufmann's voice". Retrieved 6 May 2011.
- ^Voigt, Thomas (2010). Jonas Kaufmann "Meinen die wirklich mich?": Henschel Verlag GmbH & Co.KG. ISBN 978-3-89487-669-2. p. 52
- ^"Artists". Deccaclassics.com. Retrieved 2017-07-13.
- ^Davis, Peter G. "La Traviata - New York Magazine Classical Music Review". Nymag.com. Retrieved 2017-07-13.
- ^Hilary Finch, The Times, Tosca at Covent Garden, 14 May 2008
- ^ abcdefgMetropolitan Opera Archives. Kaufmann, Jonas (Tenor) (performance record)
- ^News: Surgery successful on Kaufmann's official website, jonaskaufmann.com
- ^Wakin, Daniel J. (August 29, 2011). "The Tenor Jonas Kaufmann Keeps Plans Despite Surgery". The New York Times
- ^Dear Friends – Open letter from Jonas Kaufmann published on the website of Fuji Television. "Lymph nodes" is written in the Japanese version.
- ^Tommasini, Anthony. "Dark Nights of the Soul in the Kingdom of the Holy Grail". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
- ^Apthorp, Shirley (29 December 2013). "La forza del destino, Bavarian State Opera, Nationaltheater, Munich – review". Financial Times. Retrieved 26 December 2014
- ^Clements, Andrew (18 June 2014). "Manon Lescaut review – Kaufmann's singing is exceptional". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
- ^Neuhoff, Bernhard (16 November 2014). "Triumph für Jonas Kaufmann, "Manon Lescaut" an der Bayerischen Staatsoper". Bayerischer Rundfunk. Retrieved 26 December 2014 (in German).
- ^Sound of Music singalong at Last Night of the Proms BBC News. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
- ^Holubiak, Ian (December 16, 2015). "Jonas Kaufmann Debuts An Evening with Puccini February 2016". Classicalite. Retrieved December 17, 2015.
- ^Jinman, Richard (1 August 2014). "Tenor Jonas Kaufmann seeking passion, not perfection". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
- ^Braunmüller, Robert (15 April 2014). "Jonas Kaufmann hat sich von seiner Frau Margarete Joswig getrennt". Abendzeitung (in German). Munich.
- ^"Jonas Kaufmann erlebt neue Liebe "wie ein Blitzschlag"". Die Presse. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
- ^"Jonas Kaufmann discography". lescharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
- ^"Jonas Kaufmann discography". hitparade.ch. Hung Medien. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
- ^"Ö3 Austria Top40: Longplay-Charts - Ö3 Charts". Oe3.orf.at. Retrieved 2017-07-13.
- ^"TOP 100 ALBUMES — SEMANA 41: del 07.10.2016 al 13.10.2016" (in Spanish). Productores de Música de España. Retrieved 19 October 2016.
- ^"TOP 100 ALBUMES — SEMANA 15: del 07.04.2017 al 13.04.2017" (in Spanish). Productores de Música de España. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
- ^"Le Top de la semaine : Top Albums – SNEP (Week 38, 2017)" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
- ^"Top 100 Albumes — Semana 38: del 15.09.2017 al 21.09.2017" (in Spanish). Productores de Música de España. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
- ^ abCummings, Robert. Jonas Kaufmann. AllMusic. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
- ^ abcdefGurewitsch, Matthew (21 February 2007). "Opera Critics Sing Jonas Kaufmann's Praises". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
- ^Serrou, Bruno (22 June 2003) "Une Damnation au poil selon Olivier Py". Res Musica. Retrieved 12 November 2012 (in French).
- ^Christiansen, Rupert (19 November 2010). "Adriana Lecouvreur, Royal Opera House, London, review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
- ^ abcdeOpernhaus Zürich. Ensemble: Jonas Kaufmann. Retrieved 11 November 2012 (in German)
- ^ abAllison, John (7 April 2015). "Cavalleria rusticana/Pagliacci, Salzburg Easter Festival, review: 'thrilling'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
- ^ abcdGurewitsch, Matthew (15 May 2009). "Tenor at the Top Is Determined to Stay There". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
- ^Freeman-Attwood, Jonathan (April 2003). "Review: Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria". Gramophone Magazine, p. 91
- ^Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (19 September 2000). "Marcellina befreit Fidelio und Florestan, Eine Dresdner Sternschnuppe macht Beethoven Konkurrenz: Ferdinando Paers hochkarätige "Leonora" in Winterthur ", p. 59 (in German)
- ^Gramophone Magazine (October 2003) "Review: Nina, o sia La pazza per amore", p. 94
- ^ abcTanner, Michael (13 November 2010). "Spellbound". The Spectator. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
- ^ abJahn, George (6 August 2012). "Strauss' 'Ariadne,' Puccini's 'Boheme' both please". San Francisco Chronicle (via Associated Press). Retrieved 11 November 2012.
- ^Manon Lescaut, June/July 2014 production details, Royal Opera House
- ^[dead link]
- ^Leukel, Jürgen (17 November 1998). "Gut geöltes Räderwerk: Der Barbier von Sevilla wieder im Großen Haus". Stuttgarter Zeitung(in German)
- ^Saarlaendisches Kultur-Journal (June 1995). "Und er sticht nicht!". Retrieved 12 November 2012 (in German).
- ^Berliner Zeitung (10 November 1997). "König Roger". Retrieved 12 November 2012 (in German).
- ^Stevens, David (9 May 2001). "'Mignon,' Out of Cold Storage". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
- ^Halter, Bernard (31 March 2005) "Du très beau linge pour Sir John!". Res Musica. Retrieved 11 November 2012 (in French).
- ^Laska, Andreas (25 October 2005). "Triomphe pour Verdi et ses brigands avec Jonas Kaufmann". Res Musica. Retrieved 11 November 2012 (in French).
- ^Täuschel, Annika (28 June 2013). "Il Trovatore" bei den Münchner Opernfestspielen". Bayerischer Rundfunk. Retrieved 3 July 2013 (in German).
- ^"Aida | Bayerische Staatsoper". Staatsoper.de. 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2017-07-13.
- ^Inverne, James (September 2008). "Leading light Jonas Kaufmann". Gramophone Magazine, p. 37
- ^Tommasini, Anthony (4 August 2010). "Avant-Garde Director Gathers Rats Into a Wagnerian Maze". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
- ^"Jonas Kaufmann wins best male opera singer award", BBC News Entertainment & Arts, 23 April 2013. Accessed 23 April 2013