German tenor Kaufmann to make Bayreuth debut

German star tenor Jonas Kaufmann is to make his debut at the prestigious Bayreuth Festival this week, amid hopes the charismatic 41-year-old will ring in a vocal renaissance on Richard Wagner's fabled "Green Hill".

Munich-born Kaufmann is to sing the title role in a brand-new production of Wagner's romantic opera "Lohengrin", which opens the annual month-long summer festival dedicated exclusively to the composer's works.

The singer, with his unruly mop of hair, designer stubble and Latin-lover looks, already sang the role of the Swan Knight in the Bavarian State Opera of his home town last year to sensational reviews.

And so critics, who have long complained that the world's best singers are absent from Bayreuth, are pinning their hopes on Kaufmann to bring back that extra touch of glamour to the world's oldest and most famous music festival.

A so-called "lirico spinto" tenor (a voice that has the basic characteristics of a lyric tenor, but can push into a more powerful and dramatic climax), Kaufmann has worked patiently at building up his voice since studying at Munich's Hochschule fuer Musik in the early 1990s.

He attended master-classes by Wagnerian greats Hans Hotter and James King and was a prize-winner at the Nuremberg Mastersinger Competition in 1993.

Kaufmann joined the ensemble of the Saarbruecken opera house in 1994 where he sang all the major lyric roles. And it was here that he began to come to the attention of much bigger, more important houses, including New York, Vienna and Zurich where he made something of a name for himself in Mozart and Verdi roles.

Nevertheless, being a member of an ensemble enabled him to sing a wide repertoire and his first CD for his current label, Decca, was a disc of romantic arias, ranging from Berlioz and Bizet to Gounod, Massenet, Puccini, Verdi and Weber.

"I've already sung perhaps 50 different roles. They weren't easy to choose," Kaufmann told AFP in an interview in 2008.

A fluent Italian speaker, the polyglot musician is almost equally at ease in English and French and is constantly alert to language and words.

"A famous tenor once told me he drew little faces on his scores - smiling or crying - to give him a general idea of how to sing the role. That's not how I go about interpreting a character," Kaufmann said.

"Opera is not just about singing beautifully, it's about investing emotion in a character to give them meaning."

Kaufmann's rich, gleaming, baritonally-hued tenor, with its solid technique and shining musicality, is a perfect vehicle for doing just that.

And he has a very natural stage presence and is a highly intelligent actor.

Given the dearth of good Wagnerian singers nowadays, it could be difficult for a singer of Kaufmann's calibre to resist pressure to take on Wagner before his voice is really ready.

But Kaufmann has been extremely careful so far. On his second disc for Decca entitled "Sehnsucht" (Yearning), he takes on the roles of Parsifal and Siegmund, in addition to Lohengrin.

He sang the role of Parsifal in Zurich in 2006, Walther von Stolzing in "The Mastersingers of Nuremberg" in Edinburgh the same year and he is set to sing Siegmund at the New York Met in 2011.

But Kaufmann says he is not ready to jump into the heaviest Wagner roles just yet.

"Of course, the great dramatic Wagnerian roles appeal to me greatly. But they lie much further away in my future," he writes in the booklet to "Sehnsucht".

"You will have to wait quite a long while for the Siegfrieds... even longer for Tristan and Tannhaeuser!"

Arts and Entertainment
By Seuss! ‘What Pet Shall I Get?’ hits the bookshops this week
Arts and Entertainment
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after Enola Gray and her crew dropped the bomb
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Elliott outside his stationery store that houses a Post Office
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Attwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
    Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'