German rising star Jonas Kaufmann shares his thoughts on opera today

Tall and slender, his face emanates a sense of long-lost romance but at the same time also exudes something contemporary. German star tenor Jonas Kaufmann is scheduled to appear at the Athens Concert Hall tomorrow night. He will be accompanied by the Athens State Orchestra under the baton of Michael Guttler. «I grew up in a family where everyone listened to opera and symphonic music,» said Kaufmann in an interview with Kathimerini. «Therefore, a career in classical music came as a natural development – though I never dreamed of becoming an opera singer.» Unaware of his success in opera, one could presume that he is a pop star or an actor. «Interpreters’ appearances have always played an important role in opera,» noted Kaufmann. «The very early performances of ‘La Traviata’ were flops because the prima donna was plump and did not convince audiences that she was dying of tuberculosis. At the same time, however, many opera singers of the past were like today’s movie stars. Meanwhile, if you take a look at the correspondence of great composers, you will see how anxious they were that the interpreters’ appearances matched their characters. And let me remind you that the great Maria Callas was a superb interpreter – and not just because of her voice. Given the evolution of cinema and television, perhaps image plays an even greater role nowadays. In its original version, however, opera was not meant to be seen close up, but from a distance. Today, given the existence of cameras, things are very different and the factor of appearance is more important than ever before, giving the entire experience a greater level of realism.» What are the rising tenor’s favorite roles? «I sometimes feel that I enjoy all of them equally. One very important role for me, however, is Pamino from ‘The Magic Flute.’ I hope to go back to this role – and, if I do, following ‘Tosca,’ ‘Carmen’ and ‘Lohengrin,’ it will mean that I can manage my voice well. I should also mention ‘Parsifal,’ the Duke in ‘Rigoletto’ and ‘Idomeneo’ – I have been very fortunate.» In contrast with many of his fellow artists, Kaufmann doesn’t believe that the Internet and downloading are damaging to music. «I consider downloading a very positive development. Anything that renders classical music accessible to a broader audience – art in general – can only be a good thing. I do have an observation, however: Don’t just stay at home. Now that you have watched opera on television and online, come to the theater. Nothing can replace the experience of a live performance.» What is Kaufmman planning to interpret tomorrow? «I’m thrilled to come to Greece and I want to mention it. I have chosen arias from ‘La Boheme,’ ‘Tosca,’ ‘Carmen’ and ‘Lohengrin,’ among others. Under maestro Guttler, the orchestra will interpret works from ‘The Barber of Seville’ and ‘La forza del destino’ among others.» Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali & Vas. Sofias, tel 210.728.2333.

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