Since his sensational 2006 debut at the Metropolitan Opera in La Traviata, 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” and insiders praise him as the most important German tenor since Fritz Wunderlich.
Hailing from Munich, Kauffman completed his vocal studies there at the local Music Academy and attended master classes with Hans Hotter, James King and Josef Metternich. During his first years 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, conducted by Riccardo Muti – Kaufmann moved on to the Zürich Opera in 2001. From there he began his international career, appearing at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London, Paris Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Berlin State Opera, Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Vienna State Opera, Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Salzburg Festival. In 2010, Kaufmann made his debut at the Bayreuth Festival as the title role in Lohengrin in a spectacular staging by Hans Neuenfels.
Kaufmann is just as internationally in demand in the Italian and French repertoires as he is in German opera. He has sung Massenet’s Werther in Paris and Vienna and Cavaradossi in Puccini’s Tosca in London, at the Met and La Scala. His intensive characterizations 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 Kaufmann’s total identification with his roles that has been received with such enthusiasm by the press and public. This was certainly the case at his role debut as Siegmund in Die Walküre at the Metropolitan Opera 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 experience the special quality of Kaufmann’s Wagner interpretations in detail: the blend of German expressive power and Italian vocal finesse. When Kaufmann subsequently had a great success performing the title role in 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.
In 2012, Kaufmann debuted as Bacchus in Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos 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 Verdi’s Requiem, conducted by Daniel Barenboim, which he also performed at La Scala and the Lucerne Festival. In December of 2012, Kaufmann returned to Milan for the opening of La Scala’s season in 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 Carlos at the Royal Opera House in London, Kaufmann also portrayed the title role in Don Carlos in Munich and Salzburg. Furthermore, he sang two Verdi roles for the first time in new productions at the Bayerische Staatsoper: Manrico in Il Trovatore and Alvaro in La Forza del Destino. In February and March of 2014, Kaufmann portrayed Massenet’s Werther in a new production at the Met, and in June he debuted as Des Grieux in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Royal Opera House.
Highlights from 2015 included Kaufmann’s debut as the title role in a new production of Andrea Chenier at the Royal Opera House, conducted by Antonio Pappano, his first Radames in Aida in Rome, in a concert performance with Anja Harteros and Pappano, a highly acclaimed double debut in the new production of Cavalleria rusticana / Pagliacci at the Salzburg Easter Festival, a Puccini recital at La Scala, and new productions of Beethoven’s Fidelio in Salzburg and Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust at the Paris Opera.
After the great success of his solo album of evergreens from the late Twenties and early Thirties (Du bist die Welt für mich), Kaufmann released his new album of Puccini arias (Nessun dorma) in September of 2015. He performed some of those arias at the legendary “Last night of the proms” in the Royal Albert Hall on September 12th.
In Munich’s new production of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger, which premiered in May of 2016, Kaufmann sang the role of Walther von Stolzing on stage for the first time. In August of 2016, he made his South American tour debut, with concerts and recitals in Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Lima and Santiago de Chile. In January of 2017, Kaufmann returned to the Paris Opera in Claus Guth’s production of Lohengrin, after which he sang the title role in Andrea Chenier in Munich. In June, he made his long awaited role debut as Otello at the Royal Opera House in London, about which the New York Times claimed “Kaufmann sings an Otello for the ages. A week after the premiere, the production was broadcast in cinemas all over the world. In August of 2017, the tenor returned to the Sydney Opera House for several performances of Parsifal. His first premiere in the 2017/18 season will be the French version of Verdi’s Don Carlos in Paris, staged by Krysztof Warlikowski and conducted by Philippe Jordan.
Kaufmann’s versatility as an artist 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 Carlos, Tosca, Andrea Chenier, Adriana Lecouvreur, Werther and Carmen. His solo albums “Verismo”, “Wagner” and “Verdi” were bestsellers only a few weeks after being released. In 2011, Kaufmann was presented with 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).
Jonas Kaufmann is also a familiar figure internationally 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 Helmut Deutsch, with whom he has worked as far back as his student days in Munich, has proven itself in countless concerts, including one on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera on October 30, 2011. This was the first solo recital given at the Met since Luciano Pavarotti’s back in 1994.