Mirella Freni: A Life Devoted to Opera

Editors' review

July 3, 2016

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German h0ttie Tenor Jonas Kaufmann drew a small (but devoted) crowd at his Teatro alla Scala recital earlier this evening in Milan. The palchi were 1/3 full, and blocks of seats on the orchestra floor remained vacant, but for those that comprised the audience, Kaufmann seemed to deliver. For this Opera Chic, not so much. Full casual (thank gawd)…Paul Smith black embroidered blouse tucked into my vintage Levis (again), grey Repetto round-toe Victorian boots (although it was humid, it was kind of chilly today), and a matching grey Prada skinny belt. And the standby Louis Vuitton Speedy.

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Kaufmann looked pretty good himself. omg teh hawt. He stepped-out in full frac, tailing pianist & "Lieder-Meister" Helmut Deutsch in the same. The tenor launched weakly into Schubert's Die Bürgschaft, and his small voice was worrisome. He couldn't seem to find the proper projection, and at first, the accompaniment played over him. Speaking of Deutsch, the man needs to lay off the damper pedal. His legato is insane (but as an outted legato junkie, it was strangely curious). His Schubert seemed a little sloppy, and dropping his place once, he left Kaufmann to sing a few measures in gaping silence.

Kaufmann undoubtedly creates a pleasant presence on stage (tall/dark/handsome), comes across as gentle/patient/cool, and has nailed plenty of his technique and training, but there's something strangled about his voice, and his color is just not my thang. Benjamin Britten's Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo Buonarroti was next...with a few haunting passages, but not enough to gather too much enthusiasm save the normal spectrum applause. The first half was rather boring, in all honesty. Even with Kaufmann's yummy appearance, OC found herself counting all the spent light bulbs of the centerpiece chandelier (at least a dozen on my visible side), counting all the completely empty palchi (I stopped at 35), and contemplating how different salons treat manicures here (short & rounded vs. nyc's long & squared). Interesting stuff.   

At la pausa, Opera Chic was considering leaving the recital, but something urged me to stay...and I'm glad I did. (btw, in the photo below, you can see just how empty La Scala was...during intermission.)

Any apprehension and uncomforting lapses that Kaufmann displayed in the first part of the recital had been chased away as he began Richard Strauss' Schlichte Weisen. It was almost immediate during "Du meines Herzens Krönelein" and the following "Ach Lieb', ich muss nun scheiden" that he channeled some sort of chocolaty Lieder goodness, drawing-out wild applause and bravi from the gallerie which was very much deserved. It all came to climax as he finished the last work of the evening, Strauss' Vier Lieder, which ended in the same rabid applause and praise.

The difference between the two segments was strange, but whatevs. It was a quick recital at an easy pace, and including the bis (and a twenty minute intermission), was less than two hours. Kaufmann took his calls, and gifted the audience with four encores: all various Lieder that OC can't place (considering the gigantic oeuvre of Lieder + my usual impatience for the art = all Lieder sounds the same to these ignorant ears). ok ha ha j/k.

As the recital ended, I was left with one question: I know that Kaufmann has done it before to good reviews, but I just can't imagine his Alfredo on the la Scala stage without getting swallowed whole by Maazel and the orchestra. Holy sht...Jonas(h) and the freaking whale. I love it. He's going to get swallowed on the 17th when he sings opposite Nucci "The Whale" Germont and Angela (if she bothers to show-up). Whatever happens, Opera Chic will be there blah blah blah.

Now before I jump, here's a blurry picture I took of Jonas' a$$: