Jonas Kaufmann: Tenor for the Ages


Jonas Kaufmann: Tenor for the Ages

Intimate behind-the-scenes documentary about the handsome German tenor Jonas Kaufmann, one of the hottest properties in the opera world, and his triumphant return after illness.


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Transcript


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HE SINGS IN ITALIAN

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I think Jonas is a one-off.

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His voice has a power and a beauty combined.

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And he's so musical and speaks all these languages, and he's like...

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-He has it all.

-The thing about Jonas Kaufmann is that he's a

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phenomenally intelligent guy.

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He thinks about everything.

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I mean, of course he's a good-looking, very handsome tenor.

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Very often, they are fat or ugly

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not so good looking, and he has everything.

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Jonas has gone through a rough patch.

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I mean, he's not been well.

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So, there's a lot of expectation and we're all rooting for him, you know.

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Where he fits in the pantheon of the great tenors...

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..certainly he's one for the ages. No question.

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HE SINGS IN ITALIAN

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Jonas Kaufmann is arguably the greatest singer of his generation.

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At the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden,

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he's been tackling one of the most taxing roles in Italian opera.

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Verdi's Otello.

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In the final hour before going on stage,

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there was little peace in his dressing room.

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One thing in the fourth act...

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HE SINGS IN ITALIAN

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Yes, two times...

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Yeah, it just surprises you.

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It comes right... It comes right up-tempo...

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HE SINGS A NOTE

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-We've got to find a way to make that work. OK?

-Yeah.

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-Wah.

-Wah.

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HE SINGS SCALES

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HE GARGLES

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Hey, Jonas.

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Just try not to breathe.

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HE CLEARS HIS THROAT

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All this powder.

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HE SINGS IN ITALIAN

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That's dead easy. And I think these guys are correct.

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HE SPEAKS IN ITALIAN

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Yes, yes, yes.

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I started late.

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-I don't know why.

-You terrible man.

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I asked whether he can really...

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-Come in sooner?

-No, where it's supposed to be.

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Tony's encouraging him to come sooner.

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Oh, why?

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Otello is seen as the Everest.

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A role that requires a certain amount of self-torture

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and, of course, physically, that can cramp you up.

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HE CLEARS HIS THROAT

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It is lots of fun to play.

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Once you know how to deal with it vocally and how to somehow control

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your emotions, then it's fantastic.

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Well, have fun.

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-Yes.

-Have fun. I mean it.

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-Fun.

-Have fun. Well...

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Don't tell Maria!

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THEY LAUGH

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You always have fun with Maria.

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-PA:

-Calling for Otello.

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Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,

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this is your call for this evening's performance.

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No, no...

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Mr Atkins, Mr Kaufmann...

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..ladies and gentlemen of the chorus, actors, children,

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ladies and gentlemen of the orchestra, organ player,

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offstage trumpets and drums...

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..trap and balcony operators,

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wardrobe and wig staff for the actors' quick change.

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This is your act one call, thank you.

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-Vamos.

-Yep.

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Four minutes before the opera is due to start,

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Otello sets off for the stage.

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Nothing can be left to chance.

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HE LAUGHS

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His arrival as the victorious general will be precisely

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four minutes into the opera,

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with his song of triumph, Esultate - Rejoice.

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But the performance can't begin until he's in position in the wings.

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Only then can Shakespeare's arch manipulator, Iago,

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launch the evening's drama with the tumult of a storm at sea.

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CRASHING SCORE

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Backstage, one minute, 20 seconds after the start,

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the door from the wings flew open and Kaufmann in full costume

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sprinted away from the stage,

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all the way back to his dressing room.

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He had forgotten his sword.

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I said, "I'll be back in a sec," and they were under shock.

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I mean, everyone, the dresser,

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the make-up lady,

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the stagehands, the stage managers, they just thought,

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"He's never going to make it."

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THEY SING:

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I mean, I know the opera well enough to know that if I really run up and

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run down, I'm going to make it in time.

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Maybe with a little sweat on the forehead,

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but no-one will notice that.

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You come from a battlefield, obviously you can be out of breath.

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Why not?

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THEY SING IN ITALIAN

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HE SINGS IN ITALIAN

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You missed me in the dressing room.

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I went back upstairs because I forgot the sword.

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I just rushed up, got it and went directly on stage.

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How many seconds did you have before you had to start singing?

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I don't know. I mean, I didn't have to stop at all,

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I could just easily go in and...

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..start!

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Kaufmann is not a man to lose his nerve, unlike some other singers.

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Neil Shicoff, he has this habit to just go...

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Not stopping from the dressing room and just goes straight on stage

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because it stresses him out to be on the wings waiting too long.

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That is actually not my problem but...

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..laziness obviously is.

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-It was stupid.

-Why didn't you go on without it?

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No, I cannot go on without the sword.

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I mean, Esultate without the sword...

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Few in his home city of Munich would accuse Jonas Kaufmann of being lazy.

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Across 18 months,

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he recently chalked up 13 different operas around the world.

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As well as dozens of concerts and song recitals.

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He is stopped by fans wherever he goes.

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He knows all about their mind-set because he is one himself.

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Mein Name ist Kaufmann.

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Ever since he was a boy, he has backed his home team Bayern Munich.

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-Das ist perfekt.

-On this occasion, he reckoned their opponents,

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Hamburg SV, were in for a roasting.

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Oh, here they are.

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HE LAUGHS

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And he was proud to show off the Bayern stadium.

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It is not bad, huh? Is it?

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A place most singers would run a mile from.

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Even if you come and you think, "Oh, I have to save some voice

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"because I have a rehearsal tomorrow," or whatever,

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you can't. I mean, you simply can't.

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I mean, everybody who is into football knows that this sport...

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You cannot stand still, you cannot just silently watch a game.

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Ja!

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Of course, I see myself screaming and shouting,

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and all those wrong decisions that you see from here much better than

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the referee sees.

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Hamburg played very bad.

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I mean, really, really bad.

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When you go to Hamburg for your recital in May...

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-Yeah.

-..perhaps they will hold that against you.

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Yeah.

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Possible. But I mean, come on.

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Just find a better team.

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In this game, the roasting by Bayern Munich was relentless.

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One more goal and their triumph was complete.

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HE LAUGHS

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Not bad. Well, even the most optimistic

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probably wouldn't have guessed on eight goals.

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I mean, they could have scored even more.

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They demolished them completely.

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Compared with the 75,000 fans in the stadium,

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the Royal Albert Hall in London boasts a mere 5,500.

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But on television and radio,

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millions more across the world were waiting for Jonas Kaufmann's

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star turn at the Last Night of the Proms,

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the first time a German singer had been booked for Rule, Britannia.

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Yeah, of course I know the melody.

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Of course, everybody knows Rule, Britannia,

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but I had no clue about the text. Honestly!

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All the other nations are not worthy and they shall fall to a tyrant,

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that is quite, yeah, strong!

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Well, I mean, some hundred years ago. Come on.

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He was very particular about the drive to the hall,

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to be sure he arrived after the audience were safely inside.

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Good evening.

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Hello. How are you?

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My goodness, they haven't even started and they're cheering.

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He always has fan mail waiting for him in his dressing room.

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But this time, a Rule, Britannia veteran had left him a present

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to set the tone of the evening.

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Get out of here!

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Boxers. This is perfect.

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Yeah, well, next time.

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The previous year, when I had been at the Last Night of the Proms,

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my wife had given me a pair of Union Jack boxer shorts, to give me

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inspiration for the evening.

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So I thought it might be a nice idea to continue this tradition.

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"I realise that these may not be the only underwear you receive from

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"strangers this evening."

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Excuse me.

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-Ha!

-I thought I'd start things off for him and just give him something

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to remember the UK by.

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"I just wanted to wish you all the very best for this evening.

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"Even if you tripped and fell flat on your face,

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"the audience will still love you."

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-That's nice.

-He must know, by this point,

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that his fans can get to him anywhere,

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so I hope it wouldn't spook him out too much.

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This is a very straightforward person but we have people that give

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you the impression that we know each other for ever.

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Because they've known me for many years and they've seen many

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performances, and I'm present in their living room when they put in

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the DVDs and everything, and suddenly, I don't know,

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they forget that I actually have no clue who they are.

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But, well, come on,

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this is an interesting effect that you have on people.

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Yeah, they keep forgetting that it's not real.

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Good colour.

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Lovely curls!

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Jonas. Zero five minute, four minute.

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-Thank you.

-Thank you.

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No, actually, something hardwood or something.

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But there's nothing like this.

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No, this is plastic, too.

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That's always dangerous, that you slip.

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I need some scratches on my shoes.

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Oh, yeah, that helped a little bit.

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KNOCK ON DOOR

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-Yes?

-Three minutes.

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All right.

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HE SINGS SOME NOTES

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Ready.

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HE SINGS IN ITALIAN

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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It's amazing to have all these people standing just right next to

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the edge of the stage. It's fantastic.

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Is it intimidating?

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Not at all. There's a barrier!

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So they can't climb up.

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No. No, it's not.

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If an audience would be intimidating,

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I think you shouldn't be a performer.

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You unfold in front of an audience.

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It's very boring to sing in your dressing room.

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It's quite tough to do those arias one after the other like that.

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It's true. Yes. Talking about that, I probably have to go right...

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Have you checked your face?

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It was just a three-minute break and then he was back on stage.

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CHORUS SINGS

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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-All right...

-Wow.

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I love the way you grinned at the end because you get such a kick out

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-of it.

-Absolutely.

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Absolutely. And I was really amazed that they all waited for the end

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because it is so often that some start to clap because they can't

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wait for it, then it all falls apart.

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But this time, they really held it.

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They kept it till the very last note and then, vam!

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This is probably how you feel when...

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..as a...I don't know...

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..a ski jumper or something,

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when you fly down to the stadium and you see all

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the crowd there, and then they see on the leaderboard that you have

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done the new record and then they are all like, "Wow!"

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What makes somebody stand out is ultimately, ultimately,

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is the quality of the voice.

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But what is the quality of the voice?

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Is it just what you're given by the guy upstairs?

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Or is it something that is raw potential

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that you then develop and hone?

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Ah!

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THEY LAUGH

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Because I think that's what it really is.

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And it is the personality behind the voice that is projected.

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-Would you be able to sign the programme?

-Of course.

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Thank you so much.

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That was fab. Thank you so much.

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-Brilliant.

-That was fabulous.

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The opera world has a certain stake in his success.

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You know, all the big opera houses certainly do, and you want somebody

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like that to succeed.

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At the peak of his success, Kaufmann and his partner,

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the opera director Christiane Lutz, live in Munich.

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It's where he was born.

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In his student singing days, the Cafe Luitpold was a regular haunt.

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But for years, he was a prophet without honour in his own city.

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Or his own opera house.

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I sang a total of four performances.

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Four performances in 15 years.

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So, obviously,

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it was not a good idea to live in Munich at that time because

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if you anyway have to travel so much,

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at least one of the places you're performing should be home.

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When I met Klaus Buchner in Munich, he said to me,

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"Why is it that you don't want to sing in Munich?"

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I said, "Who said I don't want to? "I don't get any jobs here."

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-They missed a trick.

-I mean,

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they really missed it because I debuted in 2004 at the

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Royal Opera House in Covent Garden,

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2006 at the Met, and that was it.

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Long before, La Scala and so on.

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So, every major house.

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Vienna, and so on. They all realised it except for Munich.

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THUNDER RUMBLES

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Eventually, the Munich opera house woke up to its mistake.

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He's now a regular and recently took the title role there in

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Umberto Giordano's opera about the French Revolution - Andrea Chenier.

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In rehearsals, Kaufmann took an interest in the working of the

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onstage guillotine. Not surprising, as he was the one to be executed.

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TRANSLATED FROM GERMAN:

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I hope the theatre's insurance policy is good.

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Well, I tried it the day before yesterday already.

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We had a first try and they showed me the whole system,

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and I'm very much into tools and technique,

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so I know that nothing can happen, and still it feels odd.

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When you turn around, actually, head up,

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and you see that thing coming towards you,

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it's really frightening.

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Even with all the precautions and all the security, knowing exactly

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nothing will happen, it is worrisome, very much worrisome.

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OK.

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Thank God I had a turtleneck.

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The main issue was what should happen

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in the final bars of the opera, after his execution.

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The original idea was to make a perfect copy of my head and

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show that to the audience. And first, they said,

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"Maybe it looks ridiculous because it's not perfect."

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Then they assured them that they are really capable in doing

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an absolute impeccable copy, which then worried them even more

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because then it means if they show the head to the audience,

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will the elderly ladies faint

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because they believe it really did happen?

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So then they called it off.

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They said, "No, no, we're not going to do it.

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"The guillotine's going to fall down at the very last second and then the

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"curtain comes." And then I think number four was, then they say,

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"OK, we'll do a head but we will only show the back,

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"so you can see the hair - this is enough."

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And now we're on version five, where again they are talking about the

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head being shown to the audience.

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I don't know what ultimately is going to happen.

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THEY SING IN ITALIAN

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It wasn't the only risk to Jonas Kaufmann's health in the past year.

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-Welcome.

-In early February,

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he arrived at the Barbican Centre in London for what they called

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the Kaufmann Residency -

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two orchestral concerts,

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a public discussion with young singers and, first up,

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a song recital that very evening with his pianist Helmut Deutsch.

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So, do you guys want to rehearse straightaway?

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Because at some stage, it would be good to just sit down and have a

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-quick chat with you.

-Yeah, we can chat.

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You see, I'm not intending to rehearse now for three hours.

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I mean, why would I?

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For the Barbican and for him, it was a high-wire act,

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especially since he'd been out of action for several months

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with a vocal injury. He had returned only two weeks before

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with performances of Wagner's Lohengrin in Paris.

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Lohengrin, you were singing lying down,

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looking up stage, on the floor, upside down.

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Yeah, this is the perfect start.

0:23:270:23:29

I mean, it was really funny because the audience was like,

0:23:290:23:32

"Is that really him? I mean, this is it?

0:23:320:23:35

"Yeah, OK."

0:23:350:23:36

And then I turned round and they said, "OK, it's him - he's back!"

0:23:360:23:39

There's a tremendous air of expectation around tonight

0:23:410:23:44

and I have to say, I have spent the last couple of weeks

0:23:440:23:47

fretting and watching what's happening in Paris with Lohengrin,

0:23:470:23:50

trying to get a sense of, "Is this going to happen or not?"

0:23:500:23:54

Here it makes noises.

0:23:540:23:55

And so, that's why we moved a little bit to that side.

0:23:550:23:58

The alternative would be to move to the other side,

0:23:580:24:00

which is fine with me, too.

0:24:000:24:01

Anything can happen. It's now five o'clock.

0:24:010:24:04

We've got another couple of hours.

0:24:040:24:06

And indeed, tonight is only the first of a number of events.

0:24:060:24:09

Anything can happen. That's our business.

0:24:090:24:11

You saw what happened with the piano.

0:24:110:24:14

PIANO NOTES PLAY

0:24:140:24:16

Let me try...let me try...

0:24:180:24:21

Give me five minutes or four minutes, is that OK?

0:24:210:24:25

I think I can change this.

0:24:250:24:27

First time in this hall,

0:24:270:24:29

first time with this piano and Kaufmann didn't stand back.

0:24:290:24:32

I mean, how complicated is this, to get this other piano up here?

0:24:320:24:35

It's not complicated but...

0:24:350:24:37

So, why don't we do that first?

0:24:370:24:38

-15 minutes or so.

-OK.

-Let's do that...

0:24:380:24:41

While you're doing this, I will do what I want to do.

0:24:410:24:43

Yeah, OK, you do what you want.

0:24:430:24:45

Exactly. So, in order to bring in the other one,

0:24:450:24:47

you need to clean this space?

0:24:470:24:49

Where is the lift? Oh, here, OK.

0:24:490:24:51

I didn't see it, that's why I've thought, "Wait, wait!"

0:24:510:24:54

-THEY LAUGH

-Wow, huh?

0:24:540:24:56

Let's say it's uneven and sharp.

0:25:080:25:10

The piano is new. It's not an old piano.

0:25:100:25:13

It's maybe four years old.

0:25:130:25:14

But still, you have to constantly keep it in shape.

0:25:140:25:17

Piano tuning, piano voicing is a dark art.

0:25:180:25:22

There is always a degree of subjectivity.

0:25:220:25:25

I've heard...one night, one pianist will say to me,

0:25:250:25:28

"Oh, that's a fabulous piano!"

0:25:280:25:29

The next night, a different pianist will say,

0:25:290:25:32

"That is a disgusting piano, I never want to touch it again."

0:25:320:25:35

I could live with both but, for me, this is the better piano.

0:25:350:25:39

OK. Fine. Decision made.

0:25:390:25:40

Excellent.

0:25:400:25:42

Sometimes, the very last note you have to hit

0:25:420:25:44

is one that doesn't sound nice.

0:25:440:25:46

It's just a shame because it can destroy the whole atmosphere.

0:25:460:25:49

But not in this case, hopefully.

0:25:490:25:51

HE SINGS

0:25:530:25:55

Helmut Deutsch has been Kaufmann's regular accompanist since his

0:27:050:27:08

student days in Munich.

0:27:080:27:11

The voice was light and very, very bright.

0:27:240:27:27

This famous baritone colour did not exist at all.

0:27:270:27:30

Very, very musical but the voice itself was not so impressive.

0:27:440:27:49

I wouldn't have given £1 for a huge career, not at all.

0:27:490:27:53

The young Jonas wanted lessons about German lieder and really grabbed his

0:27:530:27:58

attention with the song you brought from Schumann's Dichterliebe.

0:27:580:28:02

In my long, long career as a teacher, I had so many students,

0:28:020:28:06

I don't remember most of them when they came first but this,

0:28:060:28:09

I never forget because it was extraordinary.

0:28:090:28:13

I knew lots of opera, my grandfather was a big,

0:28:130:28:17

big Wagnerian, so I was listening a lot to Wagner, for instance,

0:28:170:28:21

and to Bruckner and to lots of symphonies and stuff like that.

0:28:210:28:25

But lied, classical lied, I didn't know that repertoire very well.

0:28:250:28:30

So I just picked a songbook that was at home,

0:28:300:28:35

probably 100 years old.

0:28:350:28:37

He chose one song from Dichterliebe, which was Ich Grolle Nicht,

0:28:370:28:41

which many tenors are...

0:28:410:28:44

..baritones even more, but tenors

0:28:440:28:46

are scared of because it has a high A.

0:28:460:28:49

HE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:28:490:28:51

And he gave this.

0:28:530:28:55

"That, please. I would like to sing Ich Grolle Nicht."

0:28:550:28:58

But it was a third higher.

0:28:580:29:00

He said, "What on earth is that?

0:29:000:29:02

"Where did you get that music from?"

0:29:020:29:04

He couldn't believe it.

0:29:040:29:06

So, he reached, in the end, a high C.

0:29:060:29:09

I sang a high C.

0:29:140:29:15

You know, I was completely innocent.

0:29:150:29:17

It was written maybe for high soprano.

0:29:170:29:19

Whatever. I didn't know. I just took it, I said,

0:29:190:29:22

"This is a nice song, I'm a tenor, let's do it."

0:29:220:29:26

What a crazy man.

0:29:260:29:27

But to have the courage to sing something a third higher than the

0:29:270:29:31

original, just to show off with the high C, was impressive.

0:29:310:29:36

JONAS SINGS SCALES

0:29:360:29:38

With the partnership of Helmut Deutsch,

0:29:380:29:41

Kaufmann likes to switch from the heroic roles of grand opera to the

0:29:410:29:44

intimacy of the song recital.

0:29:440:29:46

This is torture...

0:29:490:29:50

..around the neck. I always wonder

0:29:510:29:55

when singers will stop doing that.

0:29:550:29:58

Have you stopped? Ever?

0:29:580:29:59

No.

0:29:590:30:01

-Why not?

-If you have tails then you have to have tie.

0:30:010:30:05

He's so fantastic and he's coming tonight.

0:30:050:30:09

He hasn't cancelled.

0:30:090:30:10

That's a miracle.

0:30:100:30:12

He's fabulously handsome, wonderful on stage.

0:30:120:30:15

He looks like Jesus Christ, I always think.

0:30:150:30:18

It's really exciting that he's actually here singing tonight.

0:30:180:30:21

-KNOCK ON DOOR

-Yeah.

0:30:210:30:23

Hi, Jonas, ready to go when you are.

0:30:230:30:25

Yeah, good, good, good.

0:30:250:30:26

-Coming.

-At this moment, are you excited?

0:30:260:30:29

Are you looking forward to it, or do you get nervous?

0:30:290:30:32

No, it's not real nervousness. It's just a little bit of, yeah,

0:30:320:30:36

excitement, and the blood pressure goes up a bit, which helps you to be

0:30:360:30:42

right in character

0:30:420:30:45

for the...for the performance.

0:30:450:30:48

It's nothing to be worried about, usually.

0:30:480:30:52

There's a big gap between his age and my age,

0:30:520:30:54

and I'm honoured that I'm still his number one as a partner,

0:30:540:30:59

because he could be my son.

0:30:590:31:03

TRANSLATED FROM GERMAN:

0:31:030:31:05

Everybody is waiting to see whether he still deserves that title,

0:31:090:31:13

the world's greatest tenor.

0:31:130:31:15

He had no need to get the audience on his side,

0:31:180:31:21

but he certainly knew how to do it.

0:31:210:31:23

Hello, good evening, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Barbican.

0:31:250:31:28

Thank you so much for coming.

0:31:280:31:30

It's my first recital of a, well,

0:31:300:31:32

too-long gap that I had now and I just thought,

0:31:320:31:36

let's play it safe, so this will hopefully help me to not make

0:31:360:31:40

any, any, any mistakes ever and...

0:31:400:31:43

LAUGHTER

0:31:430:31:44

..if you wonder why I'm not standing dead centre,

0:31:440:31:46

there's also a reason for this.

0:31:460:31:48

We realised that the floor makes terrible noises just here.

0:31:480:31:51

LAUGHTER

0:31:510:31:53

Which is the dead centre.

0:31:530:31:55

And I said, probably too much sweat has been spilled here.

0:31:550:31:58

So we decided to go just a bit off-centre.

0:31:580:32:03

I hope you don't mind.

0:32:030:32:04

APPLAUSE

0:32:040:32:06

HE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:32:120:32:15

The last time Kaufmann and Deutsch had performed together was in

0:34:150:34:19

South America the previous August.

0:34:190:34:21

That was where Kaufmann noticed a vocal problem.

0:34:210:34:24

At first there was no cause for alarm,

0:34:260:34:28

but it turned out to be serious.

0:34:280:34:30

We had a recital in Sao Paulo, which went pretty well

0:34:300:34:34

and very, very good and the next one was in Lima,

0:34:340:34:39

and he didn't feel comfortable.

0:34:390:34:41

He said, "I don't know what... What's wrong?"

0:34:410:34:43

And two days later, it was Buenos Aires and it was up again

0:34:430:34:46

and it was very, very good, and then it was down again,

0:34:460:34:49

and then his doctor found the reason for this - Machu Picchu

0:34:490:34:53

in Peru.

0:34:530:34:55

After journeying to high altitude in the Andes,

0:35:000:35:03

Machu Picchu itself is 2,500 metres above sea-level,

0:35:030:35:07

the trouble with his voice began.

0:35:070:35:10

It ruled out all performances for a period

0:35:100:35:13

that, in the end, lasted five months.

0:35:130:35:15

It's very simple.

0:35:150:35:17

A tiny little blood vessel popped open, and vocal cords vibrate

0:35:170:35:22

so many times per minute

0:35:220:35:24

and they touch each other, each and every time,

0:35:240:35:26

and if something goes wrong there, it cannot heal on its own

0:35:260:35:33

when you don't know it and you don't leave it alone,

0:35:330:35:36

meaning when you don't shut up completely.

0:35:360:35:38

It was, step wise, it was not, OK, you have to rest three months.

0:35:490:35:54

It was OK, two weeks, maybe a little bit more, then another two weeks,

0:35:540:35:59

and then three weeks and then, no.

0:35:590:36:01

It was just

0:36:130:36:15

popping open several times and also, there, I wasn't singing at all.

0:36:150:36:20

You sit at the dinner table and talk to friends and from one second

0:36:200:36:24

to the other, you think, "Oh, what happened?"

0:36:240:36:26

It's just constantly... in this...treadmill,

0:36:340:36:39

waiting to finally find the exit.

0:36:390:36:42

Well, the one positive thing obviously was I was home

0:37:140:37:18

and I saw my kids much more than the last couple of years,

0:37:180:37:21

so it was a nice side effect,

0:37:210:37:23

but still, I preferred to have performed, I must say.

0:37:230:37:27

The repeated cancellations upset some of his fans,

0:37:290:37:33

who took to Twitter and online blogs to complain,

0:37:330:37:35

often in patronising terms.

0:37:350:37:38

You probably were aware of some of the social media,

0:37:380:37:41

which was quite unpleasant.

0:37:410:37:43

People who think singers should just battle on, they shouldn't cancel,

0:37:430:37:48

and people saying you hadn't learned the part,

0:37:480:37:51

or you didn't feel like singing.

0:37:510:37:53

What do you think when you read this sort of stuff?

0:37:530:37:57

Mind your own business, to be very frank.

0:37:570:38:00

How can somebody else, who never talked to me,

0:38:020:38:05

never saw me and doesn't know what my status is,

0:38:050:38:10

think they know better than myself or my doctors?

0:38:100:38:14

Of course people are disappointed and I totally understand,

0:38:140:38:17

but don't they think that I'm disappointed, too?

0:38:170:38:21

I mean, you do it because it's your passion,

0:38:210:38:23

and I did it because it's my passion. It's still my passion,

0:38:230:38:26

so why would I want to cancel something if I could do it?

0:38:260:38:31

Drei, zwei, eins!

0:38:310:38:33

CHEERING

0:38:330:38:35

With two of the four Barbican events safely navigated,

0:38:370:38:41

it was time for reinforcements.

0:38:410:38:44

Well, what does a singer do on a free day?

0:38:440:38:46

He goes to his supplier

0:38:460:38:49

to get some more junk food, to get going.

0:38:490:38:54

No, in my case, Fortnum & Mason's, for shortbread.

0:38:540:39:00

It's either gummy bears or shortbread.

0:39:000:39:03

Wow, that's what I call a selection of honey.

0:39:050:39:08

The buckwheat honey is one of the best...mucous relievers.

0:39:100:39:15

Stir it in some tea in the morning, you get rid of everything.

0:39:150:39:19

Shortbread. Mmm!

0:39:200:39:22

This is the traditional one that I know and this is called demerara,

0:39:220:39:27

and I have no clue what that means.

0:39:270:39:29

-Brown sugar.

-Brown sugar?

0:39:290:39:31

Ah.

0:39:310:39:33

Why don't they write "brown sugar"?

0:39:330:39:35

I didn't know. That's the one.

0:39:370:39:39

Mocha shortbread, amazing.

0:39:400:39:44

That should be enough for the next couple of concerts.

0:39:440:39:47

Yeah, come on, you have to be reasonable.

0:39:470:39:50

You can't just eat day and night.

0:39:500:39:53

I mean, I could, but...

0:39:530:39:55

It's just for performing.

0:39:560:39:58

Are you the great tenor, Jonas Kaufmann?

0:39:580:40:01

Yeah, I'm Jonas Kaufmann.

0:40:010:40:04

Could you take a photo?

0:40:040:40:05

Yes, of course we could.

0:40:050:40:06

Oh, thank you, thank you very much.

0:40:060:40:07

-Sure.

-Do you want to take the picture?

-Yeah. OK.

0:40:070:40:10

Press here.

0:40:100:40:11

-So then I probably turn it around, otherwise I can't...

-Yeah.

0:40:110:40:14

-Another one.

-Oh, thank you, thank you very much.

0:40:180:40:20

You are most welcome, sure.

0:40:200:40:22

Thank you...

0:40:220:40:24

Thank you, merci beaucoup.

0:40:240:40:26

The path to the top hasn't been easy.

0:40:260:40:29

20 years ago, with a punishing schedule as a young opera singer

0:40:290:40:32

in Germany, he found he was horribly in trouble.

0:40:320:40:37

I lost confidence, everything.

0:40:370:40:39

I even lost my voice on stage during a performance, I couldn't sing.

0:40:390:40:43

The conductor looked at me, like, "Hey, what's going on?"

0:40:430:40:46

I can't, I couldn't.

0:40:470:40:49

Kaufmann found a new teacher,

0:40:490:40:51

who showed him how to avoid vocal stress

0:40:510:40:54

by relaxing the root of his tongue and keeping his larynx down.

0:40:540:40:58

It was the making of him.

0:40:580:41:00

For the first time ever, probably, I had a reliable instrument,

0:41:000:41:04

even though it was still edgy and it was not round at all,

0:41:040:41:08

I could sing on and on and on and it wouldn't get tired.

0:41:080:41:12

The day after the second Barbican concert, all Wagner,

0:41:120:41:15

he had the opportunity for some maintenance.

0:41:150:41:18

OK, Jonas, tongue against your teeth.

0:41:180:41:21

Pushing through, perfect.

0:41:210:41:23

Good.

0:41:230:41:24

A little stretch there, you feel the pull round the corner of the jaw.

0:41:240:41:28

-Uh-huh.

-Sitting up.

0:41:280:41:30

Looking up for me.

0:41:300:41:32

Open wide.

0:41:320:41:33

It's an incredibly physical pursuit.

0:41:330:41:36

And, you know, the muscular work is enormous.

0:41:360:41:40

Like a sportsman, Kaufmann is alert to any hint of a physical problem.

0:41:400:41:44

Next one is Monday. So, I mean...quite some, yeah.

0:41:440:41:48

-The lung is a little bit...

-OK.

0:41:480:41:50

But it's also weather and everything.

0:41:500:41:53

Jonas is perceptive enough to realise that the larynx isn't moving

0:41:530:41:58

as freely as he would like.

0:41:580:42:00

Probably the best analogy is a sports car where the handbrake is on

0:42:000:42:04

slightly and you're just not getting the performance you would expect out

0:42:040:42:08

of the vehicle. It will still get you from A to B,

0:42:080:42:10

but what you're expecting

0:42:100:42:12

is something that is far more responsive.

0:42:120:42:14

Now, as soon as we release those tight muscles,

0:42:140:42:17

then the performance returns to the voice box.

0:42:170:42:19

Ah, wonderful, yes.

0:42:190:42:22

By pushing his tongue out, he's anchoring one end of his tongue,

0:42:220:42:27

which allows me then to stretch the base of the tongue,

0:42:270:42:30

which restores the mobility that we were talking about.

0:42:300:42:33

OK, good.

0:42:330:42:35

Right, lying on your back.

0:42:350:42:37

His reward, afternoon tea at his Westminster hotel,

0:42:370:42:41

where he briefed his press agent, Thomas Voigt,

0:42:410:42:44

ahead of the third Barbican event the following day.

0:42:440:42:47

Christiane was there, she watched it.

0:42:470:42:49

And I told her, just watch carefully, you can do it next time.

0:42:490:42:52

And she said afterwards in the cab,

0:42:520:42:55

"No, actually, I wasn't expecting it so close to the voice."

0:42:550:42:58

So I'm scared. I don't want to do it.

0:42:580:43:01

And that's obviously the reason why I go to this guy.

0:43:010:43:04

TRANSLATED:

0:43:040:43:06

This is clotted cream.

0:43:160:43:19

Cream?

0:43:190:43:20

-Divine.

-And honey?

0:43:200:43:22

Ay-ay-ay! Now we're talking. That's nice.

0:43:230:43:26

Wonderful. Fresh scones with clotted cream.

0:43:270:43:31

-Oh, yes.

-And strawberry jam.

0:43:310:43:33

That's the thing.

0:43:330:43:34

HE CHUCKLES

0:43:340:43:36

-Enjoy, sir.

-Thank you so much.

0:43:360:43:38

-If there's anything else, let me know.

-Thank you.

0:43:380:43:40

It's the healthy choice, I have to say,

0:43:400:43:42

but if I would allow myself to eat those every day...

0:43:420:43:45

..hell would break loose.

0:43:480:43:51

This is chicken curry.

0:43:570:43:59

This is egg salad.

0:43:590:44:01

This is tuna, this is cucumber.

0:44:010:44:03

And that's salmon.

0:44:030:44:05

Traditional. Dig in.

0:44:050:44:07

Clotted cream for everyone.

0:44:070:44:09

Yummy.

0:44:090:44:10

Next afternoon was his conversation

0:44:120:44:14

with students from the Guildhall School of Music,

0:44:140:44:17

but the morning brought unwelcome news for the audience.

0:44:170:44:21

We were a little anxious about today,

0:44:210:44:23

because we did wonder on Wednesday

0:44:230:44:24

whether there was a cold in the offing...

0:44:240:44:27

-Did you?

-There seemed to be a slight...

0:44:270:44:28

Well, we've been following his health online for months.

0:44:280:44:31

Also, we were sitting very close to the stage.

0:44:310:44:34

-How far have you come?

-How far?

0:44:340:44:35

From the South of France.

0:44:350:44:38

And we were really looking forward to this discussion.

0:44:380:44:41

Obviously, we're gutted,

0:44:410:44:43

not least because it's been extraordinary so far, I have to say,

0:44:430:44:46

as I thought it would be.

0:44:460:44:48

HE SIGHS

0:44:480:44:49

Singers are such delicate creatures.

0:44:490:44:51

Have you seen Jonas Kaufmann before?

0:44:510:44:53

-Yes.

-Where?

0:44:530:44:55

-A lot.

-All over Europe.

0:44:550:44:58

Switzerland, Germany.

0:44:590:45:01

Last time in Paris.

0:45:010:45:02

Last time in Paris.

0:45:020:45:04

London. Vienna.

0:45:040:45:07

The issue now is just to pray that Jonas is well

0:45:070:45:11

for the Strauss Four Last Songs on Monday.

0:45:110:45:14

Monday's concert was planned as the climax of the Kaufmann season.

0:45:140:45:17

The Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss

0:45:190:45:21

are a cornerstone of the soprano repertoire.

0:45:210:45:24

Nobody can remember them being tackled by a tenor before.

0:45:240:45:27

But at the start of the rehearsal on the Saturday,

0:45:290:45:31

it became clear that Kaufmann's health was still in doubt.

0:45:310:45:35

So I shall say hello from Jonas.

0:45:350:45:37

He just told me in e-mail, with a few marks,

0:45:370:45:40

which we can already put into score in our parts.

0:45:400:45:43

Where he takes breaths, where he wants to go on.

0:45:430:45:45

So I think it's a good sign for tomorrow

0:45:450:45:47

that he will be here at least...

0:45:470:45:49

Or at least on Monday evening.

0:45:490:45:53

I rehearse very often without Jonas.

0:45:550:45:57

And he comes just at the last moment.

0:45:570:45:59

So he just can arrive and sing and knows everything's prepared.

0:45:590:46:03

And I will do the same today.

0:46:030:46:04

And if he only can come on Monday night without a general rehearsal,

0:46:040:46:08

it's fine.

0:46:080:46:10

And again.

0:46:100:46:11

I think he's always cancelled quite a lot.

0:46:130:46:16

Singers have to look after their voices.

0:46:160:46:18

It's an instrument, it's their instrument.

0:46:180:46:20

It's the only one they've got.

0:46:200:46:21

He, I think, takes care of his to a huge extent.

0:46:210:46:26

If he's sick or if he really has no voice, I mean, to replace him...

0:46:260:46:31

With who?

0:46:310:46:33

I've heard some people say, isn't there enough tenor music?

0:46:410:46:45

Why does he need to steal the soprano music?

0:46:450:46:47

Well, first of all, it is not a soprano music.

0:46:470:46:50

It is a mistake.

0:46:500:46:52

OK.

0:46:520:46:54

In the first moment, I had no words for it, honestly.

0:46:540:46:57

Second, I'm not stealing.

0:46:570:46:59

It's not that sopranos are no longer allowed to sing that.

0:46:590:47:02

I don't have any exclusive rights on it.

0:47:020:47:05

It's written on the score for high voice and orchestra.

0:47:050:47:09

It's not written for soprano.

0:47:090:47:11

I'm capable in doing it all as written.

0:47:110:47:13

And I hope I can present that to you on Monday, as well.

0:47:130:47:18

Listen, it's his way of staying curious

0:47:180:47:22

and doing things that are unexpected,

0:47:220:47:25

you know? He's not just going to go down the same path

0:47:250:47:28

that everybody's gone down. And good for him.

0:47:280:47:30

Kaufmann did go to the Sunday rehearsal,

0:47:300:47:33

but by the time Jochen Rieder arrived on the Monday,

0:47:330:47:36

the cold had turned into bronchitis, and the bronchitis won.

0:47:360:47:41

So, where do we have to go?

0:47:410:47:43

Most difficult situation is for Jonas himself now.

0:47:430:47:47

Yeah. He so wanted to do it.

0:47:470:47:49

-I know.

-I actually thought he might sort of finally almost force himself

0:47:490:47:52

-to do it, which wouldn't have been good.

-OK, next time,

0:47:520:47:55

we have to be sure that he won't hug people.

0:47:550:47:58

I mean, fans or, you know...

0:47:580:48:01

I always compare that to sports.

0:48:010:48:03

Since singing is sport, because we do it with our body,

0:48:030:48:08

so what else would it be?

0:48:080:48:10

If I buy tickets for my favourite club and my players, I don't know,

0:48:100:48:15

whether it's Ribery or Robben or Muller or whoever, is injured,

0:48:150:48:20

you really think that I want my money back?

0:48:200:48:23

No. On the contrary, people say, "Ah, that poor creature, come on,

0:48:230:48:27

"six months now he has to go on rehab and it's just such a disaster,

0:48:270:48:33

"that poor guy."

0:48:330:48:35

No-one says, "Ah, why was he so stupid to get injured?"

0:48:350:48:40

The Guildhall's singers,

0:48:400:48:42

who'd volunteered for the conversation with Kaufmann,

0:48:420:48:45

were still bubbling about what they'd wanted to ask him.

0:48:450:48:47

You'd start with, "Oh, my goodness, it's you."

0:48:470:48:50

-And then...

-I'd probably ask for a selfie.

0:48:500:48:53

Oh, yeah, of course. That's good.

0:48:530:48:55

-Can I buy you a drink?

-Yeah, exactly.

0:48:550:48:57

He's someone who seems to have this raw emotion in his performances,

0:48:570:49:01

but it never, from the point of view of the audience or the listener,

0:49:010:49:05

it never seems strained for him, yet it's so powerful.

0:49:050:49:08

And I wanted to know whether that comes from the text and the words

0:49:080:49:12

or whether he draws from his own personal experiences.

0:49:120:49:14

We're constantly being told, you know, as a matter of fact,

0:49:140:49:18

for good technique, you should take the weight out of the top, right?

0:49:180:49:21

Or you should sing the top gently.

0:49:210:49:24

But he has such colossal high notes.

0:49:240:49:27

He has an incredible top, right?

0:49:270:49:30

How does he do this?

0:49:300:49:31

I'm really interested in how he's managed to keep

0:49:310:49:36

the tenorial qualities whilst having this dark sound.

0:49:360:49:42

The moment you overpower

0:49:420:49:44

a high note by putting too much pressure from the lungs,

0:49:440:49:48

to support it, it will make the sound smaller

0:49:480:49:53

and less beautiful.

0:49:530:49:55

And less rich in high frequencies.

0:49:560:50:00

And the dark side comes from the vocal cords,

0:50:000:50:04

and the brilliance in it comes from the right amount of air.

0:50:040:50:09

His breath control is something of wonder.

0:50:100:50:14

You know, singers need to use very, very little air but constant.

0:50:140:50:19

And the problem is, singers who get into trouble are using too much air

0:50:190:50:24

too quickly.

0:50:240:50:25

I wanted to know if he has a particular routine,

0:50:360:50:38

something that he does before he performs.

0:50:380:50:40

What would he usually do in the daytime?

0:50:400:50:42

Is it completely think of something else or is it looking over the score

0:50:420:50:46

-again?

-Do they want to take you for tea before the performance and you

0:50:460:50:49

don't have any time to, like, think of anything?

0:50:490:50:51

You're just chatting away to someone, like, you know,

0:50:510:50:53

how do you deal with that?

0:50:530:50:55

You see, the important thing is,

0:50:550:50:57

you should never be dependent on any routine,

0:50:570:51:01

meaning I cannot perform if I haven't done this and this and this.

0:51:010:51:05

I think that is wrong. Actually, the day of a show,

0:51:050:51:08

they all leave me alone, because they know I have a performance.

0:51:080:51:11

And it's a free day for me,

0:51:110:51:13

so I go for a swim, I walk, I go sightseeing.

0:51:130:51:16

In a way, being distracted is not a bad thing.

0:51:160:51:19

A few years ago, friends invited us on the boat and he wanted to swim...

0:51:190:51:24

I don't know how cold it was. ..in the sea, but it was not warm.

0:51:240:51:28

Of course not. He wanted to swim and he enjoyed it so much.

0:51:280:51:32

And three hours later, he was on stage.

0:51:320:51:35

But I know there's so many other singers, they never would do it.

0:51:350:51:38

At Covent Garden in the summer,

0:51:410:51:43

Jonas Kaufmann embarked on the title role of Verdi's opera Otello.

0:51:430:51:47

HE SINGS IN ITALIAN

0:51:470:51:49

Five weeks of intense rehearsal,

0:51:510:51:53

a major psychological challenge, as well as a musical one,

0:51:530:51:56

guided by the conductor Antonio Pappano

0:51:560:51:59

and the director Keith Warner.

0:51:590:52:01

Otello spars with his evil nemesis Iago, sung here by Marco Vratogna.

0:52:040:52:09

The challenge is to pace the drama without too much happening too soon.

0:52:110:52:15

Question - if that is loud already, what should...

0:52:150:52:17

I think, yeah...

0:52:170:52:19

HE SPEAKS IN ITALIAN

0:52:190:52:21

HE SINGS IN ITALIAN

0:52:210:52:25

Yes.

0:52:260:52:28

MARCO SINGS

0:52:280:52:30

And then you mock him.

0:52:300:52:33

JONAS SINGS

0:52:330:52:36

-OK.

-The problem is,

0:52:500:52:52

if we get too physical too soon, I mean, that's why...

0:52:520:52:55

Yeah, you shouldn't get physical. It's about words.

0:52:550:52:58

It's words at the moment, yeah.

0:52:580:53:00

I think it's important to keep Jonas stimulated musically,

0:53:000:53:05

dramatically, because he can take that little bit of information

0:53:050:53:09

and then build a house out of it.

0:53:090:53:11

THEY SPEAK ITALIAN

0:53:110:53:14

Iago professes his loyalty.

0:53:180:53:20

But Otello has to decide whether he's friend or foe.

0:53:220:53:25

Yeah, OK, good. OK, good.

0:53:250:53:27

TRANSLATED FROM ITALIAN:

0:53:270:53:29

Good.

0:54:010:54:03

-And I think what you...

-Jealousy is exactly what Iago is planting in

0:54:050:54:08

Otello's mind.

0:54:080:54:10

And let us see it work on you

0:54:100:54:11

step by step by step.

0:54:110:54:14

The suggestion is that Otello's new wife Desdemona is having an affair.

0:54:140:54:19

Yeah, exactly.

0:54:190:54:20

Becomes more and more horrible.

0:54:230:54:26

Otello is torn, but demands proof.

0:54:340:54:38

Yeah, very good. If you've done that, you should notice Desdemona,

0:54:520:54:55

come there and then turn him round on the "yoom-ploom".

0:54:550:54:58

She walks down stage looking beautiful.

0:54:580:55:01

And you just hold him there and if he tries to resist it, you know,

0:55:010:55:04

just hold him and whisper all this shit into his ear.

0:55:040:55:07

This dirt. Yeah.

0:55:070:55:10

It's OK.

0:55:100:55:11

This is the first big production we've done together and it's

0:55:410:55:46

extraordinary, the extent to which he's given to this, actually.

0:55:460:55:49

Time, a lot of care and a lot of good spirit.

0:55:490:55:53

I mean, he's also somebody in the room

0:55:530:55:56

that is sort of generous with other people.

0:55:560:55:58

The other day he was fixing one of the doors on the set.

0:55:580:56:01

I think this hinge is... broken a little bit.

0:56:010:56:04

It's just loose.

0:56:040:56:06

He seems to be interested in every aspect.

0:56:060:56:09

Stop, stop, stop.

0:56:090:56:11

Up there. It gets stuck.

0:56:110:56:13

In rehearsals, Kaufmann will often speak direct to the orchestra.

0:56:160:56:20

It can be a surprise for players

0:56:200:56:22

to find him trespassing on the conductor's turf.

0:56:220:56:24

Yeah. And then in good time.

0:56:240:56:26

Sorry. Be careful, everybody who has the...

0:56:260:56:29

Oh, God, semi-quavers? 16th?

0:56:290:56:31

-Yep.

-Each one is really individual.

0:56:310:56:34

So don't rush, don't be too early on the one end.

0:56:340:56:38

Because I also have to sing it, so I would do...

0:56:380:56:41

HE SINGS

0:56:410:56:43

So it's always very rubato.

0:56:460:56:49

But if you start too fast, then we're da-dee-da-dee-da-dee-da.

0:56:490:56:52

He's obviously very specific about what he

0:56:520:56:54

wants the orchestra to sound like. I don't think that's a bad thing.

0:56:540:56:58

It's good to have... As long as the conductor and him can agree.

0:56:580:57:02

Yeah, I'm not shy.

0:57:020:57:03

You see, I remember when I did that

0:57:030:57:05

the first couple of times with Jochen Rieder.

0:57:050:57:07

He was quite upset, because he said, "What are you doing?

0:57:070:57:10

"It's my rehearsal. And you tell me?"

0:57:100:57:11

And I said, yeah, OK. And I whisper it into your ears and you tell them

0:57:110:57:15

and then they don't understand, and we do it again and we do it again.

0:57:150:57:18

Maybe I'm impatient.

0:57:180:57:20

But I think it helps if you give them the right explanation.

0:57:200:57:23

It feels hesitant.

0:57:230:57:25

Has to be quite clear, the structure, otherwise it's like,

0:57:250:57:30

what's going on?

0:57:300:57:31

But once he saw me rehearsing with Tony Pappano, who he admires,

0:57:340:57:38

and I did the same thing,

0:57:380:57:40

he said, "OK, now I'm safe.

0:57:400:57:42

"If you do it with him, it means it's not only me."

0:57:420:57:46

OK, good. Thank you. If he's happy, we're all happy.

0:57:490:57:52

Amazing concentration, he has.

0:57:520:57:55

Amazing concentration on everything

0:57:550:57:57

and that's why I think this is one of his big powers,

0:57:570:58:01

this power to concentrate, it's almost like Zen Buddhism, I think.

0:58:010:58:04

Kaufmann and Eva-Maria Westbroek

0:58:040:58:07

were rehearsing for a concert in Amsterdam.

0:58:070:58:10

One of the highlights was the great love duet from Otello.

0:58:100:58:14

It came two weeks before the opera's opening night at Covent Garden,

0:58:140:58:17

with a different soprano.

0:58:170:58:19

TRANSLATED FROM ITALIAN:

0:58:300:58:32

This has to be quite surprising, this...

0:59:070:59:10

"Tuo" has to come out of nowhere.

0:59:100:59:12

I don't know. It's still not to scare her off, you know what I mean.

0:59:120:59:15

-Oh, no.

-That's why.

0:59:150:59:17

-We discussed it.

-It's the cor fremebondo.

-Yeah.

0:59:170:59:19

And these people, these people make trouble all the time.

0:59:190:59:22

Absolutely fabulous, Jonas.

0:59:430:59:45

At Covent Garden, Otello's bride

0:59:581:00:00

is being played by the Italian soprano Maria Agresta.

1:00:001:00:03

Jonas, she says, "Tell me the story,"

1:00:401:00:42

and then you remember the story.

1:00:421:00:44

And, "Yes, I'm a soldier," so that's one thing,

1:00:441:00:47

and you get into it in a positive way.

1:00:471:00:50

Here, and you "ingentilia", you beautified my story somehow.

1:00:501:00:57

You made them human, you made...

1:00:571:00:59

And this phrase is the deepest part of you somehow,

1:00:591:01:04

it's so beautifully written.

1:01:041:01:06

And so, take your time, is what I'm trying to say, OK?

1:01:061:01:10

THEY SING IN ITALIAN

1:01:101:01:12

Yeah, yeah, I need to take a breath before.

1:01:471:01:49

Yes.

1:01:491:01:50

HE SINGS IN ITALIAN

1:01:501:01:52

And then it's fine for the rest of the phrase.

1:01:551:01:57

It's not beautiful, though.

1:01:581:02:00

Yeah, but otherwise I have to breathe somewhere.

1:02:001:02:02

Why don't you say...

1:02:021:02:03

HE SINGS IN ITALIAN

1:02:031:02:05

Instead of going...

1:02:091:02:11

HE SINGS IN ITALIAN

1:02:111:02:12

Yeah, yeah, but I wouldn't do it that obvious.

1:02:121:02:15

THEY LAUGH

1:02:151:02:18

You can always cover it up with an emotional something.

1:02:181:02:21

Yeah.

1:02:211:02:22

HE SINGS IN ITALIAN

1:02:221:02:24

OK.

1:02:271:02:29

No, no.

1:02:301:02:31

I did two Ls!

1:02:311:02:34

To be discussed...

1:02:341:02:35

Jonas, a little portamento...

1:02:351:02:38

HE SINGS IN ITALIAN

1:02:381:02:39

The second one, Jonas, come on.

1:02:401:02:42

Thank you.

1:02:591:03:01

Wonderful.

1:03:171:03:19

Star.

1:03:291:03:31

Another star.

1:03:461:03:48

He tickles you...

1:04:261:04:28

LAUGHTER

1:04:281:04:31

Of course.

1:04:311:04:32

Yeah, yeah.

1:04:321:04:34

You know, isn't it funny that, Jonas, when you sing Peter Grimes,

1:04:361:04:39

and he says the Great Bear and the Pleiades, he talks about...

1:04:391:04:43

-Yeah.

-..same notes, same words, same key.

1:04:431:04:47

Yeah.

1:04:491:04:50

The part of Peter Grimes in Benjamin Britten's opera,

1:05:061:05:10

originally sung by Peter Pears,

1:05:101:05:12

is one that Kaufmann has had his eye on for some while.

1:05:121:05:15

In the thick of his Otello performances,

1:05:161:05:19

he travelled for the first time to the seafront at Britten's hometown,

1:05:191:05:22

Aldeburgh in Suffolk, and with Christiane,

1:05:221:05:25

visited the composer's house.

1:05:251:05:27

I think Peter Grimes is similar to Otello.

1:05:301:05:32

It's psychologically very dark.

1:05:321:05:35

It has many layers, it's an outsider.

1:05:351:05:38

You see, you have pieces

1:05:381:05:40

where you just want to do it because of the music,

1:05:401:05:43

because of the beautiful melodies and they have a crap plot.

1:05:431:05:47

Um, and...

1:05:471:05:49

..and you have parts where you know that the music is just not good,

1:05:491:05:54

but it would be an interesting part to play,

1:05:541:05:56

and then you have parts like Otello and, I think, Peter Grimes.

1:05:561:06:01

I mean, I haven't sung it so far,

1:06:011:06:03

I'm only looking at it all the time,

1:06:031:06:05

where you have both and I think that's fantastic.

1:06:051:06:07

So on here, Great Bear, Pleiades.

1:06:071:06:12

Sticking on one note for a very long time

1:06:121:06:16

and it's this famous E just as...

1:06:161:06:18

HE SINGS IN ITALIAN

1:06:181:06:20

Untypically for Verdi.

1:06:241:06:26

And here we have the same key and the same subject

1:06:261:06:29

so it can't be a coincidence, I think.

1:06:291:06:32

But also he wrote for Pears in mind,

1:06:331:06:35

so Pears had a very distinctive, I think, range.

1:06:351:06:38

Yes, that is true.

1:06:381:06:39

And I understand

1:06:391:06:41

-that for some tenors it can be a bit of a struggle with the break.

-Yes.

1:06:411:06:45

Exactly. I mean, this was probably his cream region,

1:06:451:06:49

whereas most other tenors are like, "Aggh, I can't."

1:06:491:06:54

I'm sure one day he will do Peter Grimes.

1:06:541:06:55

He's talked about it. It's the kind of thing which also is very

1:06:551:06:59

stimulating for a singing actor, but all in its good time.

1:06:591:07:03

My wish for Jonas is that, you know, to be patient.

1:07:031:07:07

There will always be a tendency

1:07:071:07:09

to absolutely devour everything that comes his way.

1:07:091:07:12

He already has other Britten music in his repertoire,

1:07:131:07:16

in particular the Seven Sonnets Of Michelangelo.

1:07:161:07:20

And he was intrigued why the differences

1:07:201:07:22

between the original manuscript and the final published version.

1:07:221:07:26

It starts on the downbeat...

1:07:261:07:28

HE SINGS IN ITALIAN

1:07:281:07:31

But here, it starts earlier

1:07:311:07:32

and the next phrase starts after the downbeat

1:07:321:07:35

and the next phrase starts after the downbeat as well.

1:07:351:07:38

HE SINGS IN ITALIAN

1:07:481:07:49

And suddenly it opens up to one phrase, which is pure beauty,

1:08:171:08:22

so you have all the time this nervousness...

1:08:221:08:25

HE SPEAKS RAPIDLY

1:08:251:08:28

And then suddenly...

1:08:281:08:29

HE SINGS IN ITALIAN

1:08:291:08:34

And it's just one, two bars and it's just immediately another world,

1:08:341:08:39

I mean, the sun opens, like, wow!

1:08:391:08:43

HE SINGS IN ITALIAN

1:08:431:08:44

And then of course you have the idea and you start writing and you're

1:08:491:08:52

running out of paper so you add half a bar,

1:08:521:08:55

so you don't have to write it again,

1:08:551:08:57

because you want to finish the phrase before you forget it.

1:08:571:09:01

HE SINGS IN ITALIAN

1:09:011:09:03

This is always a tricky moment to make this credible.

1:09:111:09:14

The whole plot of Otello turns on Desdemona's handkerchief,

1:09:141:09:18

a love token from her husband.

1:09:181:09:20

Iago will produce it as the apparent proof of her adultery,

1:09:201:09:24

but first, Desdemona has to lose it.

1:09:241:09:26

How, is the problem.

1:09:261:09:27

So you don't need to throw it.

1:09:271:09:29

Well, you can do, you can do.

1:09:291:09:31

Well, I mean, that's what it says.

1:09:311:09:32

That's what it says, I know, but it's, it's...

1:09:321:09:35

I think throw it back to her is what I would do...

1:09:351:09:38

-OK.

-..and then she just lets it go from there.

1:09:381:09:40

It just drops out of your hand.

1:09:401:09:42

THEY SING IN ITALIAN

1:09:421:09:44

It's a tiny detail, but critical to the plot

1:09:531:09:55

and takes up a quarter of an hour of this rehearsal.

1:09:551:09:59

And you then go and pick this up.

1:09:591:10:00

We're still with the hanky, I mean,

1:10:001:10:02

we both believe that she would take more care because, it's, I mean,

1:10:021:10:06

it's the symbol of the love, her love.

1:10:061:10:08

-It's really important.

-And everything.

1:10:081:10:10

Of my love, actually, to her.

1:10:101:10:12

Well, I tell you what, throw it down there.

1:10:121:10:15

-Me?

-Yeah.

1:10:151:10:17

You don't feel he's being argumentative

1:10:171:10:20

or difficult or anything.

1:10:201:10:22

You know he's searching to find out

1:10:221:10:24

what this is about and of course, you know, any director who thinks

1:10:241:10:27

you've got all the answers is a fool.

1:10:271:10:28

It's funny, I love the idea of her just...

1:10:301:10:31

it drops out of her hand, but, anyway, good.

1:10:311:10:33

Look, it doesn't... Guys, stay with it for a day or two.

1:10:361:10:38

If it doesn't work...

1:10:381:10:39

Because it's very clear here.

1:10:391:10:43

It is very clear, and what you're doing is very clear.

1:10:431:10:46

Yeah, yeah, no, no.

1:10:461:10:48

I changed position now in order to be able to...

1:10:481:10:51

Directors can very easily become intimidated by him.

1:10:511:10:54

Not by his manner,

1:10:541:10:55

but because he wants an intelligent conversation about what's actually

1:10:551:10:59

written about the text and about the music,

1:10:591:11:02

and I find that incredibly stimulating,

1:11:021:11:04

so he's terrific to work with.

1:11:041:11:06

You don't even notice it.

1:11:061:11:07

It drops. This is all such melodrama.

1:11:071:11:10

Stay with it, stay with it.

1:11:101:11:11

-Throwing hankies all over the place.

-Stay with it.

1:11:111:11:14

It's surprising that such a star,

1:11:141:11:16

he is not difficult at all, actually.

1:11:161:11:18

But he's also very clear about the things that are important to him.

1:11:181:11:21

I mean, you have to listen to that.

1:11:211:11:23

Very good. Tomorrow, we'll pick it up exactly from here.

1:11:231:11:25

-Yes.

-And carry on.

1:11:251:11:27

SHE SINGS IN ITALIAN

1:11:271:11:29

No, no, no. It's not this dropping that is necessary.

1:11:291:11:32

The only thing is that you forget about it.

1:11:321:11:34

The toughest role in Verdi would be enough for most singers.

1:11:371:11:40

Mm-hm?

1:11:401:11:42

HE CLEARS HIS THROAT

1:11:421:11:43

But, at the same time, Kaufmann met one of Wagner's big challenges.

1:11:431:11:47

At the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, he sang the love duet

1:11:481:11:52

from Die Walkure, with its hair-raising cries of "Walse!"

1:11:521:11:57

"Walse!" - you know, those two Walses, were just, you know... Ah!

1:11:571:12:00

I mean, he held them half an hour, you know.

1:12:001:12:03

It is sort of a tradition with that,

1:12:031:12:05

if you listen to the Melchior recording,

1:12:051:12:07

where he holds it for 11 seconds.

1:12:071:12:09

All tenors are like, "Oh, my God, he's...!" so everybody is...

1:12:091:12:14

Those Walses are famous for people wanting to show their big voice.

1:12:141:12:21

HE SINGS IN GERMAN

1:12:281:12:30

4.76.

1:13:001:13:01

Kaufmann insists it's not a stopwatch moment.

1:13:011:13:04

Actually it was nine seconds and then ten, in his case.

1:13:041:13:08

Rather, it's a big cry for help from Wagner's hero.

1:13:081:13:10

On the day before the concert,

1:13:131:13:14

Christiane's unexpected arrival was a relief from the hard sing.

1:13:141:13:18

Of course it's a hard sing, it's Wagner, what do you expect?

1:13:191:13:21

SHE SINGS IN GERMAN

1:13:211:13:23

HE STUMBLES OVER WORDS

1:13:231:13:24

You have to pace it,

1:13:241:13:26

you have to know that you need to have enough stamina and you need

1:13:261:13:30

to have enough power for that big phrase at the very end of the act,

1:13:301:13:35

because it is the climax.

1:13:351:13:37

That fantastic A natural, which seems like a high C,

1:13:371:13:39

because most of the role is quite low, so when that comes,

1:13:391:13:44

it's a tremendous challenge.

1:13:441:13:46

THEY SING IN GERMAN

1:13:461:13:48

It's fantastically written.

1:14:111:14:12

I mean, this build-up, and the way they recognise each other,

1:14:121:14:16

brother and sister,

1:14:161:14:17

but they immediately fall in love with each other and

1:14:171:14:19

they don't care. And this explosion of the orchestra at the very end.

1:14:191:14:24

It's so ecstatic.

1:14:241:14:26

MUSIC BUILDS

1:14:261:14:28

MUSIC STOPS

1:14:351:14:37

When you hear such great music, it's thrilling, thrilling, thrilling.

1:14:391:14:43

I don't know, it makes me crazy.

1:14:431:14:45

APPLAUSE

1:14:451:14:47

I get very excited and I think he does, too.

1:14:471:14:50

He's really a thinking man's tenor,

1:14:521:14:55

and yet he has this matinee idol delivery.

1:14:551:14:59

It's a wonderful combination

1:15:031:15:06

and that's what makes him so special,

1:15:061:15:08

and a singer like him so rare.

1:15:081:15:10

Amazing response.

1:15:141:15:15

Yeah, incredible. But, I mean, it's...

1:15:151:15:18

You see, I checked the facts, and it's 14 years ago

1:15:181:15:21

that I sang the last time here and still...

1:15:211:15:23

I was always praising this hall,

1:15:251:15:27

because it's so beautiful and the acoustic is so perfect.

1:15:271:15:30

I mean, obviously they're super-enthusiastic and everything.

1:15:301:15:34

But I have to say... Whoops.

1:15:341:15:35

Falls apart now.

1:15:371:15:39

No, we brought the house down, you see. Ha-ha!

1:15:391:15:43

He talks to the people, to everyone, and shakes hands, hugs,

1:15:431:15:50

gifts, flowers, whatever.

1:15:501:15:51

He's so nice. I mean, he's not arrogant, you know what I mean?

1:15:531:15:56

Running the gauntlet of friends and fans meant he and Christiane had to

1:15:561:16:00

move double quick to catch the flight to London

1:16:001:16:02

and a return to Otello in the morning.

1:16:021:16:04

HE SINGS IN GERMAN

1:16:041:16:07

It's very difficult, because our role is to facilitate the connection

1:16:171:16:20

between artist and public.

1:16:201:16:22

There are times, though, when we have to be a little bit careful

1:16:221:16:25

about stalkers and backstage security and so on.

1:16:251:16:28

An artist like Jonas is exceptional.

1:16:281:16:30

Occasionally, a fan does sneak into a rehearsal.

1:16:301:16:33

Stella Dixon from Middlesbrough had a ringside view.

1:16:331:16:36

-So I've now achieved my greatest wish in life at 73.

-Ha-ha!

1:16:361:16:42

-Come on, no. There is much more to come, don't worry.

-Honestly!

1:16:421:16:45

And do you want to make it even better and let me have a photograph?

1:16:451:16:48

I've got a little purse for you,

1:16:481:16:50

which is embroidered with your name on.

1:16:501:16:52

-OK.

-It's to keep... And it's the shape of a baby grand.

1:16:521:16:55

-And it's to keep your gummy bears in.

-Ha-ha-ha!

1:16:551:16:58

Do you know, my hands are shaking, look.

1:16:591:17:01

HE LAUGHS

1:17:011:17:02

And can I have one looking adoringly at you?

1:17:041:17:06

Actually, people want to know everything.

1:17:071:17:09

They want to be in the same room, they want to eat with him,

1:17:091:17:11

to dine with him. It's just another aspect of modern celebrity.

1:17:111:17:15

Even on stage, the adoration can become obsessive.

1:17:151:17:18

There has never been a performance of Tosca

1:17:181:17:21

like that in Vienna in 2016.

1:17:211:17:23

HE SINGS IN ITALIAN

1:17:231:17:25

It used to be quite popular

1:17:421:17:44

that people would ask for an encore, but...

1:17:441:17:47

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

1:17:491:17:52

..in this case, I was just blown away,

1:17:531:17:56

because I didn't make any arrangements with the conductor.

1:17:561:17:58

I just realised after a while, actually after about what,

1:18:031:18:07

five or six minutes in,

1:18:071:18:10

of applause, I can't get away without it, I mean, it's just...

1:18:101:18:14

And I had to start laughing.

1:18:141:18:16

And there's this moment where you can see me actually smiling,

1:18:161:18:19

because I thought, "Boy, I mean, this is...

1:18:191:18:21

"This is really happening."

1:18:211:18:22

I cannot stay longer in the part.

1:18:221:18:24

And, of course, that encouraged them to even clap more and cheer

1:18:251:18:30

and it was a really, really wonderful moment.

1:18:301:18:34

-Was this...?

-Because I still didn't know that the soprano wouldn't come.

1:18:341:18:39

This is a moment of great tragedy in the opera?

1:18:401:18:43

Yes. It is.

1:18:431:18:44

What can you do?

1:18:441:18:45

Did you tell the conductor we'll do it again?

1:18:491:18:51

-How did that happen?

-I nodded and he understood.

1:18:511:18:54

He said, "OK." So we actually go back

1:18:541:18:56

and they had to look for where to go and because, also for them,

1:18:561:19:00

it's not an everyday job to just jump back and play a bit again.

1:19:001:19:05

HE SINGS IN ITALIAN

1:19:081:19:09

To repeat a number, I love that, you know.

1:19:251:19:27

I mean, it rarely happens, but, you know,

1:19:271:19:30

there is an element of circus in what we do and it's great and...

1:19:301:19:37

..it's a sign of generosity towards the public, you know.

1:19:371:19:41

I think it's terrific.

1:19:411:19:42

I have no problem with those kind of conventions,

1:19:421:19:47

even though some people think they're tasteless.

1:19:471:19:50

HE SINGS IN ITALIAN

1:19:501:19:51

The trouble is that encores are not always popular with other singers.

1:20:071:20:11

This is the moment that his lover Tosca,

1:20:121:20:14

sung by the soprano Angela Gheorghiu,

1:20:141:20:17

is due on stage to rescue him from the firing squad.

1:20:171:20:21

And now I realise she's not there.

1:20:291:20:32

She's supposed to be here with the guards,

1:20:321:20:35

and this is when we actually embrace each other and I look over there.

1:20:351:20:40

I looked twice, I look three times.

1:20:401:20:43

I know she's not coming, and the conductor's still very confident,

1:20:431:20:46

because he hasn't looked up.

1:20:461:20:47

And, yeah, I have to stop him in some way.

1:20:491:20:52

Yeah. "Non abbiamo soprano!"

1:20:571:20:58

The funny thing is, you can still hear the violins,

1:20:591:21:04

because they are still in hope that it might continue.

1:21:041:21:07

Then he realises, there is no way, we have to stop.

1:21:071:21:10

WHISTLING AND APPLAUSE

1:21:101:21:12

It has become famous

1:21:121:21:14

and people have sent me T-shirts with that famous scene,

1:21:141:21:17

they have sent me scores where the line is corrected now

1:21:171:21:22

to the up-to-date version where

1:21:221:21:24

the tenor sings, "Ah, non abbiamo soprano!" and the opera finishes.

1:21:241:21:27

LAUGHTER

1:21:271:21:29

Then he spoke to the audience,

1:21:291:21:31

still hoping the performance could be rescued.

1:21:311:21:33

TRANSLATED FROM GERMAN:

1:21:331:21:35

APPLAUSE

1:21:421:21:43

Second time lucky.

1:21:451:21:46

Even if the embrace at the end came early.

1:21:491:21:52

Kaufmann remains diplomatic about what had gone wrong.

1:22:061:22:09

Did she ever explain?

1:22:091:22:10

No.

1:22:101:22:12

Not really. I mean, I don't want to get too much into it.

1:22:121:22:15

We are not in agreement whose fault it is, let's put it that way.

1:22:171:22:22

At Covent Garden,

1:22:251:22:26

everyone in Otello came on and off stage at the right time,

1:22:261:22:30

and the interval at least offered relief from the fans.

1:22:301:22:33

The conductor was naturally keen to protect his fingers.

1:22:331:22:36

You know, there is such a thing as too much exposure.

1:22:361:22:39

You know, some of us think, "Can't we do this in peace and quiet?"

1:22:391:22:42

But there is no peace and quiet any more.

1:22:421:22:44

Guys, leave him alone.

1:22:441:22:46

This is ridiculous.

1:22:461:22:48

Leave him alone. He's singing Otello.

1:22:481:22:50

Leave him alone!

1:22:501:22:52

-OK.

-Wait till I get undressed.

1:22:521:22:55

This is part of the BBC policy. Ha-ha!

1:22:551:22:58

Media has become such an important part of keeping the art form alive.

1:22:581:23:04

There's a tremendous outreach,

1:23:041:23:07

but the pressure on the artist is enormous.

1:23:071:23:11

You're dealing with a great star

1:23:271:23:29

and you know most of the audience

1:23:291:23:31

will be in love with him at the beginning.

1:23:311:23:33

Is that helpful to you as a director?

1:23:341:23:36

I'm not sure it is always helpful to Jonas,

1:23:381:23:40

because if you're in love with him,

1:23:401:23:43

it may be hard to take how bleak and terrible

1:23:431:23:48

the road this character takes is.

1:23:481:23:51

I mean, the abuse of Desdemona.

1:23:531:23:56

And it is marital abuse.

1:23:561:23:58

Iago's web of deceit has now wound Otello up

1:24:461:24:49

to wreak terrible vengeance on his innocent wife.

1:24:491:24:53

Marital abuse becomes murder.

1:24:531:24:55

I usually have no problem in slipping out of character.

1:24:561:25:00

The curtain falls and you're back in your private life,

1:25:001:25:03

but with this last scene, really, it holds on for quite a while.

1:25:031:25:07

You're always a little bit, yeah, in a strange mood.

1:25:071:25:11

There's a lot of emotion, a lot of violence, also, in the music,

1:25:241:25:28

and this is something that can really affect you and harm you,

1:25:281:25:31

because it is difficult to not get your voice affected too much by it.

1:25:311:25:36

# I love you. #

1:25:371:25:46

-TV PRESENTER:

-Jonas Kaufmann in You Are My Heart's Delight.

1:25:531:25:57

A sentiment shared by much of the audience here.

1:25:571:26:00

RAPTUROUS APPLAUSE

1:26:001:26:05

Lucky Jonas.

1:26:051:26:07

SHE LAUGHS

1:26:071:26:09

Oh, good Lord, this is getting out of hand.

1:26:091:26:12

Well, they threw these things on stage.

1:26:211:26:23

I don't know for what purpose.

1:26:231:26:24

I mean, of course, I'm very shy and innocent.

1:26:241:26:26

-Crazy, isn't it?

-HE LAUGHS

1:26:271:26:30

But a funny idea. I hope it was not a spontaneous decision.

1:26:301:26:33

All right.

1:26:351:26:36

Those are the ones that I'm going to throw now.

1:26:381:26:41

OK, I'll put them somewhere back here.

1:26:431:26:46

-Easy-peasy.

-That will be a surprise.

1:26:461:26:48

That will be a surprise, of course.

1:26:481:26:50

And I've got another one here.

1:26:501:26:51

My Bavarian flag.

1:26:521:26:54

Just in case.

1:26:551:26:57

# The Muses, still with freedom found

1:27:051:27:11

# Shall to thy happy coast repair

1:27:131:27:18

# Shall to thy happy, happy coast repair... #

1:27:181:27:23

He challenges himself to the limit.

1:27:231:27:26

I mean, when you look at the number of role debuts he has done

1:27:261:27:30

in the last seven, eight years, I mean, it's unbelievable.

1:27:301:27:34

The real heroic tenor roles.

1:27:341:27:37

The risks are enormous if you don't know what you're doing,

1:27:371:27:40

and so he's learned that, and I think he's very proud of that.

1:27:401:27:44

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

1:27:491:27:52

WHISTLING

1:27:521:27:54

When he leaves Covent Garden late at night,

1:28:011:28:03

Jonas Kaufmann has one final duty to perform.

1:28:031:28:07

One ticket for Otello, please.

1:28:071:28:09

Ha-ha-ha-ha!

1:28:091:28:11

He's in the same league as Luciano Pavarotti, or Placido Domingo,

1:28:111:28:15

and his career in his late 40s is still growing.

1:28:151:28:19

In a way, he's quite a late developer, isn't he?

1:28:191:28:21

Which is a very good thing.

1:28:211:28:23

We're looking for careers in this business that go on and on and on -

1:28:231:28:26

you know, the Lucianos and the Placidos.

1:28:261:28:29

Also, for selfish reasons, I want to continue working with him.

1:28:291:28:32

The two next big mountains I will have to climb

1:28:321:28:36

are Tannhauser and Tristan.

1:28:361:28:38

Apart from Wagner,

1:28:381:28:39

do you like the thought of doing crossover music?

1:28:391:28:42

What is crossover to me, what is crossover to you...

1:28:421:28:45

I mean, I cannot say no, under no circumstances,

1:28:451:28:49

because maybe, next week,

1:28:491:28:50

I meet a guy in a pub and we become friends and, ultimately,

1:28:501:28:54

I realise that he is a famous pop star

1:28:541:28:55

and we can record something together.

1:28:551:28:59

# Girls were made to love and kiss

1:28:591:29:06

# And who am I to interfere with this?

1:29:061:29:14

# Is it fair?

1:29:161:29:19

# Should I care?

1:29:191:29:23

# I'm a man

1:29:241:29:31

# And love them when I can. #

1:29:311:29:41

The German tenor Jonas Kaufmann is one of the hottest properties in the opera world. He captivates audiences with the power, emotion and beauty of his singing, the intelligence of his acting, his matinee-idol delivery, and his extraordinary range - from the heroic stage roles in Wagner to the intimate songs of Schubert on the concert platform.

For this documentary for the BBC's Opera Season, the film-maker John Bridcut has been given unique and often surprising access to Kaufmann across the last two years, observing him in rehearsal, backstage during performances, and in his off-duty moments. It is by far the most intimate and extensive portrait yet made of Kaufmann, now at the peak of his career. He was filmed behind the scenes at the Last Night of the Proms, when he was the first German to sing Rule, Britannia. His schedule was later interrupted for five months because of a vocal injury, but recently he made a triumphant return, notably in the production of Verdi's late opera, Otello, at Covent Garden.

Kaufmann is filmed working with the Royal Opera's music director, Sir Antonio Pappano, and the stage director, Keith Warner - and is involved in every aspect of the preparations. He talks freely about his earlier cancellations, about what keeps him going during a run of performances, and about the problems of being a star.

John Bridcut has previously made documentary portraits of Herbert von Karajan, Rudolf Nureyev, Mstislav Rostropovich and Sir Colin Davis (which was named Best Arts Documentary at the Grierson Awards). His clutch of composer-portraits began with the award-winning Britten's Children and continued with films on Elgar, Delius, Parry and Vaughan Williams. Last year he made the BBC One documentary for the Queen's 90th birthday, Elizabeth at 90 - A Family Tribute.


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