Artist Profile: Jonas Kaufmann, THE Tenor of the 21st Century

By David Salazar

Jonas Kaufmann is THE tenor of the 21st century.

Born on July 10, 1969, in Munich, he began his vocal training at the University of Music and Performing Arts Munich. During the time of his studies, Kaufmann sang smaller roles at the Bayerische Staatsoper. He graduated in 1994 with a promising career on the horizon.

Then crisis struck in 1995 with the tenor undergoing vocal challenges that he rectified when he sought out baritone Michael Rhodes.

Then his career slowly but surely started taking off, first with success throughout Germany and then with major wins in other international arenas.

His performance of “Carmen” at the Covent Garden during the 2006-07 season was a breakout moment for the tenor, comoing after his debut at the Metropolitan Opera.

Since then, Kaufmann has become a rare artist in the opera world – a blockbuster singer that can sell out a house with the mere mention of his name in any program. He is known for his peerless vocal technique and the effortlessness in his singing of any repertoire he tackles. His superstar status has earned him such distinctions as Kammersänger of the Bayerische Staatsoper and Officier de l’order des Arts et Lettres.

He has also won four Gramophone Awards and was the 2013 recipient for Best Male Opera Singer at the Opera Awards.

Major Roles

The tenor has sung a wide range of repertoire from the French, Italian, and German repertoire. And he has made a mark in every single one of these areas.

In the German repertoire, he is a major Wagnerian, but his standout role is that of “Lohengrin” which he has performed at La Scala, Bayerische Staatsoper, and Bayreuth Festival.

In the French arena, he has been a dominant exponent of Massenet’s “Werther” and Don José in “Carmen.” He has scored some of his greatest career success in these roles and like “Lohengrin,” has a number of recordings of these works in the marketplace.

In the Italian repertoire, Kaufmann has become a major exponent of Verdi’s “Don Carlo,” singing not only the standard five-act version but the original French version and a revised five-act version. He has also championed the role of Mario Cavaradossi in “Tosca,” which has been released a number of times on DVD.

Read More on Kaufmann

A Review of His ‘Das Lied Von Der Erde’

A Review of His Four Last Songs

9 Roles Not Often Associated With the Tenor

Watch and Listen

Here is his legendary interpretation of “Werther” in Paris, considered by many to be the greatest interpretation of the role in the 21st century and beyond.

And here is a glimpse of his “Carmen” from La Scala.

And here is the French version of “Don Carlos” from Paris.


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