Jonas Kaufmann Breaks Silence on the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

By Francisco Salazar

Jonas Kaufmann has broken his silence on the war in Ukraine.

After a week into the war, the tenor said, “Should art be politically neutral? Can it be? Many artists throughout history have had to ask themselves this central question. While Benjamin Britten, in his American exile, wrote about an autistic outsider in a small fishing village in England and Richard Strauss pondered the complex relationship between music, words and stage direction, Viktor Ullman wrote his last work in Theresienstadt, ‘Der Kaiser von Atlantis,’ which can be described as extremely political. It borders on a miracle that this work has been preserved for posterity. Nevertheless, it has not found its way into the great opera houses, quite in contrast to ‘Peter Grimes’ and ‘Capriccio.'”

He continued, “Does this mean that one must remain neutral in order to not risk one’s success? In other words, ‘Vissi d’arte?’ No, certainly not! As an artist, one should be aware of where the respective strength of one’s ability lies. And Ullmann certainly was thinking less of posterity and more about the fellow prisoners who, with his help, were supposed to be amused by the caricatured Nazi greats in this unimaginably threatening atmosphere. So the question that arises is not one of neutrality at any price, but whether art itself must serve as a vehicle for every expression of opinion. I think: no. As human beings, however, everyone must be able to express a private opinion – here ‘Vissi d’arte’ has become obsolete.”

He went on to speak about his appointment as a UN Ambassador and noted that the idea of “One Humanity of The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations” which is logical is also utopian.

He concluded his statement by noting,” At certain points in history, peace negotiations were preceded by a joint concert. Perhaps this is the contribution that we as musicians can make: to build a bridge through art, to renew the awareness of common culture and interests and thus to strengthen the will for a peaceful settlement of this conflict. Let us hope so.”

The tenor’s statement comes days after major artists have spoken out including Sonya Yoncheva, Nino Machaidze, Anita Rachvelishvili, Piotr Beczala, and many more.