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Subject: Re: Kaufman in Otello… NY Times:
From: Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 23 Jun 2017 10:47:54 -0700

text/plain (211 lines)

I am going to have to agree with Albert on this.  I have heard Kaufmann
many times, first in Chicago years ago when he debuted as Cassio to the
Otello of Ben Heppner.  It was a very different voice then from the dark,
ingolata sound we hear now.  I yield to no one in allowing Kaufmann what he
does well.  He is muscianly, a fine interpreter and the voice works.  He
has his technique and it serves him well.  My problem is the muscularity
and throatiness of the sound.  It is all dark, there is no light, no
brightness at all in the voice although the top can be thrilling.  And, it
is not a big voice.  Yes, it is ample, he cuts and can be heard, but it is
not a big sound.  He might very well be the best that we have and I have no
doubt that he would have been a major player at any time in recent operatic
history but I have never been able to get as thrilled as others have about

Jon Vickers was probably the greatest Otello I ever heard and I've heard
most of the important ones since 1965, many, multiple times.  The
combination of art, pathos and vocal quality was unequaled.  At his best,
it was a monumental portrayal exceedingly well sung and yes, the top could
be a problem but when it worked, it was superb and there was always an
obvious tenor sound to the voice.  This was no pushed up baritone.  His
Siegmund was overwhelming, equaled in my experience only by James King.  I
have heard Kaufmann's Siegmund in the theatre and I was not overwhelmed.
Vickers here was in a class of his own (of course excepting Melchior).
Also magnificent was his Don Jose, Canio, Parsifal and of course Peter
Grimes.  His Handel was pretty good also.  A great Samson, both Handel and
Saint-Saens.  Jon ickers was a force of nature.

The singer who most resembles Kaufmann in the extreme darkness of his voice
was James McCracken but he could produce a massive sound and his Otello was
heartbreaking to the extreme.  Atlantov had a magnificent voice with a true
tenors ring.  This was a marvelous instrument whose best years were before
he was allowed a relatively unfettered access to the west.  I am not going
to dump on Domingo except to say that the Domingo/Pavarotti machine
probably was the undoing of more than a few wonderful tenors who should
have had more exposure.  Carlos Cossutta was a magnificent Otello.  The
voice was beautiful, he sang beautifully and as Albert says, he was a
moving Otello, a serious contender.

The big elephant in the room is of course Mario Del Monaco.  I never heard
him live - his best years and his American career were just a bit before my
time but from what I can hear of his recordings, especially the early ones,
he had it all and if he were around today would blow Mr. Kaufmann out of
the water.  He tends to be dismissed today as a loud bawler but he was
definitely not.  Almost everyone I knew who did hear him live has a
different story to tell.

Again, for all of you Kaufmannites out there, I don't want to diss him, nor
do I want to dismiss him.  I just wish there was a bit more light and
brightness in the voice.  The constant darkness is off-putting, at least to
me.  I am going to see the Covent Garden showing on July 17 and will give
it a shot.  I've changed my opinion before, most noticeably about Sondra
Radvanovsky -  was never a fan until I heard the Norma, Anna Bolena and


On Fri, Jun 23, 2017 at 8:39 AM, albert innaurato <
[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> I am happy to read this especially beside the typical fan gush for Kaufmann
> and the bizarre "passagio" myths promulgated here recently.
> Zachery Woolfe is and has always been a know nothing idiot. He has no
> preparation, no training, no experience and no perspective, His mistakes
> are legion and preposterous. He is the product of the Times' contempt for
> the arts, although especially serious music, and of the "Internet age" when
> every moron with some kind of device is an "expert" who can announce their
> superficiality, shallowness, only to be accepted by the slobbering fools
> who think the New York Time is other than a toilet paper roll struggling
> for relevance in a society without readers (our loss, certainly, but Woolfe
> is no solution).
> Vinay was my first Otello and I saw him about five times. That's a long
> time ago and I was a child. But I haven't forgotten the tremendous impact
> of his impersonation, his intensity of utterance and his complete immersion
> in the role. Vocally he had pushed up quickly from being a baritone and he
> had his limits at the top and sometimes with stamina. But he didn't always
> sing badly and it was a heroic voice. I think his best document is the
> Kubelik live performance from Covent Garen in 1955. He's in good confident
> voice with a conductor who is supportive. He is also movingly soulful in
> the enormously musical Furtwaengler performance. Idiots, especially the
> Toscanini fan girls (and people think Anna Netrebko is slobbered over by
> nuts!), dismiss the performance by the conductor with its profound feeling,
> powerful attention to harmonic detail and a vast emotional range. Toscanini
> sounds like a jig in comparison (but Furt. has a supporting cast who has a
> lot of trouble pronouncing Italian and who do some iffy singing).
> Vickers is accurately described above. This was a huge voice, hurled out
> when necessary with pulverizing impact and he was a singer capable of great
> soft beauty where needed. He had charisma and immense emotional force. When
> everything was working for him (he could be uneven) he had the right
> abandon in the role -- great hero, revealed in sound as well as manner,
> suffering victim, terrifying killer capable of heartbreaking, tragic
> remorse when he realizes his monstrous mistake. He had the capacity to
> project (on a good night) that Otello's greatness is double edged with a
> horrifying animalistic side.
> I'm not going to dismiss McCracken, who especially in the first years of
> his fame, was an Otello of torrential abandon despite an equivocal sounding
> voice and poor Italian, or Atlantov who, again, early in his career in the
> West had tremendous power and identification with the role (like McCracken
> he did less well over time.) And a singer of the role who I thought sang
> beautifully and who was very moving was Carlos Cossutta, a victim of the
> Domingo machine -- a mixture of idiotic hype still ongoing and the tenor's
> ruthless manipulation of opera house politics.
> The really impressive performance I saw Kaufmann give at the Met was Don
> Jose. He sang in his odd method although his voice was fresher then, acted
> powerfully and possessed a rare (although required) musical elegance and
> understanding. The Cavaradossi(s) at the Met were impressive in their way,
> although the rather throaty tone and very covered high notes weren't
> thrilling (to me). Siegmund was small scaled and small-souled (this was
> another overwhelming Vickers' performance) but very competent. Parsifal was
> a walk through, praised to high heaven (in Wagner's cosmology Valhalla with
> pretty boys) nothing compared to Mattei's Amfortas in the same production
> or again, to Vickers' astounding commitment to and belief in the role,
> along with a massive tone that shook the walls even at the softest dynamic.
> I saw a poor Faust (I was told he was "off'). The most impressed I was with
> him was as the King's Son in Koenigskinder in Zurich, where he had the
> charisma and arresting sound of a big star in that small house.
> I'm tired of him now. I thought his sound and manner on the recent Das Lied
> von der Erde where he sings ALL the songs was offputting. The "Stanley"
> method, typically in my experience of singers who use it, has worked its
> harm on the middle, which has become "backward", throaty and tight. His
> voice is not really large, an issue in Otello, and I hear (can I be
> delusional?) a hoarse edge on the top, easier sometimes than others. He
> prepares very carefully, and I'm sure it's a responsible, musicianly
> approach. But (see Netrebko) I'm tired of boring, technically makeshift
> performances cheered by the hysterical hypers.
> As for Woolfe, he missed his time. Surely, he would have made more sense as
> one of the boys in the backroom in the '70's worshiped by old, bald,
> self-promoting freaks with Prince Alberts.
> AI
> On Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 10:41 PM, Amaury Leclerc <[log in to unmask]>
> wrote:
> > Kaufmann is a wonderful singer, and I don't doubt he was an excellent
> > Otello.
> > However he does not remind me at all of Jon Vickers who I heard a lot, or
> > of Vinay
> > who I only know from records. I don't think Zachary Woolfe heard either.
> > Vickers' voice was much larger and brighter. Kaufmann has a baritonal
> > darkness in
> > the middle voice which he then miraculously opens into a brighter top.
> > It's not the
> > huge, wall-shaking sound Vickers had, but the top is far more reliable.
> > Also
> > personality wise they are completely different. Vickers performed almost
> > in a
> > trance, with a wildness that was practically frightening (in Otello or
> > Grimes) but
> > thrilling. Kaufmann is much more suave and controlled, even when he's
> > passionate, he's not unhinged. Vickers was. Kaufmann is of course much
> > more the
> > romantic lead, handsome and youthful in appearance.
> > I'll let someone who saw him analyze Vinay, but to me he sounds much more
> > like
> > the pushed up baritone without Vickers flair or Kaufmann technical grace.
> > Imo Kaufmann and Vickers are both great, but in different ways. I'm not
> > raising a
> > polemic, just pointing out that the Times' comparison is not really
> > accurate.
> >
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