Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Straitjackets and Jonas Kaufmann

 "'Classical music is run like an artistic catastrophe' says Jonas Kaufmann", so screams a headline in the Telegraph. Are they that desperate for clicks? Read the comments beneath the article, which is not nearly as dumb as other things in the press, though, not only in that paper but in others. But it is worth listening to what Jonas Kaufmann actually has to say on Desert Island Discs (link here)  Kaufmann doesn't actually mention straitjackets himself, but politely acknowledges when the presenter puts the idea to him.  It's a good interview, and we learn how JK thrives on coffee, and can fix dishwashers.  Musical choices safe and predictable. He gets into the desert island spirit well. "I hope the island isn't somewhere cold, like off Iceland".

As for the "catastrophe", he's referring to the way bookings are planned years in advance, because, as he rightly says,  he doesn't know how he'll feel so far ahead. On the other hand, every singer more or less knows the repertoire in his Fach, and has an idea when and if he'll be able to achieve things, so it's not as if Kaufmann will suddenly decide he wants to sing Wotan or drop Cavarodossi.  Parts germinate, slowly, long before you start rehearsing, and things change.. In any case, it's quite common for singers to pull out at the last moment. Long ago, Kaufmann fell ill just before a performance, and Munich had to pull in another tenor who just happened to be singing something else in the house at the time, but luckily knew the part. Bryan Hymel!  Imagine going on when the audience is expecting Kaufmann, the hometown hero.

Minor houses can get away with hiring whoever's available short term, but major league houses do not operate in isolation. So long term planning is pretty much mandatory, if you want the best in the business. .Maybe small town audiences aren't too bothered, but big houses need to plan ahead. In any case, planning is just that - planning. In real life, things are a lot more flexible than they might seem.

No comments: