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Jessica Duchen
Tuesday 29th September 2009
Snuffling On?

Fellow-blogger Intermezzo put up a wonderful post recently allowing us to hear Jonas Kaufmann singing Die schoene Muellerin complete in concert in numerous Youtube episodes. In the Comments boxes, though, there appears a diatribe following the cancellation of his appearance in Don Carlo at the Royal Opera House the other day... (it was Sunday afternoon - the one I'd hoped to get to, but didn't).

The opera-goer writes:

"Comment in the audience was VERY negative about Kaufmann, and I am sure he has lost HUNDREDS of fans - as he deserved to. I have lost interest in him, having followed his progress for years and bought his CDs...No doubt he will be back on stage in London for the last Don Carlos this season, without another thought for the decent people he has snubbed on Sunday while he nursed himself (or whatever else he was doing) for the people he really cares about."

Several others have written in to counter this release of vile bile, and ask whether it's right that singers should go ahead with performances if they are ill (apparently JK had a cold). But it looks like a total no-brainer to me: of course they shouldn't! They would sound awful and disappoint all those 'decent people' even more horribly. In some cases they'd risk doing their voices more serious and lasting damage. A voice is a complex part of the body and you can't mess with it.

This is not much of a comparison, but I had a nasty chest infection back in the spring and had to do recitations in a concert with it. This totalled only 23 minutes of talking into a microphone in a modest-sized venue. But I lost my voice completely for 4 days afterwards and ended up with pleurisy which knocked me out for 7 weeks. So imagine what singing Verdi to 2,500 people could do...

I imagine that the loss of a few hundred mean-spirited 'fans' won't hurt JK too much. With fans like that, who needs enemies?


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April 5th, 2010
12:04 AM
Productions involving singers have the risk of being altered due to illness. Why is that such a shock to some people. Do you really want to hear an indisposed singer?

Enterprise Iain nonymous
September 30th, 2009
8:09 PM
I was disappointed-I was at the Florez cancelled,broken legged Barber,the ill Tosca and probably something else so I was not in a good mood at yet another expensively priced cancellation from the Royal Opera. However... Don Carlo was a very fine performance with a remarkable sense of ensemble.Kim was better than Villazon and Bychkow gave a wonderful account of the score. Keenlyside provided remarkable support and the cast was incredibly strong. I do not like applause during a performance but on this occasion it was utterly merited and did not in any way interrupt the dramatic flow. A fine production,well acted well sung well directed well lit and set. Actually a triumph.

September 30th, 2009
4:09 PM
Hi Jessica, thanks for the down to earth approach :-) I never really thought a cold could cause that much uproar...

September 30th, 2009
2:09 PM
Just wanted to second the previous comment. I was also there on Sunday afternoon and didn't hear any negative remarks about Kaufmann. Of course people were disappointed not to see him - especially those who had travelled a long way - but JK does not have a reputation for playing fast and loose with the audience and people respect him for that, as well as for his talent. If he decided not to sing, there was a good reason for it. If people decide to travel, often at great expense, to see a particular singer, then they risk being disappointed - and I speak from personal experience! It's a bitter pill to swallow, but that's life - and far preferable to losing the singer prematurely because they have irretrievably damaged their voice.

September 29th, 2009
9:09 PM
What a nonsense!!! I was there and there were no negative comments. People who wanted to hear him as Don Carlo were of course disappointed, but if you go to a performance to hear and see a certain singer you have to be aware that such things may happen. It would have been stupid to sing with a cold, real fans wouldn't want it, and as far as I know it was the only performance out if more than 20 he ever cancelled at the ROH.

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About Jessica Duchen

Jessica Duchen is a music journalist and the author of four novels, two biographies and several stage works. She writes regularly for The Independent and BBC Music Magazine. Her latest novel, Songs of Triumphant Love, is published by Hodder.

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