The superstar German tenor Jonas Kaufmann made a triumphant return to the stage in Paris on Wednesday after taking five months out to recover from damaged vocal cords.
The dashing Munich-born singer — the biggest draw in the opera world at the moment — ruptured a blood vessel in his vocal cords last year, forcing him to pull out of a series of major productions in Europe and the US.
But he finally returned to the stage Wednesday to sing Wagner’s “Lohengrin” at Opera Bastille in the French capital.
It was in the third act of the demanding opera that Kaufmann displayed the full quality and nuances of his rich tenor voice, wringing maximum emotion from the music.
Before the evening’s events he admitted that he “should have taken more care” of his voice to avoid the problems he has endured.
The singer, who had previously postponed his comeback because the injury was not healing, spoke of his worry and frustration.
“It was very difficult to have to wait so long to be able to sing again,” he told AFP, “especially because no one was able to tell me if it would take one month, two months or three months to heal”.
“If I had known I would have taken some holidays but I had to wait and wait. I went to the doctor twice a week to see if it was getting any better.”
Then when it had almost healed “the vein burst for a second time”, he said.
– Dark good looks –
The hugely popular performer, whose dark good looks and rare acting talent have taken him to the top of the opera tree, apologised to his fans for the repeated cancelled performances in October.
“I can understand the irritation of all those who had organised expensive trips to come and listen to me. Unfortunately… sometimes a singer faces events that require him to take a long rest,” he added.
Kaufmann, 47, also told of the moment when his exceptional voice gave way.
“I was in Naples to sing a few songs from my new album ‘Dolce Vita’ and I just wasn’t able to. I was on stage and quack, it was gone. Then I understood.
“It is not the first time I have been sick. I know the voice is a fragile thing, but this has shown me that I should have reacted faster, that I should have taken more care,” Kaufmann said.
“I thought I just had a sore throat and I continued to sing until this very strange thing happened.”
– Punishing schedule –
The singer had maintained a punishing performing and recording schedule over the past few years, singing in up to three different operas a month.
But Kaufmann insisted that his workload was not the cause of his problems.
“Compared to some other singers at the same stage in their careers, my calendar was empty,” he insisted.
However, Kaufmann conceded that “if this ever happens again I will have to stop earlier”.
And starting again in an opera as demanding as “Lohengrin” after “nearly five months out isn’t exactly ideal”, he admitted with a laugh.
“But I love ‘Lohengrin’, especially in this version directed by Claus Guth and conducted by Philippe Jordan.”
That said, the lay off has given him time to think about how he paces himself. “I want to save some time and energy for other projects. Two years ago I did a 13-concert tour of recitals and it was great.
“I have still lots of things I want to do. I have not made an album in French or Russian, and there are lots of lieder that I would like to record, like my CD of Italian and Neopolitan songs (‘Dolce Vita’)”.
“If you do opera after opera you will never have the energy to do anything else,” he added.