To the dismay of fans in the US, Jonas Kaufmann announced on Friday that he would no longer be appearing in the Metropolitan Opera’s highly awaited new production of Tosca next season, just weeks after the house had announced his involvement. The news followed hard on the heels of his return following a series of cancelled European appearances in order to recover from a burst blood vessel located on his vocal cord.
Tosca was to have marked his long awaited return to the Met stage: in 2015, he cancelled two sold-out performances of Carmen, and withdrew from a new production of Manon Lescaut last year, which was to have continued his exciting artistic partnership with Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais. The new staging was to be a starry affair and a centrepiece of the 2017/2018 season. Premiering on New Year’s Eve, Sir David McVicar’s production was to have starred Kaufmann as Cavaradossi to Opolais’ Tosca, with Bryn Terfel as the marauding Scarpia. It was to be conducted by Boston Symphony Orchestra chief Andris Nelsons, who also happens to be married to Opolais.
“I very much love singing at the Met and for its wonderful audience,” Mr Kaufmann said in a statement. “But I feel that I cannot allow myself to have such long periods away from my family at this time. I look forward to returning to the Met in the near future.”
The Met has now turned to rising tenor Vittorio Grigolo to step in, a singer who has distinguished himself at the house in productions of Roméo et Juliette and Werther, the latter a Kaufmann calling card.
Peter Gelb, the general manger of the Met, told the New York Times that he had already had Grigolo in mind as a possible replacement for Kaufmann. “I was afraid that this might happen”, he said.
Kaufmann’s last minute change of heart mirrors Anna Netrebko’s sudden decision to withdraw from tboth the Covent Garden and the Met’s productions of Norma within weeks of the two opera houses announcing her involvement ((Sondra Radvanovsky, Marina Rebeka, and Angela Meade will now share the title role at the Met). Perhaps the most popular tenor and soprano of their generation, management have been guarded in their expressions of disappointment, though Kasper Holten and Antonio Pappano expressed some fairly obvious annoyance with Netrebko.
When asked if Kaufmann was likely to be invited back after pulling out from two new productions, Gelb said “he’s somebody we still would hope would perform at the Met again. We want him back – but obviously we will approach him with caution”.
American fans are likely to be further disappointed – Kaufmann, who resides in Germany and has three children, said in a brief written statement that he intends to curtail his future engagements outside of Europe to two weeks or less to spend more time with family.
“Any operatic contract which I accept in Europe still allows me the possibility to be with my family at least for a day or two each week,” Kaufmann said. “This is unfortunately not the case once traveling further away from Europe.”
This effectively means that Kaufmann will not appear as the headline performer in any new opera productions, which usually demand weeks of rehearsals. However, this is not really a departure for the singer, whose engagements in the United States have been largely characterised by revivals.
His appearance in Opera Australia’s concert performances of Parsifal in August will also presumably be unaffected by his decision, as they should require a comparatively shorter rehearsal time.