Jonas Kaufmann and Renee Fleming Concert at the Lyric

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Photo credits: Todd Rosenberg

What a stupendous evening it was at the Lyric’s annual Subscriber Appreciation Concert (nevermind that I didn’t actually sign up for a subscription this season; I did attend 5/7 operas though!). It’s always a treat to hear Renee Fleming perform, but it’s an even bigger treat when she brings in one of her colleagues to share the stage. In prior years, we had the luxury of hearing Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Susan Graham; this year, it was the magnificent Jonas Kaufmann.

Although the two have only performed together only twice before (Otello in 2001 at the Lyric, and Rosenkavalier in 2009 at Baden-Baden), you wouldn’t know it to see it. They had such incredible chemistry on stage, easily bringing to life the characters of the different operatic pieces they were singing. A playful nuzzle here, and short waltz there… we lapped it all up.

If Renee Fleming is the queen of sad songs, Jonas Kaufmann is the king of the tormented. I’m so happy that I got to hear him sing live the “Pourquoi me reveiller” from Werther, the performance that I missed in NYC as a result of my cancelled flight due to fog. His is a dark, vermouth-like voice that effortlessly soars into the upper reaches of the balcony, even when he sings pianissimo. Nobody does anguish quite like him.

My favorite piece of the evening was the St. Sulpice scene from Massenet’s Manon, where Fleming’s Manon successfully re-seduced Kaufmann’s heartbroken Des Grieux from taking his holy orders. For whole minutes, the concert hall fell away and we were transported into the living, breathing world of the passionate ex-lovers as she sought a reunion. It was also the most consummate acting I’ve seen Renee Fleming do, especially when comparing against her recent outing as Rusalka at the Met; her solo piece of Manon’s “Adieu, notre petite table” was also heart-rending.

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