Name: Jonas Kaufmann
Born: 10 July 1969
Place of birth: Munich, Germany
Years active: 1994-date
Known for: one of the most important tenors of his generation and a huge box office draw
With his brooding good looks and exceptionally versatile voice, Jonas Kaufmann is often touted as the world’s greatest living tenor. His professional career began at Staatstheater (the Stuttgart State Theatre) in Saarbrücken in 1994, the same year he graduated from the University of Music and Performing Arts Munich.
Kaufmann has an enviable career. He has sung some &ndash if not most &ndash of opera’s most desirable male roles and performed with the world’s best companies and in the most impressive of opera houses. He made his Royal Opera debut in 2004 as Ruggero in Puccini’s comic opera La rondine (The Swallow, 1917). He debuted at New York’s Metropolitan Opera two years later and has also sung with such companies as La Scala, Milan, Paris Opéra, Vienna State Opera and Bavarian State Opera.
A baritonal tenor who can also belt out amazing high notes, Kaufmann is renowned for his extraordinary technique and his versatility as a performer. He has an exceptionally wide repertory, having sung everything from Mozart to Wagner.
His roles with the Royal Opera alone include Don José in Bizet’s Carmen (1875), Alfredo in Verdi’s La traviata (The Fallen Woman, 1853), Cavaradossi in Puccini’s Tosca (1900), and the title roles in Verdi’s Don Carlo (1867) and Otello (1887) and Giordano’s Andrea Chénier (1896), among many others.
Kaufmann also has a string of awards to his name. These include several Gramophone Awards, Singer of the Year 2013 in the International Opera Awards and the Opera Award for Best Male Singer in 2013. In 2018 he was awarded both the Ordre des Arts et Lettres and the Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art.
Jonas Kaufmann was born on 10 July 1969 in Munich. His mother was a kindergarten teacher and his father worked for an insurance company; he has an older sister. They were originally from East Germany, his parents’ families fleeing their respective parts of the German Democratic Republic in the early 1960s. They lived in an apartment in Munich’s Bogenhausen district, which was constructed to help cope with the influx of East Germans.
While none of the family were professional musicians, music was a very important part of their home life, with many family members playing the piano and Kaufmann’s parents regularly taking him and his sister to concerts. He was just seven when he saw his first opera, Puccini’s Madame Butterfly (1900).
Kaufmann has been married twice. His first marriage to mezzo-soprano Margarete Joswig ended in April 2014; they had three children. In 2018 he married opera director Christiane Lutz; the couple have one child, born in March 2019.
Did you know?
He almost didn’t become a singer at all, enrolling as a maths student at the University of Munich. Luckily he realised his mistake after just two terms and switched to study to be a singer at Munich’s Academy of Music and Theatre.
Too many to list, but his breakthrough came with his 2006 Metropolitan Opera debut, singing Alfredo in La traviata. The overwhelmingly enthusiastic response to his performance triggered a spate of international offers that propelled him to operatic superstardom.
Jonas Kaufmann, Studio, München, 200th anniversary of Verdi.