For his new job, Jonas Kaufmann (53) wants to "restructure" his appointment calendar - but still be on stage. © Britta Pedersen
Is the superstar finally turning into the late summer of his career? From September 2024, Jonas Kaufmann will become artistic director of the Tyrolean Festival. He replaces Bernd Loebe, who leaves the Inn Valley in a dispute.
To reassure the fans right away: Yes, he continues to sing. Maybe a little less, but that's what the tenor had planned anyway, in his own words. "I don't feel like I should step down," says Jonas Kaufmann. "I now have another hobby that I can work on without having to be on stage every day."
The hobbyhorse is the Tyrolean Festival. And the new job is that of artistic director: Kaufmann will replace Bernd Loebe in Erl in September 2024, who is leaving the Inn Valley in a dispute. With the signing of the superstar, Festival President Hans Peter Haselsteiner, billionaire ex-boss of the construction company Strabag, has pulled off a coup. There have been 43 applications for the post of artistic director, he said on Friday at a press conference in Vienna. Kaufmann had performed "outstandingly" in this field and infected everyone with his enthusiasm. Kaufmann's contract is initially valid for six years.
Actually, the previous boss Bernd Loebe, in his main job artistic director of the Frankfurt Opera, wanted to continue in the Inn Valley. But the 70-year-old threw in the towel when Haselsteiner told him that he would be happy to apply beyond his contract period. According to Loebe, he does not need this. Since then, thunderclouds have hung over Erl – and Loebe is now taking his hat a year earlier than planned.
The previous boss Bernd Loebe fell out of favor
For a long time, it can be heard from Tyrol, Haselsteiner is dissatisfied with the still artistic director. Loebe, who also regards Erl as a Frankfurt branch office, pursues an overly advanced programme policy with partly unknown pieces. Even the director does not always find the grace of the powerful patron. The fact is: apart from the Wagner productions, there are enough tickets for every Erl premiere so far. "We were looking for someone to become Mister Erl," Haselsteiner said. "A personality who puts the Festival in the foreground in its uniqueness."
This statement is a blatant criticism of Loebe, who in Haselsteiner's eyes could not make Erl his brand. And Kaufmann, who is very unusual in the situation of such a press conference, also replied: "As much as I appreciate my colleague Bernd Loebe, this was perhaps a point that he did not succeed so well: the identification of his person with the festival."
Loebe, who was still considered the savior of Erl in 2018, fell out of favor relatively quickly. After the festival's founder, Gustav Kuhn, was sent to the desert because of allegations of #MeToo, among other things, Loebe was brought in as a globally networked theatre maker. Quality instead of scandals was the motto. Above all, there was significant progress in terms of productions, stand-up theatre and simple directorial arrangements were now a thing of the past.
Jonas Kaufmann wants to stick to Erler's recipe
Kaufmann announced that he wanted to stick to the tried and tested Erler recipe. That means Wagner in summer, while there are bel canto operas in winter. He still has to put together his team. They want to "get going as quickly as possible". In order to fulfill his Erler contract, he wants to restructure his schedule. He will also make a "musical contribution" to the festival, i.e. perform in the Passionshaus and Festspielhaus. "Through my presence, I also want to inspire other great artists to stand by my side." He said he wanted to present a "rough plan" for his term of office soon.
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Jonas Kaufmann is not the first member of the singing guild to feel called to the directorship. Plácido Domingo, for example, was director in Washington and Los Angeles, Rolando Villazón is head of the Mozart Week in Salzburg, Cecilia Bartoli artistic director of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival. In many cases, however, the stars were brought in as figureheads, as knowledgeable designers they were less active. Actually, only Brigitte Fassbaender, artistic director of the Tyrolean State Theatre from 1999 to 2012, succeeded in doing so – this July, as is well known, she completes her Erler "Ring" as a director with "Siegfried" and "Götterdämmerung".
What they all have in common is that they are looking for a second mainstay in their careers in late summer with such an activity. Kaufmann, who turns 54 in July, is likely to join the ranks here.