Updated: Jun 25, 2022
By Alkis Karmpaliotis, High School Student NYC
Founder of AppreciateOpera.org
Jonas Kaufmann and Juan Diego Florez are two of the greatest tenors in the world. Of course, while there are many other tenors in the world of the same level such as Javier Camarena and Vittorio Grigolo, the rivalry between Kaufmann is Florez is by far the deepest operatic competition there is - which is ironic considering that they are overwhelmingly different.
Juan Diego Florez, born in Lima, Peru, has specialized in the Bel Canto repertoire throughout his career. Roles like Il Conte d'Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Tonio in La Fille du Regiment, and Arturo in I Puritani seem to just fit for him. He has a terrific high range, but struggles, when singing low, to be heard over the orchestra, and to keep his breath. This is why his voice is ideal for Bel Canto repertoire, but not as much for Verdi and especially Puccini. Although Florez's greatest technical skill is his impeccable coloratura, which is essential for Rossini, he has lately also been exploring some of the more lyric French roles such as des Grieux from Manon and the title role of Werther, as well as some Mozart and even Puccini.
While Florez is perfect as a leggero tenor, Bavarian Jonas Kaufmann has a much deeper voice and excels in the spinto tenor repertoire. He is, for the most part, unchallenged in Puccini and even most Verdi. He has a very dark timbre that is great for roles like Manrico in Il Trovatore, Cavaradossi in Tosca, and Radames in Aida. He has a very powerful voice and he can control the dynamics of his sound very easily, but due to his slightly lower range, often his high notes sound pushed and weak. Since he has had so much success as a spinto, and was always pressured to do German opera, Kaufmann has also begun doing more Wagner. He has had success there too so far. He has said that he intends to do more Wagner roles in his career.
As you now see, it is truly foolish to try to declare a superior of the two as they are so different, but they do indeed overlap in one area: the Lyric tenor roles. Some roles that they have both sung include Werther, and Alfredo in La Traviata. In fact, Florez recently made his debut as Alfredo at the Metropolitan Opera. Even in these roles, one really can't choose a superior of the two interpretations, which is why this article is not one with a clear conclusion as to who is 'better', but one that compares and contrasts these two equally great yet very different artists and explains that when dealing with artists at such a high level, there is simply no such thing as better and worse.