LONDON (Reuters) - Jonas Kaufmann, regarded as the world's best tenor, says he is ready to reward fans waiting for him to sing Verdi's highly demanding "Otello" by making his debut in the role at London's Royal Opera House in 2017.
The opera world has been waiting expectantly for the 45-year-old German to sing more of the epic roles.
Ahead of his appearance at Covent Garden in the title role of Giordano's "Andrea Chenier" next week, he told Reuters he is ready for Verdi's jealous Moor, but not for Wagner's naive hero Siegfried -- another role his fans are eager for him to take.
"It's true, we're planning to do an 'Otello' together," Kaufmann said in a telephone interview after the Royal Opera House's music director Antonio Pappano confirmed Kaufmann would sing the role during the 2017 season.
"On one hand you feel right to do it ... on the other hand it is not only a technical issue, it is also a lot of experience and how you pace yourself to keep the stamina through such a demanding part," Kaufmann said.
He said he is wary of being typecast as a tenor who sings Otello, or Wagner's Tristan or Siegfried -- all of which place huge demands on the voice.
"Once you've announced it, literally every theater wants you to do it, and of course it is nice and flattering but I always want to keep my repertoire as wide as possible."
So when might he sing Siegfried? "It's not going to come soon after Otello, no, no, certainly not," Kaufmann said.
Kaufmann also cherishes giving recitals of songs by composers like Schubert or Mahler and is one of the few singers who can sell out huge venues like Covent Garden and New York's Metropolitan Opera.
But he has no plans to follow the The Three Tenors into stadiums, alone or in partnership with other singers.
"Whenever people would ask me whether I would do it, I think I would if the circumstances are right ... for instance for charity, so money not for my pocket. But let's see. It's not going to happen this year -- and alone, certainly not."
In the meantime, Kaufmann passionately defends opera against accusations it is elitist or outdated.
"I read articles about the 'downfall' of this art and it's going to die. It's not true, it's not going to die," he said.
"You need to do everything to keep it in focus and do good things for its reputation ...
"This is not like museum artifacts, it's not preserving something, because it's alive -- and if it dies, it dies completely. You cannot hang it in a museum and look at it, because it has to be performed."
Editing by Catherine Evans