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Interview with Angelika Kirchschlager

Friday, 9 September 2011 , ora 10.34
Mrs. Angelika Kirchschlager, you will be performing in Romania for the first time, on the stage of the "George Enescu" Festival. This is a country in which the roots of your family lay, and with which you have a special connection, with an interesting memory. We have talked about this in a previous interview, on Radio Romania Music, in the show called "Musical Success Stories". Your grandmother was a Romanian, born in Orsova, who moved to Austria after getting married. Back then, you told our audience about a trip you took to Romania when you were a child. But you have never performed in our country before. Are you nervous about this concert?

Nu, I'm not usually nervous. I have a positive attitude. I enjoy going on stage, with my own way of singing and I let the public decide if they like it or not. But I am eager to meet the Romanian audience for the first time.

During the last season, you worked with the "Belcea" Quartet, which, as you very well know, is lead by the Romanian violinist, Corina Belcea. What can you tell us about this musical encounter?

They are fantastic. I have worked with them a number of times and I think they are amazing musicians: very original, very sensitive and very interesting. Performing alongside them was quite a challenge; I generally like performing chamber music, performing accompanied by others, not just on the opera stage, but with instrumental performers, not just the piano. Therefore, working with the "Belcea" Quartet was an amazing experience.

The premiere of Enescu's "Oedipus" took place in Paris, in 1936. Three years earlier, Paris had seen the premiere of the ballet music "The Seven Deadly Sins", by Kurt Weill, after Berthold Brecht. This particular piece is almost unknown in Romania. How would you describe it in order to convince the public to come to the concert?

It is one of my favorite works. Kurt Weill is not very popular in Austria either, although many of his pieces are performed: "The Threepenny Opera", Mahogonny. I have performed "The Seven Deadly Sins" in Vienna, in the fall of last year. Weill's music either has jazz influences, or is classical, incredibly rhythmical, but very interesting overall. It is about capitalism. Anna, the main character I play, has to commit all the seven deadly sins in order to build a home for her and her family. The family is played by the quartet and it is the one which coerces her to enter this nightmare. She tells herself: "I have to do this! I have to sleep with this man!" In the end, she manages to get a house, but realizes it wasn't worth it. This is the extremely powerful message of the work.

Lately, you have chosen to perform roles in operas of the 20th century. I am referring to "The Rape of Lucretia", by Benjamin Britten, "The Seven Deadly Sins", by Kurt Weill, roles that you have embraced in your repertoire after having played the character Sophie in "Sophie's Choice", by Nicholas Maw. Is there a link between these choices?

They are all female characters, in very dramatic poses. It wasn't necessarily a choice. I don't tell myself: "this character suits me now". These are just things that come at the right moment. I am a complete fatalist. I have always trusted that life will provide me with what's best for me at the right moment and it provided me with these roles.

In Bucharest, you will be performing with Tonkünstler Orchester Niederösterreich, conducted by Heinz Karl Gruber. What projects have you worked on with these musicians?

We have recorded two CDs together and have held a few concerts. Also, I have worked with Heinz Karl Gruber several times in performing Kurt Weill's score. He is a music specialist and I owe him Anna's role in a way. He doesn't make compromises; he is a very interesting artist and gets completely involved in his projects.

You are an artist with an amazing career and, beside you stage activity, you are also a teacher. Who do you reckon are those in your past without whom you would not have been who you are today?

There definitely was such a person: my teacher, Walter Berry. Unfortunately, he passed away ten years ago. He was one of the most famous bass-baritone players. He performed in the opening of the Metropolitan Theatre, an honour member of the State Opera of Vienna. He was married to Christa Ludwig and they performed together. He was the most famous Papageno, for example, and an amazing lied player.

What I learned from him was how to intertwine the soul and the intellect. When discussing a piece, he never told me not to do ritardando where it isn't mentioned, but to be true to the score and express my own emotions. He encouraged me to be myself, not to copy anyone else and this is the most important aspect of my career so far: I try to find myself more and more and try not to be influenced by what others do. This is the reason why I am so relaxed. Anyone can do whatever they want. For me, there is no right or wrong. As long as you are yourself, it is going to be alright. This is what Walter Berry told me.

Last year was a fulfilling one for you in what concerns the number of records you released. You have received the German Record Award, Echo, for the Schuman lied CD. What are your plans for this year?

I will be recording two albums: one with Franz Liszt songs, along with pianist Julius Drake, for the Hyperion record company, and another disc with a pastiche of popular classical pieces, like Schubert or Brahms, songs known by everyone, but who no longer remember the authors. This is the reason why I am also planning a tour in Austria, in June of 2012, in very small towns, where such recitals haven't been held, where I will be taking this CD.

Monica Isacescu
Translated by Laura Bosnea
MTTLC, University of Bucharest