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An Interview with the Baritone Bogdan Baciu
Is this the first time you have interpreted this profane cantata, Carmina Burana?
This is not the first time I have sung the solo part of the baritone in Carmina Burana. I also sang it in Romania, namely at the Târgu Mureº Philharmonic. However, my solo debut in this work was preceded by the interpretation within the Choir of the Arad Philharmonic, where I was a chorister for four years; it was there I enjoyed listening to the solo parts every time and, why not admit it, where I used to dream that one day I would sing as soloist.
So, I understand that the chorus parts allowed you to become familiar with both the musical and the text-related difficulties of the score. What is your opinion on the first movement which is actually repeated at the end of the work, with impressive heroism?
Given the dramatic and rich orchestration, it's a well-known fact that the motif of the first movement which is actually repeated in the last one has been used on the soundtrack of numerous films and commercials. 'O Fortuna' is usually associated with dramatic and cataclysmic circumstances. The dramatic feature is accomplished by using an impressive orchestra, with many and various percussion instruments. Fortuna, the goddess of fortune in the Roman Empire, is depicted as changing as the moon, inconstant, raising someone to the top or making him bite the dust, giving people poverty or wealth, a shape lacking contour…
What was the significance of your collaboration with the Düsseldorf Philharmonic?
I accepted the invitation of the Düsseldorf Philharmonic as a challenge, since during the last year I have focused on the opera repertoire at the DOR (Deutsche Oper am Rhein). Given the novelty, I tried to do my best and transmit the part written for the baritone to the audience as accurately as possible. Another challenge came from having to sing in an imposing concert hall, as Tonhalle in Düsseldorf is, with a capacity of 2,500 seats (sold out).
Was the challenge of conquering and holding the attention of a new audience, easy to meet?
The audience at the Philharmonic is different from that at the Opera, so at Tonhalle I faced a new audience. I had to tell a story in a most convincing manner and the audience was to receive and understand what I had to say. I felt that the audience was very warm and receptive. I think that, on the whole, we talked the same language and were on the same page, judging by the reactions and applause at the end.
Carmina Burana was written for a mixed chorus, children's choir and three soloists. What were the things you appreciated at your colleagues, Aisha Tümmler and Raphael Pauss, and the entire ensemble?
Aisha Tümmler is a colleague at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, and I collaborated with Raphael Pauss in an opera production last year. I can say that, both as professionals and colleagues, we have a very good relationship; they are both very talented and their performance in Carmina Burana proves it beyond any doubt.
I'm fairly familiar with the orchestra, as the Düsseldorf Philharmonic has the same orchestra as Deutsche Oper am Rhein. The Chorus was a pleasant surprise, and I was impressed with their number and their interpretation. In brief, the soloists, the choir and the orchestra rose to the occasion and showed great artistry.
How was your collaboration with the conductor Leslie Suganandarajah?
I must say that the conductor Leslie Suganandarajah was a real professional. I felt comfortable and confident during the entire concert. It's no easy feat to handle the orchestra, the choir and the soloists at the same time and still make them sound perfectly together. I felt all the time that he was careful and perceptive of my every breath and intent, things that for a soloist translate into confidence and relaxation on the stage.
This work based on medieval songs and texts is very difficult and it requires, besides great energy, an extraordinary bravery. How did you dose the necessary energy, given that the part of the baritone is not only the most difficult, but also the most extended?
The work is, indeed, rather challenging and very complex for the baritone. From the easy, tenor singing in some parts to the explosive dramatic nuances of Estuans interius and the falsetto in Dies, nox et omnia, the voice has to be dosed, transformed and adapted to the demands of the score. A successful interpretation is based on a lot of work on various levels, starting with the reading of the score, followed by the adjustments of the voice and of the reflexes, then the development of the muscular memory and the pronunciation of the text, since the work, as it is well-known, is written in Latin, Middle High German and old Provençal.
The atmosphere of the work is very controversial with topics such as nature, love and drinking, from naïve lyricism to the irony of popular humour. Can you tell us what your feelings were during the interpretation?
Given that the work is about a lot of things and moods, you must have a different approach for each moment. In Omnia sol temperat I was a naïve young man, in love, who looks only on the bright side of things and is deeply influenced by the changes brought by the coming of spring. In Estuans interius (I suffer inside) I realize the eternity of existence; it's a highly dramatic aria.
Who comes next is the self-entitled Abbot of Cockaigne, a counsellor for drunkards and an advocate of perdition, soon becoming a victim of depression. The depression continues in Dies, nox et omnia and turns to self-victimization and madness, everything is against me, nothing gives me joy and there's nothing that can help me escape this mood.
The local newspaper Rheinische Post - Düsseldorf called you 'a top soloist, with a high-class virtuosity'. How do you see this top appreciation?
I was very glad and extremely honoured at the same time by the article in Rheinische Post - Düsseldorf. The complexity of the part created for the baritone gives you, as interpreter, the opportunity to show various artistic aspects and this can constitute an advantage, compared to the other two voices, soprano and tenor. Let's not minimize the merits of my two colleagues, as their performance was at least at the same level as mine.
Thank you for the interview and I wish you luck in your future activity on the stage of the Düsseldorf Opera!
Thank you for the interview and for your good wishes and I hope we'll talk again soon!
Translated by Mihaela Olinescu and Elena Daniela Radu
MTTLC, Bucharest University