2007.07.01 My week: Solothurner Zeitung
Simon Keenlyside, opera singer
From the Solothurner Zeitung, June 2007
(With special thanks to Gesine Menardi and Ursula Turecek)
Who calls Simon Keenlyside a late bloomer wrongs him. True, the bass baritone [sic], born in 1959 in London, studied zoology first before deciding to do a vocal training. But afterwards his career went steeply uphill – albeit with clever stops in between. The former principal conductor of the Milan Scala, Riccardo Muti thought much of Keenylside’s flexible, versatile voice and made him sing Papageno in Mozart’s “Zauberflöte” at the season opening on the 7th December 1995 that received much attention. Those who had not looked at the cast list properly thought they were hearing a German singer then because of the perfect pronunciation.
Soon Keenlyside sang Italian Mozart-roles on all the big stages. In addition Pelléas (“Pelléas et Melisande”) became one of his dream parts. The operatic world experienced the climax of this internalisation of a role at the Salzburg Easter Festival in 2006. It was Keenlyside’s last Pelléas [sic!]. Like this part there is another character that seems to be tailored to fit him that he won’t sing any more: Britten’s Billy Budd.
Keenlyside is much too curious as to become set on two or three dream roles. New things shall come. After his debut recital CD with RCA [sic!] in 2006 that he modestly called a little diary and in which he broached the issue of perishableness – of great singers of yore and of his own – a surprising project follows now: Together with Angelika Kirchschlager he has recorded operetta duets. Why? “Because it is fun.”
At the moment the exhausting work with director and actionist Hermann Nitsch at the Zurich Operahouse seems to be less fun for him. In Robert Schumann’s “Faust scenes” much theatrical blood will flow. But despite of the physical difficulties he still gives everything to the director. “You have to at least try everything. I don’t say from the first: It does not work.”
Bass baritone Simon Keenlyside sings the name part in Robert Schumann’s “Faust scenes” at the Zurich Opera House at the moment. He accompanies us through the week. Today. His “digital behaviour”.
Simon Keenlyside: “To date I always fared well without a computer”
“I can very well imagine a life without computer – because I don’t even own one. I never owned one and to date I’ve actually fared very well so. I do own a mobile phone (I think you can’t do without it any more, in my job at least), but with the best of will I cannot tell which melody sounds there. Anyway, it rings and sometimes I also answer it.”
Simon Keenlyside: “I don’t have any pets”
“Although I have a farm in Wales I do not own any animals. So no cows, pigs or sheep as normally belong to country life. But not even pets like a dog or cat. A singer’s “vagrant life” simply does not allow one to keep animals. If you have pets you also have a responsibility. You have to attend to them, they need care and attention. If you don’t have time for this you have to accept it and do without them.”
My trip of a lifetime
Simon Keenlyside: “I like Switzerland as a holiday destination”
“Yes, sometimes I do have time for holidays. I must say I like Switzerland as a holiday destination very much. Since I’ve been grown up I have explored the different Swiss regions regularly (mostly on foot). I love the terrific nature and the varied landscape. But my favourite holiday destination is Wales. I have a little farm there and dozens of projects that hopefully I can realise eventually.”
My media menu
Simon Keenlyside: “When I am tired I watch simply everything“”
“I must confess, when I am tired I watch everything, simply everything – as long as the pictures move. During the time of the rehearsals for the “Faust scenes” at the Opera House I came to appreciate Swiss television. Above all the news on the bear that immigrated to Graubünden recently, I thought this exciting. But I do hope that there will also be newspapers in the future and that television won’t replace the printed information. Incidentally my favourite newspaper is the “Weekly Guardian”. It brings the best articles of all the newspapers in the world. Furthermore the ink does not stain…”
Simon Keenlyside: “Style and I are two contradicting terms”
“I am far from being a “style-icon”. I even would go as far as to say that style and I are two contradicting terms. As long as I have a good pair of hiking boots (no boots!), a rainproof coat and the same hat I am completely content.”
Simon Keenlyside: “I love museums, galleries”
“I like to go to the theatre very much and I love museums and galleries. And luckily I am very well off with all this here in Zurich too. The exhibition of James Turrell who designed the installation of lights at the Zug station at the Galerie Häusler Contemporary in Zurich is incredibly fascinating. Lit panes from frosted glass in a white room, this sounds simple. But the result is stunning! On the other hand Switzerland is so wonderful in summer that I actually prefer spending my little spare time outside to museums and galleries… The right time for this will have come in autumn or winter again.”