« »

2009.03.29 Apropos Oper Interview from Oe1

“Apropos Oper” Interview

broadcast on 29 March 2009 on Austrian radio station Oe1

Transcription and translation by Ursula Turecek

Michael Blees: “Eugene Onegin” at the ViennaStateOpera – the piece has not been part of the repertoire for some years now. Now a new production has taken place, it was premiered on the 7th March, which also could be witnessed on OE1. This „Eugen Onegin“ had a new cast in almost all the big parts, also the name part with Simon Keenlyside. Mr Keenlyside, thank you for taking the time for a conversation.

Simon Keenlyside: My pleasure.

MB: Many singers have racked their brains on this Onegin already – what is he like as a character: An arrogant cynic, a dandy, a  melancholic, is he sensitive or is he actually brutal? How do you see this part?

SK: Hm. It’s mean, this question, right at the beginning of my.. my journey with Onegin. But his man is brutal at times, like Giovanni, and also at the same moment is… is charming, many… many things, all together.

MB: A very complex part.

SK: Yes. All, all the roles are… are like this. For example: When you sing Ford in Verdi “Falstaff”, Falstaff is painted more profoundly. A Ford represents only a red colour, but many other roles – “Nozze di Figaro” Count, erm… Giovanni, actually Rodrigo “Don Carlo”, Onegin are much more complicated, therefore it is interesting for us singers and for the director too.

MB: I read this in an interview: You made an interesting comparison between Onegin and Posa with regard to the music. You said that well, Posa has these beautiful long phrases

SK: O yes, mhm.

MB: …thus also expressing a self-assurance of the character while with Onegin there are only  some big phrases, he has many scenes where he places a lot of words and sings very short phrases.

SK: Only technically Posa has to sing these long, lyric arcs of phrases, Onegin is like Pelléas – so many words, so much text. Only technically this is difficult to achieve, but it is interesting, it is a short part and four scenes on stage or five and each… each is different.

MB: You more or less had studied Onegin for a stage production once already, but at that time you could not sing the part. Now in Viennait was a new production with director Falk Richter. Was your notion of Onegin changed by this director’s work?

SK: I always try to be open because it is interesting to learn something new and often the modern directors are not only people from the theatre. Falk is a playwright for example, but he is very sensitive, very intelligent. There are people who say that you have to be present at any moment because of the lighting or the technics or… like traffic control. And there are others like Jonathan Miller actually or Falk who observes and says: Yes, this is possible, this isn’t. This can be difficult but I find it interesting – then you have to find something yourself.

MB: You can play a part in the work.

SK: Mhm, mhm.

MB: In principle Onegin is an opera that is first and foremost about inner feelings. There is only comparatively little action taking place. Is this difficult for a singer on stage?

SK: Everything on stage is difficult [literally “heavy”] because you have to find a focus and then look for something clear for the audience. Otherwise everything is all the same.

MB: You are probably used to this from your lieder singing, that you have to create an image.

SK: This is easier because there is only one single arc and story.

MB: Do you prefer to be able to try new roles in a small house… or smaller house?

SK: Yes. Yes. For example we have [done] so many “Nozze di Figaro” with Maestro Muti at the Theater an der Wien – it was so much fun. You can [do it] differently with your face, the eyes and these little details. This is like chamber music. I often talked about Vienna with journalists because the orchestras here in Vienna are high. I think that this is a very good idea because you… you must have respect for our colleagues. And also the orchestra sees us and this adds something new and then the orchestra is encouraged to play piano. Because they hear what we are doing. Otherwise down in these orchestra pits you don’t hear anything, the orchestra is playing without any contact with the singers of course. It is not a question of how big the … the hall is, for example Metropolitan is.. is huge but it’s not so bad acoustically.

MB: In an interview you once used as a self-description that you are like Papageno: Ich bin so ein Naturmensch (I’m just a child of nature).

SK: Yes.

MB: On the other hand one gets the impression of you that you are a great thinker, a ponderer

SK (laughing): I am not a great thinker

MB: …who always fathoms the depths. What is the real Simon Keenlyside like? Will you reveal this to us?

SK: Now I must [speak] in English: When you stand next to Alban Berg’s Wozzeck and you rub shoulders with him he will pull you down into the deep and make you think – was bedeutet tief ist nicht dunkel. Some of the greatest insights into the human condition, the human psyche are in these pieces and I have the opportunity to…

Translator: Some of the great insights of the human soul are to be found in these pieces and I have the great opportunity to trace them. And I can show this to the audience, to the audience that does not have this privilege – the privilege to occupy themselves every day with Heine, Schiller and Goethe. I have the possibility to demonstrate and detect things. This is not about depth but rather about life. At the end of “Wozzeck” you should not only think that this man is a murderer, then I have failed. You should not leave “Don Giovanni” thinking that this man is a psychopath. You should not believe in “Pelléas et Mélisande” that Golaud is a murderer, but you should rather think how you would have acted in a situation like this.

SK: You have to think: What would I do there?

MB: Do you try to find yourself as a person in a role

SK: Nah, this…

MB: – or to find reference to today?

SK: Nah, I can… Nah… No, but I can say: What would I do if I was in this situation

MB: Is Onegin a character of today, is this a plot of today?

SK: Absolutely. Of course it is.

MB: Mr Keenlyside, in May and June you’ll come back to Viennafor another series of Onegin. What are further plans?

SK: I love Vienna, really. Well, I am sure that every singer says so: Yes, thank you, you are the best audience in the world bla bla bla. But I… really, I love Vienna. I was here as a student and for example my own wedding ring is from Vienna. There is much planned for me here.

MB: Will you reveal something?

SK: Yes. Yes. Macbeth. I think that there’s more “Don Carlo”, this is really fantastic. This is enough for the moment. Wozzeck is rather new, I did it only once in Paris, and of course Onegin is new for me. Macbeth here, this is also a

MB: Will be a role debut.

SK: role debut, yes, and I won’t say any more.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment