INTERVIEW – RECITAL AT LA MONNAIE, BRUSSELS – JUNE 2021

” Ma patience a été rudement mise à l’épreuve “

“My patience was severely tested”

A new interview with Simon has been published on their website by La Monnaie, Brussels, prior to Simon’s recital there on 12 June 2021.

English translation by Google Translate:  My Patience was Severely Tested

Interview by : Veronique Rubens

Besides my fascination with nature in all its forms, there is also the era of my beloved masters: Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and Wolf lived and worked in a world where the connection with nature was still very strong. Today, the pastoral elements in music appear like a cliché, but it should not be forgotten that cities like Vienna were then small entities in the heart of a grandiose nature. For these composers, connecting all aspects of human life to the natural elements was taken for granted. They lived and loved among these grandiose landscapes. “

A FEW WEEKS AGO, YOU REWORKED YOUR PROGRAM FOR BRUSSELS. DID YOU FIND THE ORIGINAL TOO DARK AND TOO SERIOUS?

For the moment, this aspect does not interest us. Patienceby Richard Strauss is a love song. But it is for another reason that I open my recital with this composition. We are still living with a nightmare called coronavirus, which has made us all suffer. This is the reason why this tune now has a different meaning for me. The poet addresses his beloved and tells her that he will be infinitely patient. When I sing it in Brussels, it’s not for my beloved or for the man or woman Strauss had in mind. Rather, my patience is focused on ending this terrible pandemic. On waiting and anticipating the moment when we no longer have to be patient. The last line of the song says this: “I have only one spring, a rosebud. The same goes for me.

IN SCHUBERT’S NACHTSTÜCK , AN ATMOSPHERE OF DARKNESS AND HAZE EVOLVES INTO THOUGHTS OF DEATH. DOES SCHUBERT’S OR MAHLER’S GERMAN SONG HAVE A PREDILECTION FOR MELANCHOLY?

What one calls dark is sublime for another. Recently a coworker asked me why I was listening to such depressing music. This question came as a shock, because this music – it was Bach’s Goldberg Variations – is for me true heaven on earth. I find nothing depressing there. On the contrary, I find in Bach, but also in almost all of the German lied repertoire, an acceptance of the limits of our short existence. There is pure joy and sadness, but the concise form indicates that it is all short lived.

YOU SING TEXTS BY FRANÇOIS VILLON (DEBUSSY) AND GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE (POULENC). AS A SINGER, HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THE ACCUMULATION OF “LAYERS” OF MEANING IN TEXT AND MUSIC?

This is an interesting question, because indeed most songs don’t just have a double meaning. I’m not exaggerating when I say that there are often three to five different layers of meaning. To the connotations of a poetic text is added an ambiguous musical coloring. In my opinion, a singer makes a big mistake if he tries to interpret all the facets of a song or an opera role. I try at most to show two meanings at the same time. Any attempt to do more is confusing to the public. As a singer, I have to stay focused. With masterpieces, the advantage is that each interpretation opens the way to another dimension. The fact that each time a different story emerges keeps the melody alive, both for me and for the audience.

A SINGING RECITAL IS A STATIC ACTIVITY FOR A SINGER. OR CAN THERE BE MOVEMENT ULTIMATELY?

I acquired a great deal of knowledge by experimenting with gestures and movement in singing. Two fantastic projects have been created at La Monnaie: L ‘ Orfeo de Monteverdi and Winterreise by Schubert – both with choreographer Trisha Brown – were works of art in themselves, but these two projects are among the most fascinating of my career. What’s remarkable about this genre, the lied, is that it stands on its own, in the same way that frank conversation in a cafe doesn’t have to be overly theatrical. If we compare it to opera, there are not the same dramatic possibilities for the singer, not the same entertainment for the audience. But think about the interpretation of Beethoven’s last quartets: no need for big tralalas. Movement is not necessarily necessary to interpret the Winterreise . The original form is so perfect that the piano and the voice are enough.