Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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10 Questions for...Andreas Scholl

October 05, 2011

Andreas Scholl Photo: James McMillan
The rise of the modern countertenor and the resurgence in the popularity of Baroque opera have blessed contemporary audiences with some unsurpassed musical experiences. And no one vocalist may have accomplished as much along these lines as Andreas Scholl. He has few rivals in an increasingly crowded field of excellent performers and has excelled on both opera and concert stages. He is one of the most recorded vocalists of his age and next week, his latest Decca compilation of Bach cantatas will be available on line in all the usual formats. It’s a return to one of Scholl’s strengths given that Bach's music played such a large role in the earliest stages of his career. Scholl will be appearing locally in Los Angeles the day the recording becomes available in the U.S. by starting off a concert tour at the Walt Disney Concert Hall alongside Harry Bicket and The English Concert in a show that includes music from Purcell on October 11. The tour will take him to Carnegie Hall and Boston before he settles in for an extended stay at The Metropolitan Opera reprising one of his most famous roles, Bertarido, in Handel’s Rodelinda where he’ll join forces with Stephanie Blythe and Renée Fleming. Best of all, you don't have to be in New York to see it since the very photogenic Scholl will get the big screen HD treatment when Rodelinda is broadcast live in the company's "Live in HD" Series around the world on December 3. And you, lucky readers, get to share in the excitement now as Mr. Scholl was kind enough to subject himself to the OWA 10 Questions this week. Catch one of the world's greatest singers when he swings through the U.S. this Fall.
  1. What role would you most like to perform but haven't yet?

    Any role that Handel wrote for "Senesino" would be wonderful. The tessitura sits well for my voice.

  2. What role would you never want to perform even if you could?

    Maybe some atonal "extreme-singing" contemporary opera role.

  3. You will be appearing in Los Angeles this month with The English Concert and Harry Bicket performing the music of Purcell. How important are concert or recital performances for you as opposed to full-scale operatic roles?

    Concert or recital performances enable me to establish a contact with the audience as Andreas Scholl whereas I have to personify somebody else in an opera-performance. These are two different worlds. I love the intimacy of a song recital accompanied by lute, harpsichord or piano only. This way I can stay with an audience for a while which usually develops a wonderful dynamic in a concert.

  4. What is the best thing about being a countertenor?

    The confusion of someone who hasn’t heard the voice before. There is an element of surprise that blocks the listener from categorizing instantly and ideally lets him receive the music itself and not the performer.

  5. Your newest recording on Decca, a selection of Bach cantatas, comes out in the US next week. What is special about singing Bach for you as a vocalist?

    I would say that Bach’s vocal works for the alto voice are amongst the most challenging works for a countertenor. The compositions are executed in an instrumental manner and there is no place for technical weakness; Bach makes no compromises in his compositions in order to help the singer. On top of that the music has a tremendous depth and sometimes seems to a singer like a steep rockface for the freeclimber. So the reward of mastering this challenge is a wonderful "vision".

  6. As one of the world's most leading vocal artists, you have worked with a variety of the world’s greatest musicians. Whom would you most like to work with that you haven’t had a chance to yet?

    I met the Israeli singer-songwriter Idan Raichel this summer in Tel-Aviv. I am a huge fan and it would be a dream to work with him.

  7. So much of the standard countertenor repertoire is Baroque music. What would be an ideal contemporary music project that you would like to help develop or participate in?

    Any project that breaks with the established standard of music-presentation. It would need to be a project without "dark suit"; it would not take place in a concert hall, explore new spaces for music and combine singing with dance.

Andreas Scholl and Renée Fleming in Rodelinda at The Met Photo: Ken Howard/Met Opera 2006
  1. Later this year you will reprise your performance of Bertarido in Handel’s Rodelinda for the Metropolitan Opera in New York. What do you like best about American audiences?

    That they are open minded about baroque music and haven’t yet adopted the "Baroque-Style-police" attitude which enslaves the performer as well as the audience to the myth of "authenticity." Human feelings and enthusiasm, love and passion for the music we are singing are "authentic." Instruments, choice of strings on a violin, temperaments and so on are empty formulas and not "authentic" in themselves.

  2. What is your current obsession?

    Filmmaking. I produced a documentary film about my singing teacher Richard Levitt. (He grew up in Los Angeles.) It was a wonderful experience to make a film, and I am already thinking about a new idea.

  3. What can we look forward to in the coming years from Andreas Scholl?

    I want to develop not only as a singer, but as a musical and creative personality. So in the future I want to combine different art-forms with baroque music and the countertenor voice in at least one project a year. I have already realized some of these ideas and there are many more to come.

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