March 06, 2019

Ready for "Der Rosenkavalier"

Why should people come to see Der Rosenkavalier?

It gives an audience almost every element of what they’re looking for emotionally in an opera. It’s very, very funny, but it’s also a love story and there’s an element of tragedy in it, but the dénoument is incredibly elevating — anyone who comes out of Act Three unmoved isn’t any kind of opera lover, that’s for sure!

Do you have a favorite scene?  

The thing that gets me is the end of Act One — the Marschallin’s discovery of what her life has become. I find the shaping of that last scene of Act One so moving. I also adore conducting Baron Ochs in Act Two, finding my way around the mercurial music he has, the whole range of blustering gestures in his music. 

What are you most eagerly anticipating in Chicago?

Already I’ve had great steak! I was looking forward to that before I came. And the views are amazing. It’s cold, but you get sunlight. I’ve been spending most of my winter in Norway where there isn’t so much of that going around, so I’ve just bathed a little bit in the sun.

Edward Gardner Conducts Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances

What’s your favorite part of the opera?

The Presentation of the Rose is amazing, but as the opera goes on, you find other moments where you say, “That’s my favorite part!” I adore the duet of Octavian and Sophie later in Act Two, when they decide they want to stick together and they share their emotions.

This is your role debut. How did you go about preparing?

I read the correspondence of Strauss and [librettist] Hofmannsthal. I’m from Munich, and if you’re from Munich, you somehow grow up with Strauss! And I know Vienna very well – it’s still a city with huge traditions. If you know about that, you know exactly how Sophie must feel, and how important it is to her father to be part of this noble society.

How are you responding to Chicago so far? 

Everybody told me that Chicago is a fantastic, beautiful city, but they also said, “What a pity that you’re coming in the wrong season!” I was afraid about the weather, but my family and I brought very warm jackets, which was good, since we were then able to explore the city. I love working at Lyric Opera – I have only nice colleagues, and I feel very warmly welcomed!

Riccardo Chailly, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Christina Landshammer - Gustav Mahler Symphony No. 4

Was singing Baron Ochs a goal for you?

I’ve long wanted to do it, and lots of people suggested I look at it. This is a very long, complicated, yet wonderful role, and I’ve really loved studying it properly. I’m unbelievably grateful to Lyric Opera of Chicago that you’ve given me the chance to do it for the first time.

Do you like the character? 

There’s a lot to like about Baron Ochs. He’s made out in the end to be the buffoon of the piece, but he’s his own person. He comes with his own agenda. He loves life, he absolutely loves himself, what he does and how he does it. 

You prepared in Vienna, in London, and also with the great German bass Hans Sotin in Bayreuth.

He sang the role at Lyric in 1973. To be with someone who’s sung it hundreds of times was great. This role is such a new thing for me, and there’s so much information to be gained about it. There are an awful lot of people who can give so much to me to hopefully create something that I’m proud of.

You’re new to Chicago, aren’t you?

This is my first-ever time here. The architecture, and the way people seem to be and interact – it’s really wonderful. One of the best cities I’ve been to anywhere, actually!

Barber - "Dover Beach" Op. 3 (Rose,Coucheron,Krogh,Phelps,Baltacigil)

Lyric Opera production generously made possible by an Anonymous Donor and Mr. & Mrs. Dietrich M. Gross.

Photo: Robert Kusel, Benjamin Ealovega, Marco Borggreve