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Covid-19: Wichtige Informationen zu unseren Konzerten, weitere Infos

01. Oktober 2020

connecting with... Rolando Villazón!

von Saskia Müller-Bastian


Have you noticed through what you did during the last months, what you've seen and when you talked to people, that they needed music to go through these difficult times that concerns almost the entire world now?

It is very important for us as a society, as individuals, to realize how essential art in general, whether it's dance, architecture, painting, of course music, literature, etc. how important it is in our lives. It is not an accessory, not something extra in our lives, it's something essential, it's something that makes us who we are, and in times of trouble lift us. And o this has been experienced I think by everybody. More than ever we are seeing in today's world that we need to be educated, we need an educated society. And that doesn't only mean the education we get in school, that also means what we get through our institutions, through the concert halls, through our book stores, through our libraries, through our theatres, through our opera houses, through our experiences in the street, every single artistic expression, that is nurture to our soul, that is educating us, that is giving us instruments, and giving us information, and giving us depth in order to understand humanity as a bigger thing than me and myself, as something much richer than what I believe in, my opinions, as something more complicated than what one book says, or what one person says life needs to be like. To accept a diversity, to embrace it, not only accept it, but to embrace it and to celebrate that, those differences, we need art and we need culture. So yes, definitely, these times and this year have shown how extremely important and essential our great arts are for us.

You are known not only for advocating the arts, but also for your very close relationship with Mozart. In an interview with us, you called him «a friend and companion for life». How did this companionship evolve during the last few months?

A little bit of Mozart every day! Reading his letters and listening to his music. Every day a little bit of Mozart, even five minutes, even a KV like the 222 which is just three minutes. But then of course, I try to hear a concert, a complete concert. I feel so grateful about the fact that we are here, and we have the chance to keep fighting, and you know, I keep saying I'm very privileged and very fortunate in this health crisis, I am the best possible way one can be in these times. So I won't complain at all and I think it is also the responsibility of the ones like us who are in a privileged position not to complain but actually to see, to underline all the great things that we are surrounded with, all the great things that we are able to share and then to share that gratefulness. And I think the music of Mozart and the presence of Mozart allows me to feel that, to get out of, if you want, sometimes the selfish anxieties, nervousness, of another concert cancelled or things like that, to open it and have a view from up and say: really, you are not that bad. So let the people who have something to complain about complain, let those voices speak. People who live in great inequalities or artists who are finding themselves in an impossible situation. Singers, performers who are having to change jobs, who are having to be now delivering packages because they don't have work. And there's hundreds and hundreds of thousands of artists doing that, some people that might never come back to the stage because of the situation. That! Let them speak! They should have the forum to complain, they can talk about it. And, going back to the question [laughs], Mozart allows me to have that distance. I think to have a view, if you want, like an eagle eye from up there, and see things from a distance, and that helps to give perspective. It's universal, it's so extraordinary and it takes you away from the moment you are living without escaping from the emotions that make us human. And I love to have a little beer with Mozart, I put the music on, I have a beer and then we enjoy a nice little glass together [laughs].

You mentioned that the situation became more difficult for many artists. And in general, you are an advocate and mentor for many young musicians. So how do you spot talent in young musicians and support it, and how do you think does this have to change due to the current circumstances?

How I spot them, it's mostly because I travel a lot and I hear performers, I work with them as a stage director, or when I'm singing in a production, I go to see performances. And then there is of course, for example in my programme «Stars von morgen», I have a great team, and they keep sending me new singers, new talents. Many singers, many musicians send me their curriculum, their information. We have this platform where they can apply, where they can send videos, so we get to know a lot of young musicians, young singers. Not all of them come to the TV show, but I'm aware then of who is doing what. And I think we all need to do our best, to not only take care of our own careers, but once you come to a certain point, like myself [laughs] – this year I'm celebrating, in November, 25 years of career. There is I think a responsibility, what can I do for the others, in terms of, I give talks to young artists whenever I'm at an opera house, I ask who are your young people in the ensemble, let me share my experiences so that they hear from somebody who has lived already a lot of stuff in their career, they can grab that and see how this will help them. As an artistic director, I do have a responsibility to mix in the Mozartwoche, to have great, established names and stars of course, but then how do I bring in these young musicians eager to be on stage. I'm very happy to see how they have flourished, some others not so much, but they have still very strong careers etc. We have responsibility, all of us, as institutions, as individuals, as older artists – today more than ever, because of the fields that have been closed – to help them.

I'd like to ask you one last question with regard to your series at the Philharmonie. As the title already tells, «Rolando raconte», you do not only sing but also talk to people. What do you think does this means of telling stories enable you to bring to the audience what the music itself cannot do?

I think if anything, talking is a limit to what the music can do. I think the music says everything it has to say for itself and that's the beauty of it. I think with the «raconte», what I'm able to do, what we are able to do, is to create another contact with the audience. It's to frame the music that we are listening to, either historically or about the composer or just why the subject matters. We have already the beautiful link of the music, the musicians and the audience. And then we create this other, more informal connection as well with a little bit of talking and a little bit of explaining where we are. And I love to present in my radio programmes in France and in Germany, and it's very short introductions, but to frame a little bit, to give a little anecdote of the composer. I think this also humanizes, it reminds us that this comes, yes, from a genius, but these geniuses were people like you and me, sitting, and having their own troubles, joys, «manías», craziness, normal things, friendships, pettiness. I mean it's beautiful to hear that from that human being, that there is a genius, and that from there comes this incredible work of art that is immortal and that still has a message to us. So it can be historical, it can be about the emotions that we are speaking, and I think it's creating also a very friendly environment among everybody involved in the project. I love these evenings of «Rolando raconte»! [laughs]