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26 April 2019

«Ultimately, it is always about the music»

von Charlotte Brouard-Tartarin

Rolando Villazón in conversation with Charlotte Brouard-Tartarin

Tell us more about your project at the Philharmonie Luxembourg!

The idea is to develop a theme with the help of works of music dealing with that subject, but also to illuminate it verbally, in contact with the audience. It is an invitation to discover stories and phenomena in a musical way; on two evenings we dedicate ourselves to the extraordinary figure of Mozart, exploring all the facets of his life. All those who think they already know him have an opportunity to intensify that acquaintance, and anyone who has not had that pleasure yet can discover a remarkable personality, not least through great pieces of music which we all love.

These discoveries should take place within the greatest possible proximity with the audience.

What role has Mozart played in your career?

My passion for Mozart was awakened in 2010, when I sang Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni. Before studying the role, I read Mozart’s letters, and fell in love with him as I have never done with any composer before. I followed the same path with Verdi; and even if I really like Verdi, it was Mozart in whom I have found a friend and companion for life. This does not make me exceptional; it happens to all artists and music lovers who delve into Mozart’s universe.

I listened to everything, read everything that was available – of course there are a huge number of documents. Having been appointed director of the Salzburg Mozart Week seems like a dream, it is such a wonderful continuation of my path. Mozart is the composer I have performed most: nine of his operas, the concert arias for tenor, the Requiem and Vesperae solennes. Without any forethought, he became my favourite composer. It was not merely love at first sight, in musical terms; it is something «existential».

On these three evenings, you will be joined by young conductors and soloists. Which qualities do you consider essential in a young performer today?

Ultimately, it is always about the music. That may seem obvious; but in our times of extreme narcissism, which are characterized by Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, by counting «likes» for posted photographs or concert excerpts, it is easy to lose sight of the artistic aspect and believe that fame is the goal instead. Seriousness, a true grasp of the text of the score, knowledge of tradition and also knowing how to detach from tradition – those are essential qualities of a young musician in our present time. One must find one’s own way, always with the score as the point of departure; one must develop the courage to find one’s individual language.

Apart from your career as a singer, you also work as a stage director and artistic director. How do you combine these related, yet different areas of your work?

I think I became a stage director at the same time as I began to write, and there I use the same «recipes» as in directing a festival or project.

No matter what I do, it is necessary to have an idea, a philosophy, a structure, a goal, a framework in need for completion, while still remaining open to the world, to the various influences. When I work as an artistic director, my experience as a singer helps me create an easy connection between the stage and he auditorium.

You have explored very different musical and stylistic territories. Is there something you are still longing to do?

Of course, there are always new things left to discover! Last year, I sang Debussy’s Pelléas for the first time, which I will repeat this year: in musical and artistic terms, that is fascinating. Indeed, I have a list of works I would like to conquer: songs, chansons, operas… Allow me to quote T. S. Eliot: «I rejoice, having to construct something / Upon which to rejoice». To me, that means one can always look forward to beautiful new discoveries.