CultureCritic talks to Lothar Koenigs...
The conductor Lothar Koenigs was appointed Music Director of Welsh National Opera in 2009. His illustrious career has also encompassed the role of Music Director at Germany's Theater Osnabrück and appearances at Opéra National de Lyon and New York's Metropolitan. As befits WNO's appointment of a German Music Director, its 2010-11 season Eternal Light is dedicated to the operas of Germany and Austria. Lothar shared his thoughts on the upcoming season with CultureCritic...
What can audiences expect from Welsh National Opera's new season?
I am passionate about the German-Austrian repertoire from Beethoven to Strauss, from Wagner to Berg. Throughout this year we are going to bring five great pieces to our audience: Fidelio, Ariadne auf Naxos, Der Zauberflöte, The Magic Flute, Die Fledermaus and Così fan tutte. They are all very different; from the political and powerful message in Fidelio to the light-hearted and fun Die Fledermaus. It is this variety that we hope will excite our audience.
Why have you chosen to group your current set of operas together under the title Eternal Light?
It is a way of indicating to our audience that there is a thread running through the season, and it is an excellent way to show the rich variety of opera by German and Austrian composers. It's an excellent way to showcase the wonderful orchestra and chorus of WNO, and to entice those who come to only one opera to come to another, even if it is a work that is less familiar to them.
What characteristics do you think define German opera, in contrast to the opera produced by countries such as Italy and France, for example?
That is an interesting and very big question. What I can tell you is that the German repertoire is completely natural to me. I grew up experiencing many of the greatest German composers. However, the language of music is universal and there is great art from every country. Germany is the one I feel the closest to and it is most resonant for me.
WNO performed Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg as a concert at the BBC Proms, rather than as an opera. What was the experience of presenting the opera in this context like for you?
Performing in Richard Jones's production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg was a great highlight for me personally, and an extraordinarily wonderful experience for the company. For us, and most of the cast, it was the first time we had performed it. Going to the BBC Proms in July was a very different experience and an incredibly moving and powerful one for us all. To be so close to the audience and to feel their immediate response to the work was overwhelming. For me, the biggest challenge on the day was that the singers were behind me. Normally in the opera, of course, they are in front of me on stage when I am conducting, so I had to take extra care to look over my shoulder to communicate with them.
You were Music Director of Theater Osnabrück from 2000 to 2003. What is it like being part of an institution once more after your time spent working independently?
I enjoyed many years as a freelance conductor and I am still conducting as a guest in a number of houses. However, being Music Director of a world-class opera company with a fantastic orchestra and chorus means that, with the repertoire, we can go on an incredible journey together.
What is your creative process like when you set about creating a new production of an opera?
First of all, I spend many months studying the score so I am musically prepared. Then in the rehearsals, I enjoy working very closely with the director.
Is there a particular composer whose work you have conducted that you feel a particular affinity with?
At the moment it is Beethoven, because I'm in rehearsals. We open the performances in Cardiff on September 17th, and then go on tour to Bristol, Southampton, Liverpool, Llandudno, Birmingham, Oxford and Swansea.
Is there a production that you have not yet brought to the stage, but dream of doing so?
Tristan und Isolde, although I'm hoping to conduct a production of it very soon.
How do you feel about opera being broadcast live into cinemas, and do you think digital media has the potential to broaden opera's audience?
Digital media is very powerful and can be a useful tool. However, there is nothing that will replace live performance.
Do you take inspiration from other art forms outside of opera, whether it be art, literature or film, for example?
When I have some free time, I love to visit exhibitions and go to the theatre. I am very keen on art from the Der Blaue Reiter period and, mostly, the beginning of the 20th century. I saw a very good Billy Budd in Frankfurt recently and in the summer I saw a very good production of Mieczyslaw Weinberg's The Passenger by David Pountney at Bregenz Festival.
WNO's 2010-11 season begins with Fidelio on 17th September. Click here to read the latest review.
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- Opera & Dance