Rolando Villazón as Director in Berlin
Rolando Villazón stages at the Deutsche Oper Puccini's operetta "La Rondine" - his first directorial work in Berlin. But before he sings Mozart in the Berlin Philharmonie.
BM: In fact, you are always presumed to be at Staatsoper, it is more surprising that you give your Berlin directorial debut at Deutsche Oper. How did this happened?
RV: One day called me my management and asked if I wanted to stage Puccini's "Rondine" at Deutsche Oper Berlin. I think they had seen my works in Lyon and Baden-Baden. Later I drank a coffee in Vienna with the director Dietmar Schwarz. I am very happy about this offer. Already, the concept is standing. And I will return gladly to Berlin. It is well known how much I love the city.
BM: This is your third staging. In fact, you are a singer, the craft of the director is different. What have you learned from the first directorial works?
RV: This is my fourth staging, because before that, we have "Viva la mamma" in Vienna. My previous directorial works went well, the singers were happy. Of course, I am trying to stage my singers as I want to be staged myself as a singer. And I always want to have a modern visuality on stage. For me, a production must be, in principle, very musical. Before, I put on a kind of map, a road map for the characters, and then the singers can add their own ideas. I think that the piece belongs always to the people who make it. The director builds always only a world with its rules. This world will be activated by the singers.
BM: Now do you want to stage regularly?
RV: Alone in the next year, I have three productions. "Rondine" in Berlin, Verdi's "La Traviata" in Baden-Baden and even Donizetti's "Viva la mamma" at Volksoper Vienna. For 2016, there is already an idea. I am very happy about these projects.
BM: Have you taken directing lessons with someone?
RV: No, but I have worked a lot with the British director Richard Jones. We have talked a lot about staging. He told me that I should to stage operas, but I always said no, because I am a singer. But in my 20 years of career, I have always been interested in the work of the directors.
BM: What is your idea for Deutsche Oper?
RV: I have an idea, but it is still too early to talk about concretely. In the piece, there is a strong woman, freedom is her nature. A kind of feminist embossed dream narrative. It is also a beautifully tasteless music.
BM: Where will you put the action - maybe in Berlin today?
RV: I believe that the place is always the theater itself. Opera is a magic country and not a museum. Just this “nowhere in particular” does make the attraction of opera. The stage is a very unique aesthetic world. In it there is perhaps a city, reminiscent of the '20s perhaps. With much nostalgia, melancholy perhaps.
BM: For you as a tenor, it must be terrible to stage other tenors?
BM: Because they might be better or worse than you.
RV: I have a wonderful cast. With the American tenor Charles Castronovo, who will sing Ruggero in Berlin, I am a friend. He was Nemorino in Vienna, when I sang there Lenski. We went regularly to drink a glass of wine and talked a lot. I prefer to work with musically intelligent artists. This makes life easier.
BM: Have you already noticed a Villazón-directing style in yourself?
RV: That is still too early. If I have made ten productions, maybe I can talk about it. But what is important to me: great musicality, a modern narrative style and theatricality. I will never work against the music. For me, the film clips are too realistic. And it should not be a museum. But what I say now, of course, that is nothing new. I do not even know if we can speak of a directing style.
BM: As a singer, you will be celebrated after every performance, as the conductor, too. Now you sit as a director uninvolved in the dark hall. For you is this not a strange feeling?
RV: Furthermore I have not even thought about it. But, in fact, it is the job of the director, to move away, in his work, more and more from the piece and to pass it to others. At the latest, after the dress rehearsal, you have to let go. In the premiere, the director is only part of the audience. Some prefer to go to the canteen, drinking beer there and come back to the applause.
BM: And what do you do?
RV: I sit in the auditorium.
BM: At Deutsche Oper, you will change in the coming season “back and forth”. You will sing three times Don Carlo on stage, then, as a director, you are behind the stage. Now do you squabble as a singer with other directors?
RV: Generally, yes, I have more fun with some directors than others. But I always try to understand the world that a director has created, and I am trying to give my best. One can also "Traviata" sing in five different productions around the world. Shortly after I had staged my "Werther", I sang at Covent Garden in a different direction. I can keep the worlds well apart.
BM: You will sing soon Mozart arias at Philharmonie. Last year you had to cancel a concert in Berlin because you catched a cold. That was certainly a nightmare for you?
RV: Yes. But this is the story of each singer, because everyone arrives to a point where he is forced to cancel a performance. Where this happens with me, with my history, this is getting bigger than it is. I have to live with it.
BM: For you, Mozart is part of the lighter or heavier repertoire?
RV: Mozart is difficult to sing. But it is also difficult to sing Verdi and Schumann. Is it easier to be a shot putter or a gymnast? Is it easier to run or swim? With Mozart, it certainly needs more finesse than other great composers. But his music is also athletic.
BM: After your vocal crisis, you once has announced to want to get a little quieter. But one sees you regularly on TV, sing, produce increasingly more, write books.
RV: But for many years, I don’t watch television, and I am almost never on the Internet. So I have more time which I spend with my family. Besides, I always think that art is the best entertainment.
Many thanks to Eleonore for the translation