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Many thanks to Y.K. who supplied me the original article.
Interview was carried out on November 7, 1993
Published in FM Fan in September 1994 in Japanese
Jochen Kowalski
Jochen Kowalski
Although my voice is male alto, I have no intention to play a female role*

It must be a sign of the fin de siècle that a mysterious and strange phenomenon takes place. He is a genuine male with exceptionally good looks. But when he starts to sing, he does so with a women's voice. This is the male alto singer, Jochen Kowalski. When I saw "Giustino" by Händel on LD (from Dream Life) for the first time several years ago, I could not believe my own eyes and ears. He is a popular singer now in Europe and North America but neophliac Japanese audiences are indeed quick. There was a long queue of fans seeking for his autograph in the dressing room of the singer who came to Japan with Viennese Volksoper. I had a chance to talk with the singer shortly after his performance of Orlofsky for the "Fledermaus".

To tell you the truce, it is still my dream to sing "Lohengrin"

------ Was that not your idea that gaudy costume of Orlofsky with an exotic cape and his unusual presentation?

Yes, mostly so. I have Michael Jackson or David Bowie in mind for this role. The role of Orlofsky is a very contemporary one. There still should be people anywhere in the world who live in a complete boredom and do not know what to do with all the money they have. Orlofsky has no friend and he can only open himself to Ivan, his servant. Ivan is very much like a wet nurse for him.

------ Is that so. It is a very interesting interpretation. By the way, most of your repertoire is Baroque opera. Castrati sang these roles in old days and women sang them in these days. It is rather convoluted for a man to sing them. Nevertheless you play them quite manly on the stage.

It is because I am a man after all. I have not undergone a transsexual surgery, you know. When I was in Japan last time, I saw women play male roles on TV and I did not like it at all. [He probably refer to Takarazuka Revue Company (interviewer's comment).]

------ You do not want to be like that?

I cannot stand it. I do not want to play female roles though I like female roles played by Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. [He is probably talking about a movie "Some Like It Hot".]

------ I am very sorry to hear that. I wanted you to play Cherubino and Octavian.

Impossible. These roles are too high for me anyway. Moreover, the orchestra is way too noisy. Therefore, the Orlofsky is the only trouser role I can sing.

------ Talking about your unique voice, I heard that you could sing very high even after the voice change.

I had my voice change when I was about 15 to 16 years old. My speaking voice changed but my singing voice was preserved. For that reason, I could sing boy soprano in the Christmas play when I was 16. After all I was from a small village in suburbia of Berlin and I knew nothing else. I never thought that my voice was anything special. My parents loved music and we had a lot of old records at home. I was always singing along with them. It was my dream to become a singer from my childhood. I could not read a score and I never had a music training but I took an entrance examination for the music college. They failed me three times saying that I had no talent.

------ You started out as a tenor, didn't you? It must have been unsuitable for you.

You got it. But I wanted to sing Lohengrin. [He laughs.]

------ All the singers want to sing Lohengrin.

To tell you the truce, I still want to sing Lohengrin. [He laughs.]
Lower body is the key in singing and I sing with my waist down

------ By the way, your singing style is rather unique. It looks like that you sing with your waist down while bracing yourself up with the feet.

Exactly. I literally cannot sing if my feet are not touching the ground. I place a tension on my feet and brace myself up. [He stands up and shows me an actual stance.] Because of that, shoes are very important for me. [He is wearing very showy boots.] There really is a sexual element in an act of singing.

------ Oh, what's the idea?

In short, singing with my waist down.

------ Oh, I see. You mean to use the lower body.

That is why it is impossible to sing without sex. Maria Callas was a prime example. She completely burn up through singing.

------ You say to sing with your body?

Yes. Using entire body to vocalize.

------ Did you study that sort of singing style with Mrs. Kupfer? You did not have any previous examples to follow.

I've learnt everything from Mrs. Kupfer. I once took a two-weeks course with Schwarzkopf but it did not work out for me. [Suddenly he chokes his throat and imitates Schwarzkopf's singing style.] She pressed my head and told me to lower my under jaw. She gave me a rough time. Adding insult to injury, her lesson had a big ticket and I did not have much money those days. [He laughs.] Technically, I did not learn anything from her.

------ I heard that you like Wunderlich.

He is my singing idle. His vocalization is very natural. His voice comes from the depth of his heart and not from the calculation in his head. The voice of Schwarzkopf derives from the complete calculation of every single sound, doesn't it?

------ It has been ten year since you have made a debut. Are there any changes in your voice?

There sure are. Now my voice has more power and a wider range. I seldom listen to my own records because I find my old recordings are disappointing. I hate the moment when I must listen to the recordings after I've made them. But I love to act on the stage. That is why I prefer people who come to my stage over those who listen to my records.

------ You will be back to Japan with the Viennese Staatsoper in September. I hope Kleiber will conduct.

Oh! How I wish he would. He is my most favourite conductor. But what shall I do if he does not like my singing?

------ I think you have nothing to worry with that voice. I am sure he will like it.

Interviewer and reporter: Yuko Idotani

Born in 1954 in a suburb of the former east Berlin. After working at the Berlin Staatsoper as a prop man, he studied at Hanns Eisler College of Music as a tenor. He was discovered by Marianne Fischer Kupfer (wife of the director Harry Kupfer) and switched to male alto. He has been a member of the Komische Oper since 1983.

He made his debut with "Giustino" by Harry Kupfer's production. His debut at the Royal Opera with "Orfeo ed Euridice" created a sensation. Thereafter, he made his debut at the first class opera houses all over the world with repertoire such as Orlofsky for "Fledermaus", the title role for "Giulio Caesare", Oberon in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and Farnace for "Mitridate, Re di Ponto". In 1993, he sang for "L'Incoronazione di Poppea" at the Saltzburg Festival. He will sing Orlofsky for "Fledermaus" again in Japan with the Viennese Staatsoper in 1994. He loves to watch theatre plays and movies. He likes "Seven Samurai" by Kurosawa. He is still single.
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