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The original German article is here
Berliner Morgenpost Jan. 14, 1997 Liebesbeziehung zur Schönen Müllerin

Dear relationshp with beautiful Mullerin*
Discussion with the star of the Komische Oper: Countertenor Jochen Kowalski
Reporter: Volker Blech

He is a star who acknowledges that he is gallant and non-wishy-washy Berliner. Alto singer Jochen Kowalski will appear again in the song program held at 20 o'clock on Thursday at his opera house, the Komische Oper. Franz Schubert's "die schönen Müllerin" is on the program with a piano accompaniment by Markus Hinterhaeuser. We spoke with the singer.
Berliner Morgenpost: Recently, people might have an impression that your appearance at the Komische Oper is somewhat rare?

Jochen Kowalski: I don't think so. But I am very lucky that my opera house really gives me the liberty to perform elsewhere. I was in the new production of the "Summer night's Dream" at the MET in New York for two months. During that time, Axel Köhler 1), my marvellous colleague sang my role.

BM: Which is actually more enjoyable for you, a "large" opera evening or a "small" song program?

Kowalski: Honestly said, for the moment I like the song programs better. There I am in the quite place by myself, independent of orchestra, conductor, light and costumes. In those evenings, there is a three tire intimate relationship among a singer, a pianist and a audience. It is something marvellous, if one can tell stories. Small stories, which then connect to a song cycle like "die schönen Müllerin".

BM: What is the challenge in "die schönen Müllerin" for you?

Kowalski: In a sense, it is a solo opera evening. A personal piece. It is well known that Schubert always wanted to write operas. But they were unsuccessful because of the bad texts. It is a fantastic music. Either of the two large song cycles "Winterreise" and "die schönen Müllerin" shows Schubert's talent most closely. One of my dreams is to make it scenic.

BM: What actually is the difference between a countertenor and an alto?

Kowalski: The concept is really unimportant. Countertenor comes from the English choir tradition. Behind it, there is a vibrato less singing technique which is ideal for the church music.

BM: A concert manager told me jokingly that the countertenors grow on trees in England. Why not in Germany?

Kowalski: They have a quite different music understanding from us in Germany. There each city and each larger municipality has a choir. And all alto parts are sung by young people there. In Germany, they are ashamed. As the prejudice goes: A man does not sing in such a way.

BM: How did you become countertenor?

Kowalski: For me, it was my last hope 2). I studied six years long as a tenor at the Berlin Eisler college of music. I always had the voice of Fritz Wunderlich 3) in my ears and listened my own voice recorded on a tape. There was an enormous gap. One day, I sang the Orpheus aria with a fellow student. The accompanying pianist said: My dear, you are a countertenor.

BM: Did you notice any change in your voice since then?

Kowalski: Oh yes, it became more dark and dramatic over the years. I also have to fill opera houses like the MET.

BM: Is there a dream role?

Kowalski: That is Gluck's Orfeo. I have been singing that role here at the Komische Oper with Harry Kupfer's production since 1987.

BM: Are there directors you want to work with?

Kowalski: I have a very good memory of Thomas Langoff. I find all theatre directors very exciting because they deal with singers differently. Sometimes one must stop it however, because a singer cannot repeat things hundred times like an actor. It may be done without voice. For example, I would gladly make something with Frank Castorf. That would produce a good "Fledermaus".
Translator's Note

1) He has one solo CD from Capriccio (10547) singing Händel. His song is also included in Die Welt Der Kastraten (Capriccio 10534).

2) Original comment was "Für mich war es nur ein Strohhalm." cf:German idiom "sich an einen Strohhalm klammern" grasp at a straw [like a drowning man].

3) You can listen sample clips of his wonderful tenor at Amazon.com.

© 1999 by Cleofide
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