Conductor  Marek  Janowski

Two Conversations with Bruce Duffie


janowski


Born in 1939 in Warsaw and educated in Germany, Marek Janowski’s artistic path led him from Assistant positions in Aachen, Cologne, Düsseldorf and Hamburg to his appointment as General Music Director in Freiburg im Breisgau (1973-75) and Dortmund (1975-79). Whilst in Dortmund, his reputation grew rapidly and he was invited to conduct in many of Europe’s leading opera houses. There is not one world-renowned opera house where he has not been a regular guest since the late 1970s, from the Metropolitan Opera New York to the Bayerischer Staatsoper Munich; from Chicago and San Francisco to Hamburg; from Vienna and Berlin to Paris.

Marek Janowski stepped back from the opera scene in the 1990s in order to concentrate on the great German symphonic repertoire. He now enjoys an outstanding reputation amongst the premier orchestras of Europe and North America and is recognised for his ability to create orchestras of international standing as well as for his interpretation of the core German repertoire.

Between 1984 and 2000, as Musical Director of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Marek Janowski took the orchestra to a position of pre-eminence in France, as well as abroad. From 1986 to 1990, in addition to his position in France, Janowski held the title of Chief Conductor of the Gürzenich-Orchester in Cologne and between 1997 and 1999, he was also First Guest Conductor of the Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. From 2000 to 2005 Janowski served as Music Director of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, and from 2001 to 2003 he also held the position of Chief Conductor with the Dresdner Philharmonie.

Marek Janowski has made many recordings over the past 30 years, including many complete operas and symphonic cycles, many of which have been awarded international prizes. To this day, his recording of Richard Wagner’s complete tetralogy the Ring Cycle with the Staatskapelle Dresden (1980-83) remains one of the most distinguished and musically interesting recordings that has been made of this work. His recent Bruckner cycle with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, recorded for Pentatone has also been accorded high praise.



Contained on this webpage are two interviews with Marek Janowski.  Both were held in Chicago while he was conducting at Lyric Opera.  The first one was done in October of 1980, on the day before the first performance of the new production of Lohengrin, and centered on Wagner.  The second took place a year later, and was mostly about Richard Strauss. 

Material from the first interview was published in two issues of Wagner News early in 1981, and portions of each interview were aired several times on WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago.  This presentation contains both of the entire conversations.

Being a very articulate man, I have left many of his interesting choices of words and some of the Germanic style structures he used.  Though helping him slightly here and there, this transcript accurately reflects the thoughts and enthusiasm which Janowski poured out during our meetings. 


Marek Janowski:    I'm going to give myself a picture of Chicago in the next days following the first performance.  The rehearsal period is very hard work because it's much less time than in Germany for such a production.  The rehearsals have to be very dense.

Bruce Duffie:    How much time do you have here?

MJ:    It's more or less just a fortnight or so.  The German system is quite different from here, of course.  The whole thing would take at least four weeks or so.  But German theaters have performances each evening, so it's completely different from here. 

BD:    How about the advance preparations?

MJ:    That's very good.  Both groups
chorus and orchestramade a big impression.  Very professional attitude, very cooperative, very disciplined.  It was a joy to work with them.  Really.

BD:    So all the preparation is done before opening night.  Is there any more rehearsal or touch-up after the show has opened?

MJ:    No, normally not.  It can happen when one of the principal artists gets sick, but there is nothing planned.  It is not necessary. 

BD:    Do you have much call to replace a singer because of illness or other indisposition?

MJ:    [Chuckles]  I hope not.  It depends on such a lot of things.  Just in the last days here in Chicago, it's sunny but it's getting colder.  We had a few days last week when it was very cold and such changing of temperatures is a big problem for the singers, of course.  Touch wood [taps table] nothing will happen. 


Marek Janowski at Lyric Opera of Chicago

1980 - Lohengrin - with Johns, Marton, Martin, Roar, Sotin, Monk; Oswald (dir & sets)

1981 - Ariadne auf Naxos - with Meier/Rysanek, Johns, Schmidt/Minton, Welting, Gordon, Negrini; Neugebauer (dir), Messel (sets)

1984 - Frau ohne Schatten - with Marton, Johns, Zschau, Nimsgern, Dunn, Doss; Corsaro (dir), Chase (sets)

1985-86 - Miestersinger - with Stewart, Johns, Patrick, Johnson/Wells/Griffel, Graham, Kuebler, Kavrakos, Del Carlo, Kaasch; Merrill (dir), O'Hearn (sets), Tallchief (ballet)

1996-97 - Zauberflöte - with Lopardo, Norberg-Schultz, Bär, Kodalli, Selig/Moll, Siena/Cangelosi; Everding (dir), Zimmermann (sets)

--  Names which are links, both in this box and in the text below, refer to my interviews elsewhere on this website.  BD 


BD:    Tell us a little about Lohengrin.  Is this the first Wagner that you've conducted?

MJ:    No, no.  It's not the first Wagner that I've conducted.  This Lohengrin is my fourth or fifth new production of this piece.  I have conducted it often, but new productions this year have included one in Orange in southern France with Everding at the open-air theater with 14,000 people.

BD:    How is the balance in a place with 14,000 people?

MJ:    It's one of the real acoustic miracles of Western Europe.  It's an amphitheater, and you can listen even in the last row upstairs to one violin playing pianissimo.  The acoustic circumstances are really fantastic!

BD:    How are the acoustics on the stage for the singers?  Can they hear the orchestra?

MJ:    It's not easy, but if you get used to this circumstance it works quite well.  The distances are terrible.

BD:    I would think that in a regular house, where the voice comes back to the singer, they'd be more confident.

MJ:    There it doesn't come back, but in a very strange way you get used to it.  Everding tried to stage the Swan Chorus
a very difficult part for the chorus in the first act where Lohengrin appears by dividing them into two groups just standing in front of one another at a distance of maybe 80-100 meters.  We thought that would be impossible, that it could not work acoustically together, but it worked perfectly!

BD:    The back chorus didn't have to anticipate the beat?

MJ:    Nothing.  It was OK.  Then I've done Lohengrin quite a few other times, so I've developed experience with the difficulties of the piece.  Apart from the Dutchman, which I've only done occasionally, I've done all of the Wagner operas quite often in the last years.

BD:    Even the Ring?

MJ:    Yes, even the Ring lots of times, and I'm going to record the Ring in the next four years with the Staatskappelle Dresden.  This will be the first digital Ring recording, starting with Rheingold, and during the next three and a half years the rest.  I've done Parsifal, and I've done Tristan, Tannhäuser...

BD:    Can you reveal a few details about the Ring or is it a closely guarded secret?

MJ:    No, it's known to the Western European public.  The cast will be Theo Adam as the Wotans, Schreier will be Loge and the Siegfried Mime, and Kollo as both Siegfrieds.  Hagen is not yet cast because it will be recorded until '83, and you must first be very careful about casting that role too soon because of vocal development that you wouldn't like.  Brünnhilde with be Jeannine Altmeyer
her first.  She is coming to this role. 

BD:    I had an impression of Altmeyer as being lighter
more an Elsa, perhaps.

MJ:    No, no.  In the last two years she's changed in lots of aspects.  She was supposed to sing in this current season her first Isolde at Stuttgart but she didn't want to do it.  She and Eva Marton possibly will be, in a few years, the two
solutions to this role.  Marton is also thinking about the whole thing very cautiously, very carefully, but I think she will be one of the possibilities also.  But Altmeyer has decided to accept this Ring.

BD:    For the recording studio only?

MJ:    Always after the recordings there will be a concert performance with the cast in Dresden.  Sieglinde will be Jessye Norman, which I think is a marvelous solution vocally, and Alberich will be Nimsgern.  Rheinmaidens will be Lucia Popp, Hanna Schwarz, and a young unknown singer from East Germany, so the whole cast could be really something.

BD:    It sounds exciting.  Is there a difference in preparing operas for recordings and for the stage?

MJ:    Firstly, it should not be.  When you make artistic considerations concerning general views of interpretation of the piece, it should not.  But then when you know which very specific problems are connected with a recording, you should have an idea or you should have a second view on the piece that's not so much concerned with a production as an opera, but with certain details about appealings of voices to a tape or not.  Then the whole thing gets a second aspect, which is different from the aspect of interpretation.  That needs a certain experience in operatic recordings.  I don't know if I have enough, but I've done some recordings and that's perhaps a help.  The whole thing is a tremendous task, a very big general problem.

BD:    Do you find recordings satisfying?

janowskiMJ:    Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  I hope it will be satisfying in the way we are planning this recording of the Ring.  There are some problems not solved yet in digital recording concerning edits.  Cutting and putting a tape together the normal way is not possible, so for this production we have worked out another system of producing it, and I hope it will work.  With the complete technical recording machines at work, I will do quite a lot of orchestral rehearsals before the sessions.  So during these rehearsals we can find out any balance problems.  Apart from a few places, there are no problems with ensemble singing
only the Rheinmaidens, the Valkeries, and the chorus in Götterdämmerung.  Otherwise you can put the voice on the balanced orchestra.  There is only one person singing, so the balance can be set up this way.

BD:    Will you be laying down an orchestral
‘track’ and adding the voices later???

MJ:    No, no!  We will be preparing the full orchestra to a nearly perfect standard concerning the tape with the orchestra.  Then we propose that we should produce in one session of 3 to 3 1/2 hours about half hour of music.  One run-through, perhaps a second one correcting some things, and a third one and that's it.  Not the way of recording in small pieces of 2 minutes or so and putting it together and praying to God that it works, but having larger parts in the way of more going through it.  I hope very much that this will be a big help to keep the thing alive.

BD:    More or less performing an entire scene?

MJ:    More or less, yes.

BD:    That should work better for the singers and for the orchestra.

MJ:    We hope so.

BD:    There will be the recording, then a concert.  How will that concert differ from the recording?

MJ:    It will not differ at all.  It's the same cast of course.  Perhaps in the three larger operas there might be just a day of rest or so before the concert, then just a concert of the piece that has just been recorded.

BD:    Presenting to the world your full conception?

MJ:    Ja, ja, more or less.

BD:    Just a hypothetical question.  Suppose that someone goes to the performance, then later buys the record and says that it's not the same at all?

MJ:    Well, I don't know . . .

BD:    What I'm asking is, how much of the recording is controlled by the engineers and the producer, and how much say-so do you have?

MJ:    A difficult question; difficult to answer.  I hope that this way of taping
by doing more or less scenes in a session it should be and will be as close as possible to a straight-through performance.  I hope that very much.  I can't guarantee it, but hope it will be very close.

BD:    What is the future of operatic recording(s)?  If there is a perfect performance of a work, do you think it sets up an impossible standard to achieve in the opera house?

MJ:    That's the danger; that's the problem.  In Europe and in America there is one basic misunderstanding of what a recording should be.  There is a terrible mixing up of an artificial product to put it in competition with a live going-on thing.

BD:    They should be two separate things?

MJ:    I think so.  My personal opinion is that even the most perfect recording cannot give you
and should not give you that what you get when you are in an audience with 1,000 or 2,000 other living people observing a living and going-on performance, and not sitting isolated at home with your quadro and stereo machines and just one point in the room where it is acoustically perfect.  It's never in a normal performance; there is no place that is acoustic perfection.  You have a surrogate, an artificial surrogate of a thing that's not alive.  Of course recordings have done a lot, brought a lot of really marvelous development to musical things.  Orchestras have improved fantastically since recordings exist.  We have a tremendous development of precision and control.

BD:    So we strive even more toward this perfection?

MJ:   
‘Perfection’ can be a bad word, but not always.  It is generally a bad word.  It's something, perfection.  In my opinion, recordings should be a means of informing people about a piece.  It is not a piece.  I don't want to say a ‘live’ performance, but a living performance sometimes can be a piece.  For me, personally, a recording never can be a piece.

BD:    It loses something being stamped in plastic?

MJ:    Oh, ja!  I think so.  It's really terrible that living artists are playing against our recordings.  Our recordings are threatening ourselves, and it's sometimes not very easy to get around with this.  There are some artists who are super-perfect in recording and much less perfect in doing things live.  The young people who listen
the ‘fans’don't really realize how different these two levels of bringing music to people is.

BD:    Two completely different things.

MJ:    Yes, I think so.

BD:    And they should both exist?

MJ:    Oh yes, nothing against it.

BD:    What about taking the recordings one step farther and putting an opera on film?  Does this bring it closer to the real thing, or is it still a plastic non-living entity?

MJ:    I think also a film is not essentially living theater.  It's the photography of living theatre.  It's very close to it, like a good photo of your face is very very close to your face and can show you something that's behind your skin, but it is not your face.  But just as recordings do, films of opera could bring thoughts and thousands of people closer to that which we call operatic music.  It makes it more popular, more
‘democratic’that's a mis-used word often.

BD
:    More universally accepted?

MJ:    Yes!  No longer belonging only to the upper classes.  It could always be a help to bring people closer to it, but listening to a real going-on performance at a distance of 50-100 meters or so is a completely different thing.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    How would you go about bringing Wagner to someone who has never heard an opera or never heard a Wagner opera before?  What kind of advice would you give?

MJ:    If he is interested in music but not having heard Wagner, I would tell him very much not to get his first contact with things like Meistersinger or Tristan or Parsifal or the Ring pieces.  I would tell him to observe the line that starts with middle or later Beethoven
Fidelioacross Carl Maria von WeberFreischutz and Euyranthe...

BD:    Not Oberon?

MJ:    Less
not concerning the quality but only the way of the development that leads to Wagner.  Then try to get a connection either to Tannhäuser, Holländer or Lohengrin.  These are early or middle pieces, depending on how many sections you put on Wagner's life.  The Dutchman perhaps as a revolutionary piece is slightly left apart.  You can find a more earlier ‘German’ style in the Tannhäuser and more Italian, French (Meyerbeer) way of handling the voices in Lohengrin.  Of course the very popular themes in it could give a certain appeal to these pieces to an interested new music listener.

BD:    It's a way of bridging?

MJ:    Yes, that's it.  But Wagner has presented an orchestral-musical presentation of what he thinks a miracle should be in Lohengrin.  It's fantastic; the Prelude to Act I, for instance, or other places where Lohengrin appears.  The divided high violins is a fantastic thing.  When a person has gotten more or less familiar with this style, then I would tell him to try listening to Meistersinger, or try Tristan
but that's a masterpiece and it's difficult to hear really.  Well, Meistersinger perhaps, or Walküre.  That could be the next step.

BD:    So you're saying to come to it gradually?

MJ:    That way, really.

BD:    Then you're really urging people to come to Wagner the way Wagner came to himself!

MJ:    I would say so, yes.  It's very evident and very important that people who are interested in this sort of music should know Wagner's roots.  The better ones are Beethoven, whom he admired tremendously, and Weber whose pieces he knew very well.  Euryanthe is just the same subject as Lohengrin, and musically the bad couple
Friedrich and Ortrudhas its model in Euryanthe, and Wagner knew it very well.  The things that were important for Wagner were in the French/Meyerbeer line, and the other line is Beethoven/Weber, helping Wagner to find his style. 

BD:    Meyerbeer is certainly more grandiose.

MJ:    Ja, ja!  And these two lines come together somewhere between Rienzi and Lohengrin.  He found himself by being concerned with these two lines.  I can't say more than
‘concerned’.

BD:    Is there any antecedent from Bellini?  I know Wagner worked with Norma.

MJ:    As you know he admired it very much.  I've said Meyerbeer line, but that is very general.  If you insist on asking me on Bellini, I think there are lots of parts in Lohengrin that demonstrate not the virtuoso line of Bellini lines, but the more deeply lyric line.  There are parts of the great Norma/Adalgisa duet that are very close to the Lohengrin Bridal Chamber Scene
not in the musical theme and not in the basic musical attitude, but in the leading vocal line.

BD:    What about the early works of Wagner
do they have a place in the modern repertoire?

MJ:    I wouldn't think so.

BD:    If you were asked to conduct Feen or Liebesverbot, would you?


janowski


MJ:    I was just asked to do a concert performance of Liebesverbot in Berlin in 1984, and I wouldn't.  I would with a very good cast, and I have done Rienzi in a concert performance but not onstage.  There are some places in Rienzi which really show what would come or could come.  The overture and some scenes are fantastic.  Not very skillful handling of the orchestration, but it shows something that would come in Tannhäuser and Lohengrin, but not at all in the way of the later pieces.  There is a real transformation in Wagner's style completely after Lohengrin.

BD:    Is there any point in finishing up Die Hochzeit, or would that just be a curiosity?

MJ:    I would say no.

BD:    How much influence on you as a conductor are the prose writings, the polemical writings of Wagner?

MJ:    There is some importance in a historical or semi-philosophical view.  It can or could describe a personality that was never at peace with itself
always thinking and trying to change his mind on some problems.  I know what's behind your question and I want to be very careful especially for those who study the prose works, not to mix them up with what he wrote later.  It's a very difficult question and I'm very cautious.

BD:    It seems to me that Wagner contradicts himself occasionally -- especially by the time you get to Parsifal.

MJ:    Yes.  Not only musical aspects but in philosophical and general artistic aspects, he's one of the most sparkling figures of the whole western cultural history.

BD:    Do you regard him as a giant?

MJ:    Yes, in a way, yes, I do so.  In Parsifal, lots of places in the Ring.  The Tristan third act, for me, belongs to the ten most important musical events we've had in the last 300 years.

BD:    Do you find this kind of depth in any other composer?

MJ:    In other ways, of course.  Mozart's Don Giovanni is far away from Wagner, but concerning depth there are some places in Così Fan Tutte, and in a more popular way of depth in the Magic Flute.  Very close to Wagner are some parts of Fidelio and the 9th Symphony that's very close to it.  Perhaps in only talking about stage music, it's in Monteverdi.

BD:    Do you think there's a place for Monteverdi in today's repertoire?

MJ:    I think so, but about Gluck, to be honest, I'm doubting.

BD:    You'd replace Gluck with Monteverdi?

MJ:    That's a very personal opinion.

BD:    Do you think Monteverdi can be done in the larger houses such as Chicago?

MJ:    No.  I wouldn't.  You can; you can arrange it but I wouldn't tell people to do it in such a theater.

BD:    But if they approached you with a workable idea, you might participate?

MJ:    Ja.

BD:    If you were doing a Monteverdi work, would you try to get
‘authentic’ instruments, or would you use modern ones?

MJ:    Both.  I would say the authentic ones have a good aspect to show it as has been done hundreds of years ago, but, for instance, we don't play Beethoven sonatas on a hammerklavier at this time.

BD:    Sometimes there's a recording of one.

MJ:    Of course sometimes it is done, but generally we play Mozart piano concertos on normal instruments and we do the St. Matthew Passion in big halls.  The circumstances of these older centuries is very different; the rooms were much smaller and the whole thing was not so big as we do them today.  The approach of doing everything very originally is OK in that it demonstrates something to you, but it's not at all sacrilegious to do a masterpiece in the instrumental surroundings of your time.

BD:    You feel Monteverdi would approve of using modern instruments and modern stage techniques?

MJ:    Yes, yes.  I think so.

BD:    What about versions
for instance right now in Chicago we have Boris in the original version.  Would you prefer doing that kind of thing or the Rimski edition or the Shostakovich version?

MJ:    That's a very personal question.  I know all three versions.  I would think that now one should not do the Rimsky-Korsakov version.  I wouldn't, but to answer it very personally I would say I prefer doing the Shostakovich version because he was slightly more skillful in handling the orchestra.  It is very, very close to the original thoughts that come out of the original score, but were not handled so skillfully by Mussorgsky.

BD:    Is there a place in the opera house or the concert hall for performance of works by minor composers?

MJ:    Difficult question.  There should be, but they are not often done.  But first you must define a bit more clearly what you mean by
‘minor’ composers.

BD:    When you do twenty works in a season, you can't do twenty masterpieces.  You must do works that have not remained in the repertoire and perhaps new works that may fail.  If an opera house asked you to do an opera by a composer that you don't think is very good, would you do it, or would you say,
No, I would rather do something else?

MJ:    Oh no, no.  If in my personal opinion I would think,
Well, it's not my special cup of tea, but it's not really a bad work, one should give it a chance once again to come before the public.  As history teaches us sometimes, you remember that for a hundred years, nothing was heard of the works of Bach.  Then when Mendelssohn gave him a new chance, we discovered what it was.  One should be very careful in saying, No, I never world . . .

BD:    Do you think there are some masterpieces lurking on the shelves someplace?

MJ:    That should be done but very rarely?  I think Weber's Oberon and Euryanthe, for instance.  For me personally, the early Verdi is not worth being done, but that is a personal view.  There are all the pieces from the early part of this twentieth century
not Schoenberg, Berg, and Webernbut Schrecker, Korngold, and such.

BD:    These should be done?

MJ:    I think so, to give them a new chance.

BD:    What about new works
world premieres?  And also, where do you think opera is going?

MJ:    To answer honestly, I don't know.  [Pauses a moment to think]  I know Ligeti pieces and Krzysztof Penderecki, but to be truthful, I am dubious about what is coming in this special kind of arts.

BD:    Just in opera, or in symphonic works also?

MJ:    In symphonic works it's perhaps easier, but in opera there are lots of pieces that are going to be written and going to be performed, but the question is what would remain for twenty or thirty or fifty years or so.  I'm slightly pessimistic, but I would be happy if in ten years I could tell you I failed in saying what I've just said!

BD:   You don't see any other giant on the horizon?

MJ:    I think a very important person is Lutosławski, a very important one.  I think Ligeti without a doubt a very, very important man.

BD:    Have you done some of his works?

MJ:    Not his stage works, but his concert pieces.  To know how Ligeti's development will go, one has to wait for it to happen.  Those are two... perhaps one or two of the younger Polish generation will become known...

BD:    You mentioned Penderecki.  Did you see his Paradise Lost which had its world premiere here in Chicago?

janowskiMJ:    Yes, in Munich.

BD:    Did you enjoy it?

MJ:    Difficult to say.

BD:    Was it done in German?

MJ:    Yes.  I would be very interested in the development of Penderecki.  You know I have conducted the recording of the Devils of Loudun!  So I know his different style
very precise very clear.  [In the recording shown at right, the central role of Jeanne is sung by Tatiana Troyanos.]

BD:    Is there any relationship between the Devils and Paradise Lost?

MJ:    No.  None at all.

BD:    Is it almost as though it were from the pen of two different composers?

MJ:    That I wouldn't say, but it's a complete changing of style.  Perhaps not a complete changing of musical attitude in its widest sense, but I don't know where this leads to, or to what end this changing will come.

BD:    What about chamber works
is there a place today for chamber operas and smaller works?  As we've said, everything today is so big...

MJ:    Well, a
‘place for’ or a ‘public for’ are two different questions!  It's difficult to answer.  There should be a place for them, and the possibility of having places and small publics should be fought for. 

BD:    Is there anything in music right now that you're unhappy with
performance styles or trends in composition or something else?

MJ:    It may be a contradiction, but I would say I really have some anxiety concerning that mound of mechanical perfection that we have achieved in producing of musical works
not just the recordings, but the performing.  I fear we are not far away from a standard of perfection that brings to us a certain real collapse of spontaneity and the human aspect of music.  Perhaps I am wrong...

BD:    Are we becoming machines???

MJ:    We would never become machines, but we appreciate machines too much, and what is philosophically behind machines.  I hope this development comes to an end someday. 

BD:    Where should we go instead?

MJ:    This point is what makes me doubtful of the development of our whole musical culture
losing the living aspects of this art. 

BD:    Are we perhaps rounding out an era?  Might we need to go to something completely new that has no relation to what we have been doing?

MJ:    Let us arrange another meeting in twenty years to continue this discussion!  [Both laugh] 

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Coming back to Wagner once more, people seem to be very passionate either one way or the other about him in a way that is unique.  No other composer seems to elicit this fierce devotion either for or against.

MJ:    It's true.  You cannot take a middle ground.  It's always either enthusiastic
“Yes!” or terrible “No!” with nothing in between.  That develops a lot of fanatic attitudes which is always dangerous.

BD:    But we find this in no other composer
not even Mozart.  Mozart certainly was a giant...

MJ:    Yes, but in a way we call
‘divine’.  I would hesitate in calling Wagner a divine giant.

BD:    Is he a mad giant?

MJ:    No, not mad, but divine means
‘God-like’, and Wagner is less and more!

BD:    Can you account for this?  Is it because of what Wagner was, or because of what we think Wagner was?

janowskiMJ:    Not in Lohengrin or Tannhäuser so much, but the two most important philosophical things in human life he brought into music
love and power.  It's involved in the second half of the last century in philosophy concerned with Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, but these two things could touch all people, more or less, or could reach them.  In a miraculous way he brought these into the music; not into the words that he used, but into the music itself.  His Wotan and Alberich portrayals really demonstrate what musical power can be.

BD:    Are Wotan and Alberich two sides of the same coin?

MJ:    [Thinks a moment]  You have asked this and I've never thought about it, but it couldn't be completely wrong what you said.  Perhaps...  [Musing on these ideas]  The aspect of power... the aspect of love in the second act of Tristan going to the third act, and the first act of Walküre, and even love and power in the second act of Parsifal...

BD:    Can they come together
love and power?

MJ:    No.  I don't think they can come really together, but they can be pointed out in one scene.

BD:    But they will still be two distinct entities?

MJ:    I would think so.

BD:    Can one person have both love and power?

MJ:    [Smiles]  What do you think?  I don't know.

BD:    I don't know either...  I'll write these down for our conversation twenty years from now.

MJ:    [Laughing]  OK.

BD:    It's fascinating.  With no other composer can we get this kind of depth.

MJ:    You're right.  And it's fascinating
all the other composers, the fellow composers and later ones all knew it!  They knew it!  You know how Verdi admired Wagner.

BD:    Did they know they were going to be overshadowed?

MJ:    Yes.

BD:    Is that why we are, at times, afraid of Wagner
because he swamps everything else?

MJ:    Partly it could be.  Perhaps.

BD:    It's the kind of discussion that can go on infinitely, and often does so in the Wagner Society.  It must be broken off to be picked up again at another time, and broken off again for there is no solution.

MJ:    But that's the later Wagner
not so much the Lohengrin and Tannhäuser, but more the later works, though Lohengrin in some places shows something of the later ideas.  The mystic aspects of Lohengrin are kinds of examples which point the way to Wagner's musical future.

BD:    If Wagner had not written anything after Lohengrin
due to his early death, perhapswhere would his place be in the firmament of operatic composers?  Would he be just another Weber?

MJ:    Perhaps, but very famous, that's for sure.  Lohengrin is a very popular thing, as is Tannhäuser, and in a way Holländer also.  He would be a very popular, very famous composer, but not at all this man who is the reason for the Wagner Society debates.  There would be no debate, or nearly nothing.

BD:    Just another major figure?

MJ:    Ja.

BD:    Can you project anything beyond Parsifal
if he had lived another 10 years or so and had written another opera?

MJ:    Can you project another piece after the Magic Flute if Mozart would have been alive?

BD:    I'd love to have more from either of these two composers!

MJ:    Right.  Some people die physically when perhaps there's nothing to come.  I can't imagine something behind Parsifal concerned Wagner.

BD:    He knew this was his last work?

MJ:    Oh no, but it appeared to be that way, and it was not wrong.  Of course it's a real pity that Mozart died at thirty-six.

BD:    Is it my greed to want more from Mozart and more from Wagner?

MJ:    [Wistfully]  No...

BD:    When Verdi was writing, he seemed to project a finality with Aïda, and later came up with Otello and Fastaff, both master-strokes.

MJ:    Ja, perhaps, as he himself thought, his only masterpieces.  Verdi was very important for operatic development and for developing a musical-dramatic aspect to bring into music, particularly some scenes in Rigoletto and Traviata, and also Ballo in Maschera; parts of these, but not the whole things.  But I'm not a great admirer of Aïda.  It has a marvelous third and fourth act, but for me, one and two are too...

BD:    Showy?

MJ:    Slightly.  Not the scenery, but yes,
‘showy’ would be right.  But I agree with you that the other two, Otello and Falstaff, are tremendous masterpieces.  But in Germany at least, Falstaff is never popular.  We have The Merry Wives of Windsor by Nicolai, with very touching music, very elegant music.  It's a nice piece, of course, but this piece beats the masterwork of Verdi very much.  Falstaff has not a chance in Germany.

BD:    I have periods of sadness when I lament the fact that Verdi never composed his King Lear.

MJ:    [Emphatically]  Right!

BD:    If he could have done Otello, then Lear, then Falstaff...

MJ:    Right, I agree. Verdi recognized that he couldn't do it.  Not for weakness, but he couldn't face this Shakespearian attitude.  That's something.  He was involved in it, but he felt he was not capable of doing it.  That closes the door on it.

BD:    Have you seen Lear by Reimann?

MJ:    Yes.  Not bad at all.  Perhaps that is one opera which could have a chance. 

BD:    I appreciate your taking the time to discuss all of this today.

MJ:    It was a pleasure. 

BD:    I hope you will come back to Chicago.

MJ:    If there is something interesting.  Then we can continue . . . . . . . . .



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One year later, Janowski was back in Chicago for Ariadne auf Naxos.  While setting up for the second conversation, we chatted about his following appearance in Chicago (three years hence, in 1984) which would be Die Frau ohne Schatten.  I mentioned that I had been waiting for a long time to see this work in the theater, and was particularly looking forward to seeing it . . . . . . . .


MJ:    It’s well worth the wait, without any question.  The second act of Die Frau ohne Schatten is the best act Strauss has ever written,
even taking into account the different parts and the different periods of his slightly changed style of composing where he has reached such depth in his musical inventions.  It’s always all over the earlier piecesnot only in opera but in the orchestra pieces until the last onesthis tremendous capability of just having found a musical idea then transforming it in all these different waysmotive, abbreviation, prolongation, things like that.  He’s the most experienced man in thisand this is not a real criticism on Strauss – but as a matter of fact, sometimes there’s certain lack of depth in it.  It’s so superficial, so brilliant in all the handling of the ideas and the really dramatic things on stage that one sometimes would like to have the same amount of depths in the musical thought.   It’s like this to me and to a lot of experienced Strauss conductors too.  But in Frau ohne Schatten, particularly in the second act, there is his real heart written in it.  It is tremendously orchestrated and it’s great.  The problem is that it’s too philosophical in the basic thoughts that made it, until the last fifteen or twenty years, even in Western Europe, impossible for that piece to get a real popular success.  This wall doesn’t exist anymore.  It’s a big hit.

BD:    Has the wall gone, or have we gone over the wall?

MJ:    [Pause for a moment]  I think we have gone over the wall.  I would say that.

BD:    It’s us, the public, that has grown?

MJ:    Yes.

BD:    Does the rest of the opera approach the level of the second act?

janowskiMJ:    Let me explain that from our normal estimated point of view of our West European experience with Strauss.   I have my doubts about it, but it is said that the third act should be slightly weaker.  They all say it, but I doubt it.  The whole hymn-like finale is perhaps a bit too, as we say, standing with both feet on the earth!  But there are things before in the third act which are really great music, without any question.  The first act possibly doesn’t have the same stringent attack, because to many things have to be explained.  The first act is about sixty or sixty-five minutes, but it takes forty minutes not to explain but to try to explain the background of the whole thing!  The last scene of the first act, for instance, when Barak comes back with the guards watching the town at the end of it, is great without any question.


BD:    The technical demands of this work are also huge.

MJ:    In every and any aspect really.  N
ot stage directing, but arranging a stage for that piece means really the whole technical possibilities of a bigger opera house are needed.

BD:    Have you seen the production at the Met?  They use the stage elevators and everything.

MJ:    No.  I did it in Dortmund, and it was really an incredible task each performance for the technical people to get the thing all done with these elevators up and down and under the stage.  So it’s very difficult, really.

BD:    Is the technical facility backstage here in Chicago good enough?

MJ:    I don’t know, but if they want to do it, they have to do it and to find a way.  As a matter of fact, the technical staff, the people who do their job there, are very, very good and very clever, very fast in solving problems and things like that.  The rehearsal situation with the orchestra will not be so easy.  Either you do it with a planned possibility to bring the whole thing to a really first-class performance, or you shouldn’t dare it.  But of course that’s not the question.  If there would be enough rehearsals for the orchestra, they would do it very well, but it’s just the amount of extra time for the unusual things.

BD:    By that time the orchestra will have played Rosenkavalier, Ariadne, several Wagner pieces, etc.  Will all of this help in the orchestra’s development of grasping the styles?

MJ:    Yes and no.  The orchestra here is really experienced.  It is very tricky in handling Italian style, and they do that very well.  When they are well rehearsed, then they can play very well, but the Strauss and Wagner style in general is not so close to the general American orchestra’s attitude of playing.  What we have with the best European orchestras is the combination of a tremendous demand of precision with a certain relaxed attitude to that precision, and they don’t have here yet.  They want to make it very precise and they wish to push a thing just in the right direction.

BD:    So with a bit more experience they’ll become more relaxed?

MJ:    That’s it.  Ariadne nowadays is extraordinary example for this.  They have played all the performances really very, very good without any question.  They have done a marvelous opening night, and were very precise in every small detail.  That was very, very good.  They worked hard and with patience, and rehearsed with a lot of energy and had a fine result.  We have now just had the fifth performance and it’s always growing.  They regard me and with each performance I am conducting them less, less, less.  It makes it more risky for them to play, and that leads now, after a couple of performances when they know what the other people are doing around them
which for such a chamber music piece is very important – they are much more relaxed.  At the last two performances – last Saturday and Tuesday – they come closer and closer to that way of being not to terribly precise.  You know what I mean?  It has to remain precise but a bit...  [pauses to think a moment]

BD:    So it’s not forced?

MJ:    That’s it!  The tradition here is much more concerned about and with Italian opera.  If they would do during each year at least two productions of German opera, they would possibly build this up.  For Mrs. Fox, very much the first, the most important thing has been the Italian opera style.  If it changes a bit like this, it would help very much to improve the basic preparation for German opera.

BD:    Do you see the repertoire being a little more adventurous now under Ardis Krainik?

MJ:    Could be.  I hope very much that the two papers here of the town, with their official comments on repertoire and how to build up a season, would encourage her very much to take these steps now.   That could be possible.

BD:    Is the Lyric in a position to do things like Lulu?  [Lyric would present its first production of Lulu during the 1987-88 season with Catherine Malfitano, Jacque Trussel, Victor Braun, and Evelyn Lear as Countess Geschwitz (!), conducted by Dennis Russell Davies.]

MJ:    Without any question, without any question. 

BD:    I just wonder if the public in Chicago ready for Lulu?

MJ:    Well, let’s come back again to Ariadne, which, apart from Munich and even in Vienna, as we say, is not a box-office thriller, and has its problems.  It’s a big success here.  The people who come really like it.  They love it.

BD:    We’ve had Rosenkavalier twice, and it did very well both times.  W
e’ve had Salome and Elektra, of course, and now you’re looking at Frau ohne Schatten.  What are some of the other Strauss works that should be done here?

MJ:    If you’ve had Salome and Elektra, and if you’ve had Rosenkavalier for the second time, the next step is precisely right in trying to get something like Frau ohne Schatten.  I agree to you without any question that should be the next step.  It should not be Arabella, which is much weaker than Rosenkavalier and very close stylistic to it.  Then if you have done Frau ohne Schatten, you should really risk one of the very late things ...

janowskiBD:    Like Die Schweigsame Frau?

MJ:    You should come to this later.  We are not talking about comedy pieces, just important pieces of Strauss.  Think about Daphne and Capriccio, these two things.  It’s very demanding for the public but they are both great pieces. 

BD:    If you were to do Capriccio, would you say that it should be done in English?

MJ:    Yes, I would say so, and I would say so also to the comedy part of Strauss’s operas.  You should do a Schweigsame Frau in English.  With such a girl as Ruth Welting, for instance, she must do that. 

BD:    She’d make a great Aminta!

MJ:    Extremely well!

BD:    Where do we find a bass for Sir Morosus?

MJ:    That could be very difficult, it could be really very difficult.  For it to be first-class, around Europe it’s only Kurt Moll and Matti Salminen who do it.

BD:    Who is on your recording?

MJ:    Theo Adam.  He wouldn’t do it anymore now.  These three are really the leading people.  There might be others... Could be from the quality of the voice, I don’t know.  I must find out about that; the type I can judge, but I like the quality of the voice of your American Paul Plishka.  He is a great bass with a wonderful warm timbre, but I have no idea how he is as a comedian really. 

BD:    You need a comedian but you can’t just pluck out any old Don Pasquale.

MJ:    Nichts, nichts!  It’s a real, very, very heavy vocal role.  It needs a first-class bass and no ‘comic-buffo’, or something like that.  You’d need to have voice really.

BD:    So you’re making a distinction between a comedian and a buffo?

MJ:    Yes, in the aspect of Fach.  A buffo very often is the bass with a small, weaker voice.


BD:    Coming back to this problem of doing things in English, why was the decision made not to do the Prologue of Ariadne in English here in Chicago? 

MJ:    As a matter of fact, I think it hadn’t been really discussed.  When I signed this contract, it was just last year when I was here in Lohengrin.  There were all these troubles fixing the season and talking about the cast and that’s it.  Then the change in the management came, and the casting was more or less really done.  While I was in Europe I thought about that, and with most of the cast it would not have been a problem.  If I would do it abroad again somewhere, I really would try to talk with the management very early about making the Prologue in the local language.  It would mean, though, that you lose some of these beautiful untranslatable things that have Hofmannsthal-style rhythm, which can exist only in German, of course.  You cannot really do it well.  I’ve thought about that and it would be very tricky.  It would be a real loss of high-developed German literature.  It’s very special and very uncommon, even to Germans.  The duet of Zerbinetta and the Composer at the end of the Vorspiel is just an artificial play with words that you cannot understand as a foreigner.

BD:    I was talking to Timothy Nolan [who was singing the role of Harlequin] and he said he was going into a production where the Prologue was going to be in English, and also in the comedians
parts of the opera.  Do you think that’s too much?

MJ:    Let me just think about it.  [Thinks for a moment]  No, that wouldn’t do.

BD:    How do you feel about the original version of Ariadne?  Does it stand up as a piece itself?

MJ:    No, no, no, no.  They try it from time to time in Germany, but it’s always a flop.  Who could sing that Zerbinetta then?  The whole thing is one tone higher and the work itself is ten minutes longer.

BD:    They did a concert performance with the Boston Symphony for Beverly Sills a number of years ago. Erich Leinsdorf conducted.

MJ:    Well, okay yes.

BD:    So it then becomes sort of an occasional piece for a star soprano?

MJ:    Yes, I would say so.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    I assume you have done Salome and Elektra?

MJ:    Yes.

BD:    I have this impossible dream of seeing a double-bill of those two together.  Am I crazy?

MJ:    [Very long pause to think]  Not from the question of time for the evening.

BD:    But from the question of intensity?

MJ:    It’s the intensity, or better to say the tension of both pieces could be possibly too much. 

BD:    Would you ever get involved in a production where you did something else with Salome, like Gianni Schicchi or something similar?

MJ:    That I wouldn’t do.  You could think about a real contrast along a double-bill evening.  For instance, Bluebeard of Bartók.  It just takes an hour or so and is a mystery.  But if you do Elektra, without any question that must be the second piece of that performance, and that could possibly kill all the Bluebeard in your mind.

BD:    So really they should just stand alone?

MJ:    Yes, that’d be better.  Daphne is just the same thing.  It is one hour-forty.

BD:    When you do Capriccio, do you do it in one piece or two.

MJ:    It depends.  Very often the management are the people who want it to be performed.  As a connoisseur of that piece, I would always prefer to do it without a break.  As a matter of fact, it’s the truth that Strauss wanted the break.  When it could be first performed were the War years, and it was always dangerous to keep people very long in the night in the theatre.  That’s the real reason.  Very few people know that.  I know that from the first stage ‘chef’ of Capriccio, Rudolf Hartmann, who did all these Strauss first performances.  It’s the truth about that, not having a break in the score was to shorten the whole for half an hour to let the people get home earlier.  It’s this reason, nothing else.

BD:    So then it’s two and a half hours, and they go home?

MJ:    That’s it.  I’ve done it without break and I’ve done it with break.  With break is much more relaxing for the people, the normal people.  It’s basically a without-break piece.  It’s very demanding, but Rheingold is the same thing.  It’s two-twenty and people stay there also without a break.

BD:    I guess the people who go to Rheingold are used to sitting through Wagner performances.  They think of Götterdämmerung and Parsifal, whereas the Strauss people are more accustomed to even the longest being Rosenkavalier.  When you do Rosenkavalier, do you put any cuts in it at all?

MJ:    There are lots of so-called traditional cuts, and all these vocal things have to be handled with care really.  I’m very careful in making Rosenkavalier cuts.  I wouldn’t like at all the cuts around the final scene of the second act.  I would very much prefer to have all this uncut.   You have to have some cuts in the third act without any question, really for dramatic reasons.  But I never do all the so-called traditional and sometimes very provincial cuts that they have.  It would be interesting to have it really once without any cuts, but that would demonstrate some weaker points in the third act
not from Strauss but from Hofmannsthal.


janowski


BD:    Let me ask about Die Liebe der Danae.  Where does that fit into the canon?  It was taken up to the dress rehearsal in ’44, so it really dates from that period, even though it didn’t get a premiere until ’52.

MJ:    Yes, that is right.  Until now I’ve never conducted it, but I’m going to conduct it in a concert performance next February in Paris with the Orchestre National.  It’s the first performance in France at all of that piece.   It has weaker parts in it, and then it’s got some splendid things.  It’s not really scheduled now, but we possibly could record the whole thing in ’83 in Berlin.  It’s just been talked about for a very long time, really years ago.  It was an idea of EMI, who are nowadays in terrible financial problems.  When you record such pieces as Schweigsame Frau and Capriccio, that’s not a sure bet to sell.  It is a must for all the ‘knowing people’ but you can’t really earn money with it.  They hesitated for a very long time, and I think it’s just in these months they are coming back to that idea to do that.  It would be possibly done in Berlin in the early summer of ’83 with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra.

BD:    Concert performance and the recording altogether?

MJ:    Of course, yes.

BD:    Is there any point ever in doing Friedenstag again?

MJ:    Well, could be, but not me.  That’s not my cup of tea!

BD:    What about the very early ones?

MJ:    Feuersnot?  No.   I don’t know Guntram, only excerpts of it, but I know Feuersnot.  It shows the footsteps to develop his experience in how to handle an operatic idea. 

BD:    One other piece of Strauss has always fascinated me – Des Esels Schatten (
The Donkey’s Shadow).   Do you know that work at all?

MJ:    No, I don’t know it.  There are quite a number of things that Strauss has written for vocal with piano which are really never done.

BD:    Oh, like Enoch Arden.  There is a recording of that with Claude Rains and Glenn Gould.

MJ:    Yes, indeed, yes, which is very strange.  There’re lots of undiscovered things.

BD:    The Chicago Symphony Chorus did Tageszeiten recently.

MJ:    Yes, was interesting?

BD:    Yes, it was a nice piece I thought.  Strauss is fascinating.  Did he live too long?  Did he live beyond his imagination?

MJ:    No!  You can say yes but I love Strauss.  I feel very close to him.  I admire the general handling of the orchestral material in his early days and in his last days really.  I
n such things as Metamorphosen for the twenty-three string players or the Oboe Concerto, all the last pieces and the Four Last Songs demonstrate for me that he didn’t live too long.

BD:    One of the early pieces that I love is the Serenade in Eb.

MJ:    Very nice piece.

BD:    I played contrabassoon in that one time, and it’s just marvelous.

MJ:    Wonderful, it’s marvelous. The Serenade is a very good piece, incredibly, fantastically written piece.  The Metamorphosen is a piece of half an hour or so, written as a result of when he saw Munich destroyed.  That was the reason for writing it.  At the end of the Second World War, he saw the broken opera house and all the important buildings destroyed by the War.  He was so depressed so he wrote this piece.  It’s not a thing for just normal music lovers.  There’s so much depth in it and so much experience and skillfulness in handling the counterpoint.  It’s great music, it’s marvelous.

BD:    What is the relationship of the tone poems to the operas?

MJ:    [Thinks for a moment]  It’s dangerous to say, but I really think all the world’s successes of Don Juan and Till Eulenspiegel were only preparation.  Opera was his job, you know.  The best parts of the tone poems were very talented preparation to what’s coming with the operas.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    How’s your Ring coming along?

MJ:    Walküre was done in Dresden just before I came here, and Rheingold has been released here.  Walküre is going to be released some month early autumn next year or so.  We will start Siegfried in February and March of next year. 

BD:    Is the recording going the way you had planned?

MJ:    Touch wood [knocks on the table] exactly.  Until now it has gone exactly as it was planned, really.  Everything on time, no cancellation, no sick singer and all these things that could happen.  Nothing like this until now but we will wait and see!   We’ve done two pieces from four but in quantity, we’ve done, let’s say a third of it now.

BD:    From your point of view as the conductor, is it working out the way you want it?  Have the recordings been made the way you envisioned?

MJ:    Yes, although it’s very hard for the conductor, that way of performing.  I would really appreciate to record only and forever under such circumstances – doing all the orchestral rehearsals in the recording studio, never another place, always there.  The whole technique is with the rehearsals.  We just rehearse this or that, and then I have them tape it.  Then there’s taken lot of time after the rehearsals just to discuss the different things and then adjusting things with the orchestra in the next rehearsal.  It’s all prepared for the technical side, and that’s a tremendous help, without any question.  For instance, in the final duet of Act I of Walküre, from when Sieglinde re-enters the stage it’s twenty-two minutes.  We have rehearsed it with the orchestra and we have rehearsed it with the singers – a rehearsal, not a tape recording
for some balance things for the technicians for about an hour or so.  Then we had a break and I discussed it with the two singers.  After the break I told the orchestra to correct a few things in balance, and then we did it.  One run through [hitting the table with joy] and that’s on the tape.  There’s no correction, nothing!  You have to be lucky of course. It can happen that there is one or other thing you have to correct, but there was nothing to correct.  That was it.  Here is another example.  We did the Fricka scene of the second act with Minton and Adam.  The whole thing is twenty-five minutes or so, which is not so difficult for the orchestra as the finale of Act One.  For that I had with her a piano rehearsal in the afternoon.  It was an evening session, and of course again it was prepared with the orchestra.  We rehearsed some thingstransitionsthen we did it once through.  There was something to correct and we had the break, and after the break we did a second version, and that was it.  After the second version we corrected one note only.  It was fabulous, fantastic really, but it cannot always be like that.

BD:    Were you lucky with the opening of the third act, with all of the Valkyries?

MJ:    We knew which sort of problems there would be for the technical people, so we arranged this.  We had all these girls who were all very well prepared.  It was going to be recorded on a Saturday, and we really planned for it two sessions
which is very much for such a thing, but with all the acoustic problems with eight voices, it’s ooooooooooooooooh, it’s very...

BD:    It is as many voices at one time as you have in the whole thing except for the chorus in Götterdämmerung

MJ:    Yes, and my assistant coached them all together on the Friday afternoon for a couple of hours to make all the musical things,
the lengths of the notes right.  Then I worked with them again with piano in the studio.  The whole time during this piano rehearsal they were placed on the stands where they had to sing it later in order to find the right balance of the voices.  So the technique really trained with this rehearsal their abilities and possibilities.  On the technical side, we found that one engineer couldn’t really do it. 

BD:    Did he run out of fingers to use on the control board?

MJ:    It’s too much, so they made a real co-production of that.  The engineer of the East German firm, who did the whole thing normally and the producer of the West German firm was a very experienced engineer also, both stood like organ players on the console.  They learned that, and we had a very short morning session.  Not three hours, not at all, and then we said it’s better to relax and we would do it in the evening.  There was just one run through and it was finished!

BD:    That was it???

MJ:    Yes, yes!  [Both laugh]  We have been very, very careful with that in planning the right circumstances, and that worked out, yes.

BD:    I hope that the rest of the cycle gets done in single takes!

MJ:    [With a broad smile]  Well, no one could predict this, but it was for me a really exciting experience.  We really fight for sticking to this way of preparing the orchestra and having all the technical possibilities around you.  This is a very good way of producing it.  This is so important because these pieces are so long.  You could sub-divide the thing into many shorter takes, but it could happen that you lose the contact with the stringendo of the whole thing.  If we do the Danae, I will insist on having the same situation.

janowskiBD:    What other recordings are in the planning stages now?

MJ:    Danae is probably the next one after the Ring.  There is some discussion of doing with the Royal Philharmonic in Liverpool a whole disc of Korngold things that have not yet been recorded.  I have done his Violanta, and they are thinking of very much about his late works like the Symphony in F#.  There exists also a very, very tricky piano concerto.

BD:    Will you do Der Ring des Polykrates?

MJ:    There’s no opera nowadays in the talks. 

BD:    Did you enjoy recording Violanta?

MJ:    Yes, very much.

BD:    You worked well with George Korngold?

MJ:    Yes.

BD:    Did he have any suggestions for you about the music?

MJ:    He always tells me things for the interpretation of the pieces, yes.  He had the one or another suggestion to bring into it because in Germany he liked the way that it was done, but he remembered the one or another place his father had said,
That’s more important. Watch out for this or that.  But he’s a nice man and he’s always trying to push me to do some other of his father’s pieces.

BD:    Will you record a disc of his films scores?

MJ:    Er, no.  I didn’t know all of them, but not really.  The F# Symphony was a very, very difficult and really good piece; very modern; not really contemporary but not that late romanticism of Tote Stadt or Violanta.  It was written much later.

BD:    Do you think these works – Tote Stadt and Violanta
could be done on the stage today successfully?

MJ:    Tote Stadt without any question would be a big success, but it really depends on stage directors.  If there’s a good staging, I cannot imagine that it is not a success.  Violanta, I think no.

BD:    Why?

MJ:    The basic dramatic display is very weak.  It’s just an opportunity to show two singers who are in very good command of their voice.

BD:    Is it a more introverted drama, or is there no drama there?

MJ:    No, it’s not introverted, it’s just cheap.  It’s a cheap, new verismo blood and love story.  That’s it!  Remember, it was composed by a seventeen year old boy.

BD:    Thank you so very much for talking with me again.  It was a great pleasure.

MJ:    And for me too.


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© 1980 & 1981 Bruce Duffie

The first conversation was recorded at the studios of WNIB, Chicago, on October 9, 1980.  The second conversation was recorded at Janowski's apartment in Chicago on October 29, 1981.  Portions of both were broadcast on WNIB in 1989, 1990, 1994 and 1999.  The Wagner sections of the first conversation were transcribed and published in Wagner News in the issues of January and March of 1981.  The transcript of that first interview was completed and re-edited in 2014, along with a transcript of the second interview, and it was all posted on this website at that time.

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.

Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.

You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests.  He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.  You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.