Bass - Baritone  Tom  Krause
A Conversation with Bruce Duffie


krauseEqually successful in the fields of opera, recital, oratorio and recording, Finnish baritone Tom Krause is internationally recognized as one of the greatest vocal artists today.

He is fluent in seven languages: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish and Finnish. During a career spanning over fifty roles in the Italian, German, French, English, Finnish, Czech, Russian, and Swedish repertory including the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern, Mr. Krause has performed in most of the great opera houses of the world. He has appeared in leading roles with Milan's La Scala; Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires; Berlin Opera; Vienna State Opera; Munich State Opera; Paris Operas (theatres Garnier and Bastille); Bruxelles Opera Monnaie; Finnish National Opera; Rome Opera; Naples' San Carlo Opera; Barcelona’s Teatro Liceo; Geneva Opera; Metropolitan Opera House; Lyric Opera of Chicago; San Francisco Opera and Houston Grand Opera, as well as with the festivals of Bayreuth, Salzburg, Edinburgh, Glyndebourne, Savonlinna, Tanglewood, etc.

A frequent guest soloist in concert, the baritone has been heard regularly with the Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Boston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Montreal Symphony, Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, Orchestre National de France, Amsterdam Concertgebow, and others.

Mr. Krause has regularly shared the stage and recorded with such great singers as Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Jessye Norman, Kiri Te Kanawa, Joan Sutherland, Birgit Nilsson, Marilyn Horne, Margeret Price, Teresa Berganza, and Nicolai Gedda, as well as under brilliant conductors of our time including Bernstein, Stravinsky, Solti, Von Karajan, Mehta, Ormandy, Shaw, Ozawa, Rostropovich, Eschenbach, Conlon, Salonen, Harnoncourt and Giulini. He has worked with stage directors such as Ponnelle, Strehler, Faggioni, Sellars, Dresen, Everding, Lieberman, Menotti, and Chereau.

In 1963, after having performed the Britten War Requiem conducted by the composer, Benjamin Britten chose Tom Krause to sing the American premiere at the Tanglewood Summer Festival with the Boston Symphony, conducted by Erich Leinsdorf.  [See photo of video recording at right.]  This led to several concerts in Boston and New York City, in big concert tours throughout the USA and Canada and in 1967, to his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York as the Count in The Marriage of Figaro in a cast including Cesare Siepi, Mirella Freni, Teresa Berganza and Pilar Lorengar.  [See autographed program below.]


[Besides Krause, the signatures are Cesare Siepi, Pilar Lorengar, and Mirella Freni]

In 1968, Mr. Krause was invited by Herbert von Karajan to replace the indisposed Nicolai Ghiaurov as Don Giovanni at the Salzburg Music Festival. This led to two further performances of Don Giovanni that summer, three more in 1969, and the role of Guglielmo in a new production of Cosi Fan Tutte with Seiji Ozawa and J.P. Ponnelle that same year. Mr. Krause performed regularly at the Salzburg Music Festival for 20 years, appearing in opera, orchestra concerts and recitals. In 1969, Mr. Krause performed and recorded Elijah by Mendelssohn with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy. Then in 1970 Ormandy chose Krause for the American Premiere of the 13th Symphony by Shostakovich, and in 1971 Samuel Barber composed The Lovers, the oratorio for baritone solo and choir, for Tom Krause.  [See photo below.]


A renowned recital artist, he has given countless solo recitals in the most important cities in the U.S.A., Canada, Europe and Japan. He has also appeared in numerous television and feature films.

As one of the most prolific recording artists of our era, he can be heard in over 100 recordings. His works and recordings have awarded him numerous distinctions and prizes during his long career. His recordings of Bach with Munchinger and the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra were awarded the Bach prize. His recording of Carmen with Marilyn Horne under Leonard Bernstein received a certificate for the best opera recording of 1973 by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. His recording of the complete Sibelius songs received the Edison Prize, the Deutsche Schallplatten Prize and the Grammaphone Prize, among others.


During the 1980's, Mr. Krause started giving master classes in the U.S.A. and Europe. From 1989 to 1990 he was guest professor at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, and from 1994 to 2001, a full professor at the Music Academy in Hamburg. In 2002, he added a full professorship at the Queen Sofia School of Music, Madrid, Spain, where he chairs the vocal department. In the same year he left the stage of concert and opera. His last important opera appearance was as Moses in Schoenberg’s Moses and Aron at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo. He had started performing professionally as a popular singer in 1952, and his debut as a classical singer was in 1958 with an extremely successful recital in Helsinki.

Because of his enormous experience in all the fields of classical music and his interest in passing on his legacy of great singing, Mr. Krause is in great demand for master classes around the world and is highly regarded as a juror in the most important international singing competitions. He has frequently been head of the Jury or Jury Member at the most prestigious International Singing competitions such as Mobil Song Quest, Auckland; the Queen Sonja International Singing Competition, Oslo; the Mirjam Helin International Singing Competition, Helsinki; Queen Elizabeth Singing Competition, Brussels; the ARD Competition, Munich; the Tschaikowski Singing Competition, Moscow; International Competition of the Art of Lied, Stuttgart; the Singer of the World Competition, Cardiff; the Montreal International Singing Competition, Montreal, Canada; the Moniuszko Competition, Warsaw; etc. Mr. Krause has regularly given master classes at the Academy of Vocal Arts and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, PA; the Sibelius Academy, Helsinki; Villecroze Academie Musicale, France; Chapelle Musicale Reine Elisabeth, Brussels; Mozarteum Summer Academy, Salzburg; Encuentro Musical, Santander; the Festival Music Academy, Savonlinna; Voksenåsen Summer Music Academy, Oslo; Kusastsu Music Festival, Kusatsu, Japan; etc. He has also given master classes at the San Francisco Opera, California; the Florida Grand Opera, Miami, Florida; Schleswig-Holstein Festival; the Fifth International Congress of Voice Teachers, Helsinki; Kunitachi School of Music, Tokyo; the Nagoya School of Music, Nagoya; Poland; Portugal, Cairo, Ankara, etc.

In 1990, the Finnish State awarded Mr. Krause with the Order of the Finnish Lion - the highest award for cultural personalities in Finland. He was also given the title Kammersaenger in Hamburg for his achievements there. In recognition of his brilliant artistic contribution to his native Finland, the Helsinki University awarded Mr. Krause the title of Doctor of Music Honoris Causa. Recently he was given the Sibelius medal by the Sibelius Academy, honoring his work in music in Finland and around the world.

--  Biography slightly edited from his official website. 
--  Photos and links added for this website presentation. 
--  Links in this box and below refer to my interviews elsewhere on this website.  BD 

In addition to all of the items noted above, Krause appeared at Glyndebourne as the Count in Strauss’s Capriccio opposite Elisabeth Söderstrom under John Pritchard in 1963, and the following year was back at Hamburg as an “outstanding” Jason in the premiere of Ernst Krenek’s Der Goldene Bock (“The Golden Ram”).

Krause came to Chicago for performances on four occasions
— twice with Lyric Opera and twice with the Chicago Symphony.  At the CSO, he sang in the St. Matthew Passion of Bach in 1971 and 1987, both times conducted by Solti, with the chorus prepared by Margaret Hillis.  In the earlier year, the other soloists included Heather Harper, Helen Watts, Richard Lewis and Donald Gramm.  The later performances had Kiri te Kanawa, Anne Sophie von Otter, Thomas Moser, Hans Peter Blochwitz, and Olaf Bär.  David Schrader played the Organ Continuo.  This was also recorded at that same time for Decca/London, and Anthony Rolfe-Johnson replaced Thomas Moser. 

On the other side of the Loop (the downtown area of the Windy City), he appeared first in the 1972 Ponnelle production of Così fan tutte along with Margaret Price, Anne Howells, Urszula Kozut, Ryland Davies and Geraint Evans.  Christoph von Dohnányi conducted.  Then in 1981 (when this interview was recorded) he returned for Samson et Dalila with Carlo Cossutta, Yvonne Minton, and Dimitri Kavrakos in the principal roles.  Michel Plasson was on the podium and Maria Tallchief directed the ballet. 

It should be noted that his official website uses both ‘baritone’ and ‘bass-baritone’ at various points, so it really is not so outlandish that I would begin with the following question . . . . .

Bruce Duffie:    Do you call yourself a baritone, or a bass-baritone, or a helden-baritone, or what?

krauseTom Krause:    Oh, it depends on the occasion, I would say.   But I’m really a bass-baritone, I think.

BD:    So you do reach down there to F and E natural?

TK:    Yes, very easily actually.  I noticed when I started singing lessons many years ago, I had a deep bass voice.  It went from a low C, two octaves to Middle C, and then the voice started rising.  When I was a young singer, I had really a lyrical baritone.  But then it has been opening up the bottom very much, and I’ve done some bass parts, mainly in oratorio.  I sing a lot of oratorio and I like it very much.

BD:    I would think that first range you had, from bottom C to Middle C, would be awfully restrictive because there’s not so much repertoire there.

TK:    Of course it was impossible, but those were my first singing lessons when I was eighteen.  My first opera aria was ‘O Isis und Osiris’ from Zauberflöte.  I could go down, but I had a lot of trouble getting the high notes.  But now I’ve done several performances of the Verdi Requiem, and I find it’s a very comfortable sing for me there; no trouble at all.  I also did the Rossini Stabat Mater, which is even lower.  There you really need a big, fat, exposed F natural.  It really has to ring out, and I have no trouble with that at all.  So I’m a little bit in between.

BD:    What is the top of the range now?

TK:    I would say G.  I’m going to be singing Amfortas in a new production in Geneva, and there are a couple of Gs in that, and they have been easy to sing.  G is a very high tone for a bass-baritone but it seems to be okay.

BD:    With your range, how do you decide whether you’re going to sing Amfortas or Gurnemanz?

TK:    I think that you need a heavier sound for Gurnemanz, even a bass here.  My voice at the moment sounds rather like a bass-baritone.  I could sing it, but I started singing Amfortas, and it’s the role I enjoy the most.  It’s really my favorite role.

BD:    Tell me a little about the agony you can put into Amfortas.

TK:    I see Amfortas very much as a symbol of humanity struggling for spiritual awareness.  Of course he’s gone a bit further and has a lot of spiritual awareness.  He’s seen the light and been in a very, very high state.  But because of his lack of purity, he’s got base desire.  He talks about all this, and he’s got this terrible passion which he perceives as something extremely sinful, and it is always pulling him down.

BD:    So it’s more than just a momentary lapse, then?

TK:    Yes because he speaks about it in his big monologue in the end of the first act.  On one hand he has the Holy Grail which obviously symbolizes an entrance to the higher consciousness, enlightenment consciousness, and he knows that this is the ultimate bliss, the ultimate goal.  He feels this.  On the other hand he’s drawn to it because of his impure state, and it causes him intense agony.  That’s the way it’s presented.  He starts speaking about this, about that blood that’s continuously pouring out of his wound.  It’s also a symbol of fallen man, and all these things come to mind with this kind of role.  One can imagine Man being in a state of Grace, say, before the fall of Adam.  He might have been in a state of luminosity, in continuous contact with God and completely open to the Heavenly Spirit.  Then, through whatever happened, he fell down into this realm where we are now, or perhaps even lower.  Maybe we’ve advanced a little bit since Adam, I don’t know.  It’s hard to tell!  [Laughs]  Sometimes you wonder when you hear the news on the radio, but obviously Amfortas is the man who has struggled to reach back to get back to this.  It’s the goal of all mystics and of all serious religions to get back to that unity with God in a pure state.

krauseBD:    So he’s down at the bottom of the abyss?

TK:    He is sort of in between, you see.  It’s Klingsor who is that really going down because he has turned against all of this.  He’s become a black magician and a satanic force.  He wanted to become a saint but there was too much evil on him, so he decided then to take the other path out of rage, out of jealousy and pride.

BD:    But he’s made a success of what he’s doing!

TK:    Yes, he’s doing pretty well!  [Both laugh]  Of course it’s going to lead to complete disaster.  He’s going to land in Hell.  He’s going that way.  He is completely obsessed with hatred and all these evil things.

BD:    If you take this as the Fall of Man, perhaps Klingsor is the Devil being formed?

TK:    Yes!

BD:    So when he does eventually leave the Earth, then he becomes the Devil at the end of the world?

TK:    Undoubtedly, yes.  I see it as a symbolic expression of a certain tendency in man
— all the qualities that one may have, of intense pride and egotism and ego-mania and spitefulness.  If you don’t succeed with things, you might turn against them.  Basically satanic qualities are in most every man; not in every man, perhaps, but most people have this, and if you just blow them out of all proportion, then you get Klingsor.

BD:    The embodiment of this completely evil.   Is there nothing redeemable about Klingsor at all?

TK:    Not this point at least.  There was when he started out, but he obviously failed.  His only purpose is to ruin, to break down this beauty.  He wants to obliterate the Grail seekers.  It’s sort of like Iago in a way.  I always felt that Iago’s motivation was very simple.  He saw that Otello had greatness and light inside of him, in spite of his color, and he’s stronger.  He has this inner beauty, this inner greatness and courage, and Iago simply can’t bear to see this, and so he has to destroy it.  There are people like that who are very spiteful, who just destroy because it makes them seem so much bigger.

BD:    Do you think that Klingsor is striving to be a perfect failure?

TK:    No, he doesn’t see it as such because he sees it obviously as success in destroying these things that he hates.  He decided they’re all phonies, and anyway they didn’t want him.

BD:    So then he wants to be a perfect antagonist?

TK:    Yes.  He’s going to ruin them.  He’s going to kill them all and bring them down to as low a level as he can.   He’s definitely an extremist satanic figure, and then you have Amfortas caught in the middle.  He has bemoaned a momentary lapse.  He left himself open to being attacked when he put aside the spear, which in my mind symbolizes the spiritual power and his crucial achievement.  He put it aside in order to have his sexual, lustful enjoyment with this woman.  Of course it was Kundry.  She seduced him, and at this point he left himself open to be attacked by the very power that he had advocated, because the spiritual power can be used for black purposes.  This is also the whole theory behind magic
that you can, through certain spiritual exercises, build up a lot of power.  The power itself will be neutral, but it can be used for evil purposes, and this is what happened.

BD:    So when he lays aside the spear, he sets aside all of his ideas and his understanding and power?

TK:    Yes.  Klingsor grabs it and wounds him with that very power.   If you look at it from a Hindu point of view with a different center, they are called Chakras.  If you manage to bring the power of this ‘kundalini’ into the very highest centers, it is a very, very great power.  If this power is then taken and used for sexual purposes, it can be extremely harmful and dangerous to the body and to the whole being because it becomes too powerful for the person to bear.  I’ve read about this, but I haven’t experienced it.  [Both laugh]

BD:    If the sexual act with this person is completed, what kind of monster would come from this kind of a union?

krauseTK:    I don’t know.  If the sexual act would be banned in harmony with the higher spirits or the higher state, it would be done so that the releasing factor is love, and this is a complete act of love on all the different levels.  It probably would be great, but if there are certain elements of impurity or perversion involved, then the danger is very great.   On the other hand you have Parsifal who is ‘the pure fool’ they call him.  He’s the man who hasn’t accepted the world at all.  He has stayed in this state of purity, of innocence, although he’s not quite aware of it at the beginning.  But at the end he is actually united with the Divine Principle. 

BD:    Is he insulated from the world by not coming into any contact with it?

TK:    At first, at least, he seems to be innocent of the world.  He doesn’t know it.  He’s lived in isolation with his mother, and he doesn’t know he’s conscious.  This logical mind, this discursive mind that in our age we seem to be very endowed with, hasn’t touched him at all.  He’s like a pure principle in a way, and then he’s exposed to the world.  But his purity is such that when Kundry kisses him, he feels the pain that Amfortas has.  He feels the wound and he understands the whole thing in a flash.  Now presumably for somebody who’s utterly in a state of liberation, his joy and his ecstasy are so great that anything that would tend to pull him down would seem like a horror.  I remember once reading a book by certain mystic that all the glories of this world that we enjoy and think are so great, are really just like a garbage dump compared to the real thing, which you can reach the inner state of enlightenment.

BD:    We’re really kidding ourselves then, and we should go on to something we have no comprehension of?

TK:    That’s right.  There is the old Sufi story about the mad king who lives in the cellar or the dungeon of his palace, and he forgot that he has an incredibly gorgeous palace with fabulous parks and maybe an ocean and a lot more.  Instead he sits down in this little dark cellar, digging in this mud.  His prime minister finds the way down there and tries to remind the king about his wealth.  The king asks how to get out of the cellar and is told it will be a long and difficult path.  He then starts on this spiritual path.  Amfortas is in the unfortunate position that he knows about the palace and the wonderful things, but for some reason he’s got this terrible attachment to the mud, so he’s caught in between.  That’s the reason of his incredible suffering.  He’s also so conscious of his fall.

BD:    So it’s not just the physical agony of it?

TK:    Not at all.

BD:    It’s also the mental anguish?

TK:    Yes, mental and spiritual and emotional.  His whole being is torn apart by this, and then he has to officiate as a priest, and that puts him into deeper sorrow.  He feels he is the most unworthy of them all, and yet he has to do it.  So this all puts him into a terrible predicament.

BD:    Is there any time perhaps during the second act where you, as Amfortas, are sitting backstage, and you hear Parsifal through the house intercom singing of his sudden understanding of Amfortas
wound, and you feel some sort of twinge?

TK:    Frankly, the wait is the most difficult part of that role.  Because I must go back on in the third act, I’m usually more pre-occupied with my voice at that point than anything else. 

BD:    Does the down time weaken your later performance?

TK:    [Laughs]  Maybe!  The first act scene is a very stirring one.  It’s not so long, but it’s extremely emotional and has a huge orchestra.  You really have to give everything.  Then you sit for something like three or four hours.  It seems endless, and you just wait.  What are you going to do.  If you leave the voice alone, it’s going to go to sleep again, and then you have to revocalize it for the last act, which is again very hard.  Or you keep doing scales and things, and then you’re afraid of tiring yourself because it’s really very difficult later.  It’s much too long.  It’s nice to have a rest after you’ve had a big sing.  An hour might be good, maybe even two, but this is too much because you really just come on again at the end.

BD:    What if a producer would ask you to sing both Amfortas and Klingsor?

TK:    I wouldn’t do it; it would be heavy.  Klingsor is a very, very rough part, and I stay away from the really hard things as I don’t want to hurt my voice.  It’s very often sung by the real German dramatic baritone, the helden-baritone that’s got a very sort of ‘pang’ voice, a really sort of ‘steely’ sound.

BD:    More the Alberich-type?

TK:    Yes, oh definitely.  I do sing a lot of very lyric stuff.  I sing a lot of recitals and oratorio, and stuff where I really have to sing beautifully... at least that’s the goal, as it were.  It doesn’t mean it always works! [Both laugh]

BD:    Which do you enjoy more
— the recitals or the operaor do you have to have both?

TK:    Precisely I enjoy the variety.  For instance, when I’m through here, I go to Spain to do performances of the Brahms Requiem under Frübeck de Borgos, and after that I go to London to record some Sibelius songs.  I’m recording all the songs of Sibelius which can be sung by a male voice.  There must be close to a hundred, and I’ve been going on with that for a while.  I’m now going to do the last batch.


BD:    It’s a nice set and they should be pleased.

TK:    I hope so, yes.  I’m very curious... I’m just going to get the cassettes sent to me now and I’m very curious to see what we’ve done. 

BD:    You’re used to singing on the stage over a huge orchestra.  Is there a big difference when you sing in recital and you’re just fighting a piano which is actually behind you?

TK:    I tell the pianist, “You’re too loud!”  [Laughs]  Well, not during the concert!  I may give him a nasty look if I think he’s too loud, but at least I can tell him beforehand. 

BD:    Do you leave the lid of the piano completely down or on the small peg?

TK:    On the small peg usually, but for that we usually try out in advance to get a good balance, depending on the hall and the piano.  But there is a big difference, of course.  For instance, with this role of the High Priest that I’m singing now, it’s very harsh.  I didn’t realize it would be so.  You come out and immediately it’s very martial, and I have to be very careful that I don’t give too much. 

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    How do you cope with all the travel?  Is it very difficult for you, or do you just get used to it?

TK:    I get used to it.  It doesn’t really matter so terribly much where you are; what matters more is where you are inside of yourself.  If you’re in good state, you can be pretty happy almost anywhere.  The thing you have to come to terms with is that you spend a lot of time alone.

BD:    You wife doesn’t travel with you?

TK:    She’s coming tomorrow actually.  She’s with my daughter in Miami, but you get to spend several weeks alone sometimes. It’s not always possible, but we try to travel together as much as we can.  Sometimes it doesn’t work.

krauseBD:    Do you find that this takes a toll on you and also on your other colleagues?

TK:    Very many don’t like it, really.  It varies.  I find if my energy is good, if I’ve got a lot of energy and if I’m in a ‘together’ state, I really enjoy it.  I like being completely free to do whatever I like... within reason!  I like to have time for myself.  I find it an interesting experience.

BD:    You can read and study and meditate?

TK:    Yes, that’s right.  Of course I usually end up watching television or going to the movies or something, but potentially I have the possibility. 

BD:    How do you go about selecting roles that you sing?  We touched on this earlier.  Do you decide, or does an opera house ask you to sing a certain role?

TK:    It works both ways.  I’m offered various roles and of course I have the choice of saying yes or no.  And if there’s some role that I want to sing, I can let it be known that I would very much like to sing it, and then hopefully somebody will say okay.  There are certain places where I could ask for something.  For instance, in Geneva the Amfortas came about in such a way.  I was talking with Hugues Gall who is the director there.  He was then in Paris, and had asked me to do something which really didn’t interest me very much.  So I told him that if he would offer me something like Amfortas, that I would really like to do, and so he said okay!  So it came about like that.  And I sing a lot in Hamburg, and there I can say this is a role I would very much like to sing, and then they might say ‘Yes!’ or they might say ‘No!’

BD:    How much Wagner do you sing?

TK:    Not much really.  I stay away from Wotan and the Hollander and Sachs!

BD:    You will never touch those?

TK:    Never say never!  But I think they’re very heavy.  I don’t know if I really have the voice to do them.  I want to be careful with my voice, as I sing a lot of Mozart.  I love doing Guglielmo and the Count and Don Giovanni.  I like to sing that lighter repertoire.  It’s a lot of fun and it’s beautiful.

BD:    How do you reconcile singing Mozart and Wagner?  How do you keep them in balance in the voice?

TK:    Fundamentally, singing is really all one.  You have an instrument which consists of the resonances in your chest, mouth, and ear, and in your throat you have your vocal cords.  I don’t want to get too technical, but it’s only a question of how you fundamentally have to have a relaxed and open throat, not putting too much pressure on the mechanism as it has to flow into the resonances.  The resonances have to vibrate freely.  The more spacious you make the throat, the bigger the tone you will get, and the more you can stress the resonance then you can get a more ‘biting’ tone.

BD:    How do you focus all of this?

TK:    You want a very fine focus on the voice with all the ampleness.  It feels to me like almost like the point of a needle this point of the focus, and then that’s sort of the starting point for all the resonances to come in.  If the cords are absolutely slender and perfect, then that is there right away.  When I start warming up, I start with this point, but never pushing it, never putting any pressure on it.  I begin very gently and gradually warming it up, and then bring in as much resonance as possible.  This is the ideal state, and so you should be able to sing a huge tone with everything if you can do it without pushing.  You can immediately go back to a piano.

BD:    To sing softly without the force?

TK:    Yes.  This is the downfall of so many singers, including myself.  I tend to get carried away and start pushing.  Then you damage the voice, at least momentarily.   You lose some of that suppleness.

krauseBD:    It’s interesting because each singer describes it a little bit differently.  They all get to the same point, but they come from different roads.  Some singers always think of ‘singing into the mask’, while others focus out here [indicates an arm
s length in front of the body].  Others think of putting it on the back wall gently.

TK:    Yes, putting it on the back wall gently is very nice.  I like that, and in fact I do all of those things.  You feel like the voice is concentrated outside, and if you’re only singing outside, somehow it’s very easy and it just flows.  On the other hand, if you go too far you might forget the spaciousness, and then you lose some of the color and the warmth. 

BD:    How does this change from the various roles or from oratorio to opera... or is this the basic technique?

TK:    It is the basis of technique, the way I see it.  If you sing a song, a little lied, you will sing much softer and will use less space.  It will be a much gentler approach, but it’s fundamentally the same thing.

BD:    Does the size of the hall enter into it?

TK:    Yes.  Ideally you have a hall in which can hear yourself, or at least feel the voice as it goes to the hall, and the hall becomes your resonance.  If you have that, you can sing for the hall, as it were.

BD:    Is the opera house here good for that?

TK:    No!  It’s very big, but I do feel something coming back, which is a good sign.  I feel something when I sing right, but it’s a very delicate balance, and I mean if the mucous membranes are a bit dry, or if there’s any kind of congestion, then all the troubles start. 

BD:    Is there ever too much dust on a stage?

TK:    It’s possible.  I’m not aware of it because when I’m on stage I’m usually extremely concentrated.  It’s true, sometimes when you have a certain kind of lighting, you see all the dust, and you walk in a huge cloud of it.  It’s really very, very, very dense.  But if you think about it, you’d go mad immediately.  There’ll be all kinds of dangers in this profession, particularly in this production.  I almost got roasted in one of the rehearsals!  When Samson invokes the great god, Dagon comes in the shape of a huge flame that shoots out.  This thing came out and it was enormous!  I didn’t know it was coming
at least I didn’t know it was going to be like thatand I was too close.  The heat all along my arm was just incredible.  I wasn’t wearing a costume and I thought all my hair would be gone.  It was very unpleasant.

BD:    You got singed???

TK:    Singed, yes.  It was very, very hot.  Now I run around it.  And then, of course, we’ve all the falling scenery at the end.  Fortunately I managed to stay out of the way of all the debris.

BD:    I think that ending would be very difficult to stage. You’d have to be in exact right place so that things miss you.

TK:    The idea is the pieces of the pillar are supposed to be so light that they don’t hurt you.  But one girl got one on her head when it came from very high, and she got a slight concussion.  So you have to really watch out.  It’s so horrible.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Let’s get back to the ‘fun-stuff!’

TK:    Yes, right, get away from this all together.

BD:    When you’re on stage though, I assume that you throw yourself into the part so that you’re really thinking as the High Priest or as Amfortas or Guglielmo, rather than as a singer walking around the operatic stage.

TK:    Yes, of course.   That’s the goal at least.  When everything flows easily and if you don’t have any problems of any kind, then you can do that.  But if for some reason the voice isn’t going the way it should, or if any of these human failings comes in, then you become aware of yourself trying to do a good job. 

BD:    Let’s talk about your other Wagner roles.

TK:    One role that I really love is Wolfram.  Unfortunately I haven’t sung it very much. 

BD:    I would think you’d do marvelously in that part.

TK:    That’s what I think.  It lies extremely well, and I love the figure of Wolfram.  He’s very noble and very beautiful, and I love the music he sings.  I just wish I would sing it more.  I haven’t sung it for several years.  It depends on the roles that happen to come in to sing, and so on.  There is a lot of chance, I guess.

BD:    [Imitating writing a letter]  Dear Manager X...

TK:    Yes, right!  I’ve been saying that, and I’ve continue saying that.

BD:    How much does your agent play in this, or are you your own agent?

TK:    No!  I have agents all over the place.  You need them.  Most countries where I sing I have managers.

BD:    Rather than have one agent for all over the world?

krauseTK:    Yes, it doesn’t work. They can’t do it.  I have a central manager in Paris, but he needs somebody.  He can’t know what’s going on in Austria and in Belgium and in Holland, in Germany, Scandinavia, Spain.  He can’t be on the scene; he can’t be there.  And when something happens you need somebody who’s there to say, “Take him, he’s the best!”  Of course if you’re the manager of Pavarotti, you don’t have that problem!  [Both laugh]

BD:    Do you think Pavarotti is over-exposed?  Perhaps that is a dangerous question...

TK:    I don’t know.  I’m not familiar enough with his activities.  People seem to love him.

BD:    Is it him they love, or is it the PR that they’re loving?

TK:    No, he has that kind of personality that comes across.  He’s very warm and very folksy.  I’ve seen him once on the Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder.  He cooks and he speaks about food, and he’s got this charming accent, but he’s very direct and very warm, and he’s sort of an archetype of the Italian tenor, and people sympathize with him.  He’s a very nice man, and it comes across.  He’s got his problems with his weight and I read a news release in the Herald Tribune that he had been watched by detectives because they wanted him to lose weight, but he had escaped them and gone and eaten several pizzas!

BD:    I’m just curious that at what point it all becomes too much?

TK:    Pavarotti is pretty secure in his position.  He doesn’t have to worry, mind you, but how can a tenor ever be secure?

BD:    Is life as a baritone more secure than a tenor?

TK:    Supremely high notes are always a bit of a worry for the tenor.

BD:    But if you were always singing, say, Tonio in Pagliacci, you would have the A flat coming night after night.

TK:    Yes, and fortunately I don’t have to worry about that! [Both laugh]  I wouldn’t feel comfortable singing that role, so I don’t sing it.  It’s very wise to select one’s roles carefully and do the ones that one does well.

BD:    How difficult is it for you to say no if a manager of a company really wants you in a certain part?

TK:    It varies, of course.  If it doesn’t lie well for me and I don’t think I’m going to do it well and it’s going to harm me, then it’s very simple to say no.  I just say, “No, I can’t do it!” and that’s it.

BD:    You don’t worry that maybe this house won’t ask you back for a few years?

TK:    No, because the way my career is that I sing in so many different places and I do so much different stuff.  So if one house doesn’t want me, it doesn’t really make that much difference because I sing all over.

BD:    Do you sing in Finland anymore?

TK:    I go for recitals and concert sometimes, but I sing in Hamburg, I sing in Berlin, I sing in Cologne, I sing in Vienna, I sing in Zurich and Geneva, and in various houses here like Chicago and San Francisco and New York.  Then I do recitals and oratorio really much all over the place.  It’s very wise to have it like that because you can’t put all your eggs in one basket in this profession.  If the manager of an opera, for some reason, doesn’t like you, or if there’s a change to management, you’re out just like that!  It doesn’t matter.  You might have been the most successful person for several years, but this new guy comes and that’s it, you’re finished.  There are many good baritones in the world.

BD:    Are there too many?

TK:    I don’t think so.  There are probably just about the right amount, as far as I can tell.   There are very many good baritones with excellent voices.

BD:    Is there any competition among you?

TK:    [Ponders a moment]  There must be.  There obviously is.  Factually it must exist because when a major opera house decides to cast a new role, they’re going to choose one of the available baritones.  So in that sense there is competition.  Whom are they going to choose?  On the other hand, there is so much work in this field.  There are so many opera houses who do so much, it’s not like you’re going to starve.  Personally I don’t like the idea of competition among artists.  In itself the idea is kind of ludicrous because every singer has a personal note, a personal something to bring.  You can compare them in a certain way.  You can say you like this one better in this role because he’s got more of what it takes to fulfill this particular role, and that’s certainly true.  But on the other hand, the other singer would be much better for another role.  My experiences have been in the vast majority that there’s much more sympathy and support among colleagues, particularly after a certain time when you realize the precariousness of the profession.  You know how easily things can go wrong.


BD:    Do you schedule yourself some vacation or time to rest?

TK:    Oh yes, I do that more and more.  It was almost like an awakening.  Several years back I’d been running around Europe and I got to the state of just singing and singing and singing and singing, and I was exhausted.  I was walking in Berlin, and it was dark and rainy and my throat was sore, and I had a recital coming up the next day.  I didn’t know how it would go, and suddenly in my mind’s eye I had a vision of the beach and the ocean and the sky and the sun and the waves and pelicans and the palm trees.  I said to myself, “My God, that also exists.  Do I have to spend my entire life running around Northern Europe in the rain?”  Right then I decided I’m going to have six weeks on that beach, and I’m going to just be there to relax.  I’m going to enjoy God’s beautiful nature, and I arranged it very soon afterwards.  I said to my manager, “This period is for holidays,” and now I do that regularly.  I take a month here and there.  It’s absolutely vital to really get away.  You have to be yourself.  There are other things in life than singing.  Singers sometimes seem to forget it because they get so obsessed.  I’m very lucky in that I don’t have that.  I enjoy being with people, and I feel very free generally.  If I get tired, then I like to withdraw, but if I’m in a fairly good state, I like being with people.  In fact what happens to me is when you do things you really enjoy, you get very high.  You get this tremendous rush of energy and you can be extremely powerful.  This is what I really enjoy, and when it really works, that’s the turn on for me.  Of course it’s very interesting to explore all these characters.  It’s very therapeutic to do a lot of opera, to do all these different roles.

BD:    Do you find as many things that you don’t want to be as the things you do want to be?

TK:    I think that all of us potentially contain the entire world inside of us.  Nothing human is really strange to us.  Potentially one is almost able to do anything that human beings have done.  In the proper conditions, what happens in our civilization, which I find disturbing, is someone is put in a certain role.  We all have several roles, of course.  One has the role of husband, and lover, and father, and friend, but this suggests a few limited possibilities of all the possibilities one might have.

BD:    I trust you don’t want to give up being a singer to be a plumber.

TK:    No, no, exactly.  The point that I’m trying to make is that on a stage, you can be anything
from a saint to the devil.  You can be anything.  You can be a good friend, like Marcello.

BD:    [With a gentle nudge]  Has your wife ever said that you enjoy being Don Giovanni too much?

TK:    [Laughs]  No, no, she seems to be able to separate the thing that happens on stage from real life.  I do not have the arrogance of the Count.  You can express all these things that you might have inside in a safe, pleasant way.  You can be a real swine, and then it’s very appreciated.  Many of the things you can’t do in life you can do on stage!  It’s kind of play-therapy in a way, psycho-drama.  You don’t need psycho-drama, you have the opera, and I think that’s a very good thing.  Not only do you have that, but you have the aid then of the composer and the librettist.  They have explored these particular regions of human consciousness quite profoundly.  In the music and in the situation in the text, they’re really experts in that field.  Wagner, for instance, probably really knows what a person like Amfortas would be going through.  He knows that, and he’s really gone into it very deeply.  So he is, in a way, a guide, a very expert guide to take you into that particular region.  So doing a role like Amfortas is a trip.  It’s something that you might not know about yourself at all.

BD:    Do you find yourself learning more about Tom Krause every time you do another role?

TK:    That’s right, that’s true, yes, definitely... and certainly if it’s a great role like Amfortas.

BD:    These roles you’ve mentioned are the masterpieces of opera.  Do you ever find yourself getting stuck into a role for a few performances of a very minor work, or something that is simply not very good?

TK:    Yes, that happens of course.  For instance, I don’t think that this High Priest is really a great role, but it’s kind of fun.  It’s a nice role; a bit hard to sing but it’s very aggressive and he’s got certain sides.  It’s interesting but it’s not really a great thing.  He doesn’t have very many dimensions that I have been able to find.

BD:    He is more of a cardboard character?

TK:    He’s more of an operatic villain really.  They don’t really go into his religion or anything.  If they did, if they got into the whole background of what they’re supposed to be doing, then it might become more interesting.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Have you done some modern music?

TK:    Yes.  I used to quite a lot when I first started out in Hamburg.  There were some nice roles.  I did Hamlet to music by Humphrey Searle, and that was a lot of fun, particularly as Searle kept saying, “Don’t worry about the music.  The play is the thing.”

BD:    Then why did he bother writing the score?

TK:    Well that’s a question that did come to mind, but I guess it was supposed to be an opera so there had to be something!

BD:    How much of opera is music and how much of it is drama?

TK:    Well, it should be dramatic music, shouldn’t it?  The spoken word can have a certain intensity, but adding the music and making it sung gives it a new dimension, a new intensity.  It opens up a whole new world.  When you can no longer express it by speaking, then you start singing.  It’s like when you’re so happy or so thrilled and you can’t walk anymore, you start dancing or running or jumping.  Singing should be the same kind of thing.  It’s the raised potential after of speech or drama.  Music can be more dramatic
or at least it can be as dramaticas drama.  It’s a different mold.  It’s a higher and a raised state.

BD:    Do you think modern music has perhaps lost this upwardness?

TK:    Yes, definitely.  If you look back to the older composers, the classical composers, I feel that their inspiration was always a very high one.  They tended to be inspired by their very highest fears.  It was really music in praise of God.  There was a light coming through, and today it seems that very many of the composers they are tuning into very different region, and not a very high one.  It seems they’re illustrating the mechanical, materialistic world we’re living in, and just giving a symbolic expression of that.  We get so much of that anyway, so who needs it?  

BD:    So opera, then, should be something different than everyday life?

TK:    Yes, it should.  Music shouldn’t just be mundane.  Who’d write an opera about an average family who goes to a baseball game or football game and comes home and watches a soap opera and the Tonight Show?  That wouldn’t make a very great opera.  It probably wouldn’t inspire anybody.

BD:    What about something like Traviata, which was so much about the times and their lives?

TK:    True, but the thing there is that it was a very strong social critique .  The outstanding thing is the love scene.  It’s the love of Violetta.  That’s the thing which inspires this woman, who seems to be just a demi-mondaine, to suddenly prove she is a great lover, capable of this marvelous, selfless self-sacrificing love.  That’s the higher dimension to the opera.

BD:    Have you sung Germont?

TK:    Yes, I have.  It is perhaps a little bit too high for me, so I haven’t done it for many years now.  What I wanted to say about music is that although there seems to be different movements in our culture, there’s a lot of very materialistic thinking and a lot of really losing contact with the higher part of the being.  It seems some people are going up and some are going down perhaps, but music should bring a kind of light.  It should be a reminder to people who have no spiritual inclinations whatever, who never had any idea that there might be something higher than just television and steaks and maybe central pleasure, that there might be some other possibilities.  If they happen into a concert of a great oratorio, they’re really going to get a message.  It’s like teaching.

krauseBD:    Would someone who hasn’t been to a concert for many years, or perhaps never been to a concert, be prepared enough to accept it and understand it?

TK:    I don’t know.  It depends on their state, of course.  I’ve had experiences... at least one experience was for me very symptomatic and very central.  A few years back I did a series of the Brahms Requiem with Giulini at La Scala.  Sheila Armstrong was the soprano, and these were very inspiring, very beautiful performances, and everybody was very turned on.  It was very great.  Of course the message of that piece is extremely positive.  It may be a Requiem and we all know we’re going to die, but then Brahms says, “Yes, okay, but look how wonderful it’s going to be afterwards.
  Also the fourth movement, [translated as] How lovely are Thy dwellings fair, O Lord of Hosts.”  Then he has this incredible beauty that blossoms in the music.  It really seems... [searches for the word]

BD:    ...uplifting?

TK:    Very, very uplifting!  Brahms, through some kind of grace, knew this.  He must have known something in order to write that music, which is so special. 

BD:    I find this in the Verdi Requiem also. 

TK:    Oh, yes.  Anyway, we had this wonderful performance, and afterwards there was such incredible joy in the hall.  All the performers seemed to be absolutely radiant, and the audience was all standing.  We were very close, and I was looking into all of these eyes as they were all shining with joy.  They were going,
Bravi, bravi!!  It was this joy.  We had really shared something extremely beautiful and very, very important.

BD:    There’s an understanding.

TK:    Yes, an understanding.  We’re all sharing this terrific message that we all had received.  I’m sure one has to have a certain readiness to accept that.  Indeed, there was also a musician who came back and he said, “Oh, how depressing!”  Okay, so he wasn’t open to this.  You receive what you are open to receive.  That’s the very tough law of life.

BD:    When you’re thinking about a character such as Wolfram, is this what you’re trying to give to Tannhäuser in the first act?

TK:    Yes.  Wolfram would kneel in front of this thing and worship this fountain of love that he experiences.  He says, “This is love!” and Tannhäuser says, “Oh, what crap!  I want to go in there and just enjoy it and have it all!”

BD:    That’s a tremendous conflict between their views.

TK:    Exactly!

BD:    Then in the third act when Tannhäuser is redeemed, do you feel a spiritual uplifting?

TK:    Oh yes, particularly if it’s done with lots of light.  It’s really great.

BD:    So the production can alter your whole perception of the piece?

TK:    Oh, yes, it’s so important.  With all my modesty, the way I see it is that the producer should really listen to the music, really get into the feeling and the mood and the shape and the form of the music, and then try to bring a production that springs out of this.  It should be an organic outgrowth of the music, to illustrate it, perhaps, and to strengthen it more to show it.  It should be a harmonious whole.  This doesn’t always happen.  There are many producers who come from the theatre or from somewhere else, and they don’t understand music.  They’re not musical and they don’t have a feel of this.  They don’t know what they’re doing.  They read the text, and then the whole production is based on the text and the music is supposed to fit in there somewhere. 

BD:    They do their production and the music clothes that, rather than the other way around?

TK:    That’s right.  This is one possibility.  I’ve had some other experiences where it seems that the certain producer has had certain nightmares or a certain neurosis which he thinks might be interesting to put on the stage, and then he’s looking for a piece that might be used for this purpose.

BD:    The production is just an excuse?

krauseTK:    Of course!  We had a production of Madame Butterfly in Paris by a certain man called Lavelli, and that was his approach.  It’s possible he listened to the music and he clicked off to these particular nightmare-ish things that then came out.  God knows it’s possible that he listened to the music, but I really felt that he was using Puccini’s Madame Butterfly as an excuse for being allowed to put certain things on stage.  Certainly the ambience, the feeling of the whole thing was such that the music just died.  Everything was in a cold white light.  The whole stage was covered with huge pebbles of cork, which very effectively absorbed all the sound.  He brought down a screen on the top of the stage on order to have a cinemascope effect.  It was very low, and from the balcony you couldn’t see most of the stage.  All the voices were way upstage and very effectively caught by this screen and reflected back onto stage.  They didn’t go out.

BD:    Did you find yourself wandering down stage as much as possible?

TK:    I did, but Butterfly and the tenor were caught in a net, sort of a very heavy tulle kind of scrim that was brought down like some kind of a big cheese cloth.  They were on a platform placed far back on the stage behind the screen so the audience could not really see their faces.  They became de-personalized.  And then the whole thing was lit by metal lamps.  They gave an absolutely white cold light.  It was reminiscent, perhaps, of an operating theater, or something like that.  This is where the love duet was supposed to happen, very far back behind that thing.  It was very, very, very thick, and of course the singers couldn’t really be heard.  You could hear somebody was singing in the distance, but you couldn’t feel the timbre of the voices at all.

BD:    It’s almost like he was using a cinematic technique, but without the ability to later go and hook the sound so that it could be brought forward into the speakers.

TK:    Exactly.  So I asked him, “Do you really hate the singers so much and the voices so much that you simply don’t want to hear them?”  He said, “No, no.  What do you mean?”  Of course the French critics loved it.  This was something new.  It was interesting, and they said it was a brilliant production.

BD:    If you were invited back to the same opera house for another opera with the same producer, would accept?

TK:    I would say, “Thank you very much, but no thank you!”  [Both laugh]  That was probably the most obscene thing I’ve been exposed to.

BD:    What do you see as the role of the critics?

TK:    Hopefully they would be people who really love music and enjoy singers, and who can offer an interesting opinion.  Yes, of course, it’s their personal opinion, and it would be very nice if they say ‘in my opinion’ instead of speaking with a Biblical kind of authority, saying, “Such and such is this and that.”  And I wish they wouldn’t make earthy remarks in order to get a cheap laugh just because it gives a good punch line.  The best example of that was about a certain young promising Greek baritone who made it his debut in Vienna.  Maybe he was nervous or something didn’t go so well, and the headline was “Die Ruin von Athen” (“The Ruin from Athens”).  It’s kind of cute [the reference to the incidental music composed by Beethoven for the play The Ruins of Athens by Kotzebue], but you can imagine what that did to him.  Everybody says, “Ah, the Ruin from Athens is going to sing again!” 

BD:    Is he now finished?

TK:    No, no, he made a career in spite of that.  It takes more than that, you know, but critics with open hearts are very much to be greeted with pleasure.  Really, it’s a very, very difficult profession to have to go night after night after night.  How can you do it without getting worn out?  I found I never enjoyed music so much as when I’ve been away from it for a long time.  It’s true because of course you’re having it all the time, and sometimes after a holiday you unexpectedly hear some music, maybe on a car radio, and you say, “Oh my God, it’s so wonderful!”

BD:    Even if it’s second-rate music?

TK:    Maybe.  Who knows!  It all depends on your mood.

BD:    What’s the role of recordings, as you see it?

TK:    I think it’s wonderful because it brings the music to so many people, and surely spreads the interest.

BD:    Do you feel that they’re abused?

TK:    It seems that all the major record companies always seem to be recording the same opera at the same time, which seems kind of crazy.  They should say, “If you are you doing this opera, then I’ll do that one!”

BD:    There’s twenty-five recordings of Traviata but there’s not one recording of the Searle Hamlet!

TK:    [Laughs]  Well, I think there’s probably a reason for that.

BD:    Yes, but there should be recordings of a few of these other things.

TK:    Yes, if they’re really good.  You record what people want to hear.  There’s not much point doing recordings that nobody’s going to buy.  It’s a lot of expense, and there are several recordings of Hamlet, the spoken play I mean.

BD:    That’s true.  So if you want to hear the Searle Hamlet, just go and listen to Shakespeare!  [Laughs] 

TK:    As he said,
“The plays the thing!  [Both laugh]  The opera wasn’t all bad by any means.  It was just that he didn’t really branch out.  He took big chunks of the play that were going to be very long.  There were some very nice effects, but how do you make a libretto of Hamlet, anyway?

BD:    [Protesting]  But how do you make a libretto of Othello?

TK:    Okay, right. 

BD:    You need a genius to fashion it.

TK:    Yes, I suppose.  I don’t like that opera so much either.

BD:    [Genuinely surprised]  Really???

TK:    No, I like the play better.  I think it happens too quickly in the opera.  Otello immediately believes it’s a crime, and Iago gets lost a lot in the process.  He’s much less complicit as a figure.  He’s a very obvious villain from the start and so on. 

BD:    It’s the first time I’ve heard that point of view put forward.

TK:    Maybe I haven’t done a proper production of it.  I did four performances of it not long ago in Hamburg with a very, very good cast but we had just a week of rehearsals.  I hadn’t done it for many years, and it was just using ‘you stand there’ kind of stuff.  I found the whole thing rather boring.  It was all there, but I was tired of just being a villain.  I would probably have needed a really good regisseur to work with to really get into the role properly.  Sometimes we do need them, let’s face it.  They can be helpful!  [Laughs]  If you work with a good regisseur on a good piece, and if you have a fundamental understanding
or even at least if you can tolerate each otherit’s going to be a fruitful process because even if you have fights you get enriched by his idea.  Of course there are certain cases, like with that Butterfly, which was just plain murder of the singers.  But there’s no point talking about that.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    You seem to have a special affinity for Mozart.  Do you find him the supreme genius?

TK:    No!  [Laughs]  I enjoy him vastly, but temperamentally I think I’m more drawn to Wagner perhaps.

krauseBD:    [Gently protesting]  But it seems that you sing more Mozart than Wagner.

TK:    Maybe my voice just lends itself better.  There’s so much beauty in Mozart.  One opera I have probably sung more than any is The Marriage of Figaro, and it still happens that when I am standing in the wings waiting for my next entrance, I hear something that has always escaped me before, and would say,
My God, did you hear that marvelous genius!  The harmony and the beauty and the richness of ideas, it’s fabulous.  Also the roles are very interesting, particularly Don Giovanni.

BD:    Sure, it’s multifaceted.

TK:    Multifaceted, with lots of possibilities.  In a way I see him almost like Tristan who can’t find his love-death, his Liebestod.  He’s always searching for something, and he’s never satisfied.  He wants the ultimate experience.

BD:    So he’s always in a state of frustration?

TK:    Yes, I think so.  In a way he’s a seeker of truth.  I don’t think he’s just a very ‘horny guy’!  [Laughs]  There’s more to him than that.  I really think when the supernatural starts coming in, rather than being afraid, he’s sort of thrilled.  He says, “Here maybe is the experience that really is going to show me what it’s all about!”

BD:    Is the duet with the statue at the end the ultimate challenge for him?

TK:    Yes, in a way.  He challenges and defies this power, and he rises in a splendid way to the occasion.  You see this already in the graveyard scene before, when the statue first appears.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I think it’s boring if you just do him as a kind of libertine who just goes around picking up all these women because he’s just some sort of an erotic maniac.  There’s more to it.  Right from the beginning he’s a man driven by an incredible longing for something.

BD:    He’s not bored with all these women, is he?

TK:    No, he’s not bored, but he’s trying through them to find this ultimate truth.  He’s looking for something.  In a way he’s like a Tristan who doesn’t know how to go about his business, so he’s all the time running from one to the other.  Maybe SHE’S going to be the one; maybe SHE’S going to be the ultimate fulfillment.  He never finds it, obviously.  I did a production with Götz Friedrich, and we had a lot of fun because he had this idea that Giovanni was in state of frenzy pretty much from the beginning.  It got worse and worse, so that he was almost hallucinating towards the end.  He didn’t know anymore what was happening.

BD:    That was similar to what Ponnelle did here.  There were more of the hallucinations, and at the end  Giovanni wasn’t dragged down to hell, but he had a heart attack!

TK:    Heart attack, aha!  How did that work?

BD:    Pretty well.  It’s controversial but it did work pretty well.  He needed a protagonist who could bring it off, and Richard Stilwell did very well.

TK:    I like to see the supernatural.  I like to see him being dragged to hell if possible, with flames and demons and stuff.  I think it’s a good show if you can do it well.  It’s difficult to do well, of course.

BD:    But then you need the stage machinery to do it.

TK:    Yes, of course.

BD:    Is that the kind of thing that would work on film or on television?

TK:    Yes, I would imagine it could be very well done with imagery, so I imagine you could do a lot.  I find Giovanni is certainly a very, very gratifying and a very interesting role.  In a good production, if it’s really well done it has great dimensions and possibilities.  As a contrast you have Guglielmo who is so full of fun and jolliness, and yet he has a lot of human qualities also.

BD:    Is there no malice in Guglielmo when he seduces Dorabella?

krauseTK:    It’s questionable.  He seems to be making overtly snide remarks, so there’s obviously an attraction.  Anyhow it’s much more interesting if you do it that way.  I think that they’re really drawn.  He suddenly sees her and says, “Wow!  This girl!  I’ve seen her all the time but I’ve never thought of her that way.  But I’d really like to go to bed with her!”  It doesn’t stop him because that’s his character.  He would say, “Oh, well, too bad for Ferrando!  Tough!”

BD:    Should Guglielmo wind up with Dorabella?

TK:    Well, they’re obviously more suited and the others are more suited.  So if you do it like that, I suppose it’s less bitter at the end, whereas the other way obviously it’s going to be two unhappy marriages.

BD:    They could be the original swingers!

TK:    Yes, right!  But in those days they wouldn’t swing, and I think that Guglielmo certainly doesn’t really forgive.  He’s very proud and very jealous

BD:    So he’s glad to make it with Dorabella but he’s not glad that Ferrando makes it with Fiordiligi?

TK:    Not at all!  It’s a very different matter.  We had a very interesting production in Salzburg with Ponnelle.  I had always played him sort of farcical before, you know fun and games, and Ponnelle said, “No, no, no!  We want you to really bring out the emotional side, the real deep emotion and tragedies of these figures.
  I don’t think you see this, and this is the fault of the piece.  The play, or the libretto is really a farce.  It’s not serious, I don’t believe. 

BD:    I don’t see Così as a tragedy, though.

TK:    No, it’s not a tragedy.  It’s a comedy, but when you set the beauty of Mozart’s music to that, you can’t just pretend it’s nothing.  It’s not a Noël Coward kind of farce.

BD:    It’s not just a piece of fluff?

TK:    No, there’s more to it surely because of the beauty of the music.  The duet between Ferrando and Fiordiligi shows that there really is some very powerful emotion.  There is a love between the two of them.  They really have something very beautiful, and when Guglielmo becomes witness to this and sees it all happening, for him it’s a kind of an awakening.  He really should grow up and become a human being at last. 

BD:    How old are they?

TK:   They’re young...

BD:    Eighteen or nineteen?  That young?

TK:    Maybe twenty to twenty-five.  I would think twenty-three or twenty-four or so.  One doesn’t know of course.

BD:    That’s often an interesting question, the age of a character.

TK:    Yes.

BD:    How old is Hans Sachs, how old is Amfortas, how old is the Dutchman?

TK:    Well, the Dutchman must be very old.  [Both laugh]  He’s been going on for a long time on those oceans.  He’s kind of ageless.

BD:    How old is Kundry?

TK:    Kundry is aware of her previous incarnations, and once you start into that you sort of hit through that barrier.  She’s had so many hundred incarnations and she was this and was that.  You might say her body is so old but that’s really not the central point anymore.

BD:    It’s the spirit?

TK:    Yes, and the spirit is obviously eternal.

krauseBD:    Are Wolfram and Tannhäuser the same age?

TK:    They’re obviously men in the power of their manhood.  I don’t think they’re youths.

BD:    That puts them over thirty?

TK:    I suppose.  I would think around thirty or so.

BD:    Do you sing Kurwenal?

TK:    No.  I recorded it ages ago, but no, I don’t.  It’s very rough part, and not that grateful either... though there’s some very moving and beautiful things.  It’s a very important part, actually.

BD:    Are there any roles that you are looking for, that you would love to sing that you haven’t had the opportunity?

TK:    Yes, Boris I would like to do.  I think that would lie very well.  I’m going to do some in concert in Cincinnati next spring with Conlon.

BD:    Will you use the Rimsky or the original version?

TK:    I don’t know.  I must look!  I haven’t had time to look yet. 

BD:    Rimsky made it much more lush!  It’s a very lush and very beautiful score, but this is not what Mussorgsky wanted.  He wanted it more stark.

TK:    Well, we’ll see.  Anyway it’s my first attempt at that.  It should lie very nicely because all the bass-baritone stuff I’ve done has.  I’ve always felt very comfortable.

BD:    You’re happy with the way your career has progressed?

TK:    Oh yes, I am.  There’s always ups and downs, but at the moment I seem to be in an ‘up’, so I’m very pleased.  I’m really quite grateful because I get to sing a lot of very beautiful music and with a lot of good people all over the world.

BD:    In this kind of career it’s almost an ideal situation.

TK:    Yes, it is.  Also I do a lot of recitals, which I enjoy enormously.  There I can choose my programs and my pianist, so it gives me a lot of freedom.

BD:    [With a gentle nudge]  And you can tell them to play softly!

TK:    Right!  [Both laugh]  Or louder, or whatever the case happens to be.  I must say this is topical because I find that Michel Plasson, who conducts the Samson and Delilah here, is really very, very nice to work with.  He’s extremely helpful, and he’s not one of those who will drown you out or anything like that.

BD:    He’s supportive?

TK:    He’s very supportive and he’s really a very, very nice man and a very good conductor.  So this has been really a very, very pleasant experience, I must say.  Also I’ve enjoyed my colleagues very much.  It’s very congenial here, very pleasant.

BD:    Thank you for being a singer!

TK:    [Laughs]  Well, I don’t know if I chose it.  It maybe chose me.  It really came over me.  I wanted to be a psychiatrist.  That was my goal.

BD:    Perhaps this is why you probe the roles so deeply.

TK:    Maybe so.  I was always interested in that kind of thing.

BD:    Have you ever thought about writing some of these down?  You know, the psychological relationship of Tristan and Isolde, or the psychological relationship of Ferrando and Guglielmo?

TK:    I never thought of writing much.  I don’t really take my musings very seriously.  I’m sure there are lots of literary giants who have written terrific things about these ideas.

BD:    But you would give a different perspective!

TK:    Well, that’s true.

BD:    The literary giants have not stood there on the stage, night after night, in their costumes, inter-acting.

TK:    That’s right!  Who knows?  Maybe one day I will.  At the moment I’m really quite busy doing my thing.  It was funny...  I studied medicine for three years in Helsinki at the university, and I was convinced I was going to become a psychiatrist.  Then the singing thing just took over.  It became like an obsession and I just couldn’t stop.  I sang all my life, little songs with guitars, but when I started taking singing lessons it became such an obsession I just couldn’t stop.

krauseBD:    At least you’re good at it!  Occasionally you get someone who sings and is obsessed with it, and it’s really rather painful. 

TK:    That’s unfortunate, yes.  Thank God I was given a good voice to work with.

BD:    And a facility for languages too.  Your English is magnificent! 

TK:    Yes, and I don’t know where it comes from!

BD:    I assume your German is the same?

TK:    Pretty much, but English really was special thing.  It came like that [snaps his fingers].  When I was about fourteen I spoke a tiny bit, and we had some English visitors.

BD:    You didn’t study with a Canadian, did you?

TK:    No.

BD:    Your English sounds Canadian!

TK:    Really?   

BD:    It’s almost British, but it’s like British once removed!

TK:    It used to be very British, but then I spent some time in the States, and my wife, who is actually French-Canadian, speaks kind of American-English.  But when I was young I spoke Oxford English.  It was very, very British because that’s what I learnt in school.  But thirteen or fourteen, I picked up a novel and started reading it with a dictionary.  After about thirty or forty pages I knew the dictionary and I didn’t need it anymore.  I just read oodles of novels because my mother had Louis Bromfield and Charles Moore and Somerset Maugham, walls full of these novelists, and I just devoured the lot!  So I got a very, very big vocabulary very quickly.  You start believing in reincarnation.  I believe in reincarnation anyway, and I think I was probably English or something like that not too long ago.

BD:    You were a Knight in the Crusades?

TK:    Oh no, it was later than that, surely, because I would have forgotten!  [Both laugh]  No, it wasn’t too long ago.  It just came.  It’s very funny.  With German, for instance, I had a certain resistance.  It took much longer for me, maybe because of the War and all that.  I had been brought up not to appreciate the Germans so much.

BD:    Where do you make your home now?

TK:    [Laughs]  In Germany!  I’m very happy there in Hamburg.  It’s a lovely town, very beautiful with lots of water and huge parks.  We live very nicely just next to a little lake with swans and ducks and trees.

BD:    Will you be coming back to Chicago again?

TK:    I don’t know! 

BD:    I hope so.

TK:    Well, thank you.  I hope so too.  I must say I’ve enjoyed my stay here very much so far.  There have been several attempts, but it’s always a question of scheduling.

BD:    How far ahead is your schedule booked
— a couple of years?

TK:    A couple of years, yes.  This engagement actually came quite late.  I don’t remember exactly when, and I had to cancel a few things to come here.

BD:    I’m glad we could persuade you.

TK:    I was very much in two minds, but I thought it would be nice to come back here.  Chicago is a nice city.  I like it much better this time than last time, particularly this part of town with the lake and the park, and Water Tower Place and lots of nice restaurants.

BD:    Thank you so very much for speaking with me today.

TK:    Thank you very much.  Sometimes I like talking!  [Laughs]


To read my Interview with James McCracken, click here.

To read my Interview with Hermann Prey, click here.

To read my Interview with Lorin Maazel, click here.


Krause in the film of Winterreise, D. 911 of Schubert

© 1981 Bruce Duffie

This conversation was recorded at his hotel in Chicago on October 7, 1981.  Portions were broadcast on WNIB in 1988, 1994, 1997 and 1999.  The Wagner sections were transcribed and published in Wagner News in December, 1982.  This full transcription was made in 2014, and posted on this website at that time.  My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.

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.