Christiane Karg, Glyndebourne's Sandrina: 'It's like being part of a big family'
Rising German soprano stars in Glyndebourne's first-ever staging of Mozart's 'La finta giardiniera'.
You're appearing in La finta giardiniera, one of Mozart's lesser known operas, written when he was just 18. What do you feel the piece has to recommend it to an audience coming to it for the first time?'
As with every opera I would ask people to read the synopsis, the stories are all a bit tricky. At the beginning you never know who is who. A tiny bit of information is enough to help you get into the plot straight away.
This is a new production at Glyndebourne. What can you tell us about director Frederic Wake-Walker's approach to the work?
I have to say that as far as I know from the first rehearsals there won't be any flowers or gardens, and I'm not dressed as a gardener. His interpretation is more about the inside of the story; what happens to Count Belfiore after having killed or attempted to kill his beloved, because of jealousy. It examines Sandrina's existence between life and death. In every opera there are so many possibilities for an interpretation. You can't point out everything. The director has to choose what's most important and interesting to him. I promise you won't be disappointed by the focus of Frederic Wake-Walker.
You play the title role of Sandrina, a Marchesa in disguise as a gardener. Are there any particular challenges for you in the role?
In this production the challenge for me is to separate myself from the world of all the other singers. We did some improvisation work in the first few days and I found out that the person I'm singing is different from the others. I need to find my own movements and gestures. She's isolated and very lonely. But there are these big ensemble numbers we all sing together. It is essential for me to find the right distance and balance, both physically and vocally, and to find colours and a sound that distinguishes Sandrina from the others.
You played the female lead in last year's Glyndebourne production of Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie. Can you describe the experience of performing in this spectacular work and working with British director Jonathan Kent?
It's because of the fantastic experience I had last year that I was really looking forward to coming back to Glyndebourne in 2014. I'm not a specialist in Baroque singing, certainly not French Baroque; and it took me a while to get into the style. Not only is it a different kind of music, but there is also a lot of ballet present in Hippolyte et Aricie. This is the big challenge for any director. In my opinion Jonathan found the right balance of humour. The huge fridge on stage at the beginning of the opera will be unforgettable for audiences across the globe.
Now that you're on your second spell at Glyndebourne, can you tell us how you feel about working at this opera house?
This will be my second summer and third time here. I started with L'incoronazione di Poppea on the Glyndebourne tour in 2010. It's a very special and fantastic place – at the end of the season, you are exhausted. You come here and a whole summer of work awaits. But it is nothing like normal everyday opera life: there's time and space to concentrate completely on your work. There is less distraction, outside of the stunning nature surrounding you. Although it involves a long summer, hard work and the many performances, I am so relaxed here. And this is what the audience feels, too. For everyone, it is like being part of a big family.
You will be appearing at a Wardsbrook Concert in Sussex (also for the second time) during June. This new festival was founded by tenor Toby Spence and conductor Edward Gardner. How did you become involved?
Toby and I worked together and he knew I gave lots of recitals. Glyndebourne's very close, so he invited me last season. Wardsbrook is another venue you could never find in Germany. I'm very interested in these unusual places. The music business is changing a lot and it is always more important to dislocate the music from normal spaces and tradition. I have never thought opera or classical music is dying out, it's just changing; and we as artists have to move with that to develop he future landscape of classical music.
Can you tell us about the range of roles you've already played during your career and which ones you hope to tackle in the future?
Sandrina is another role debut for me, as with many, many others in the last few years. It's a lot of work to build up a repertoire and I'm glad to be able to sing some important roles for the second and third time. Every show the role becomes more a part of you, and you feel more secure and can enjoy it. There are more Susannas (Figaro), Paminas (Magic Flute), Mélisandes (Pélleas et Mélisande) and Sophies (Rosenkavalier) coming, but I'm also looking forward to discovering these new roles, Gretel (Hänsel and Gretel) and Blanche (Dialogues des Carmélites). Of course I will build up my Mozart repertoire and future roles should be Fiordiligi and Donna Anna. Next to the French repertoire I love, I also hope to have the opportunity of singing some Italian bel canto.
Your latest album (released in the UK on 19 May) is of lieder by Richard Strauss, a fellow Bavarian, in his anniversary year. Can you tell us which songs you have chosen and why?
Of course I wanted to have some popular ones, 'Morgen', 'Ständchen' and 'Zueignung'; but also new repertoire, to discover and show all the range of Strauss' compositions. I love the three Ophelia songs, and one of my favourites is 'Geduld'. The title of the CD is "Heimliche Aufforderung" (Secret Invitation) and it's a great opportunity to discover Strauss and to listen to Malcolm Martineau, my wonderful pianist, who guides me as I sing.
Do you have further appearances scheduled in the UK?
Apart from the recital in the Wardsbrook song series, there is a Wigmore Hall and a Ryedale recital coming soon this summer. Next season there will be three more Wigmore Hall concerts. So for me there is a lot of new repertoire to study and recitals in Cambridge and Oxford. And in February I'll be making my Royal Opera House debut, singing Pamina in Die Zauberflöte.