On September 17 at 19:00 in the Small Guild in the concert cycle “Together” there will be a solo concert of German bass Andreas Bauer-Kanabas, which will feature Franz Schubert, Sergei Rachmaninov, Antonin Dvorak, Giuseppe Verdi, Charles Guno, Charles Maria von Weber and other composers. “I am very glad that the Covid-19 test turned out to be negative, and I can sing to the listeners in Riga again,” says the opera singer, who won the love of the Latvian public with his brilliant interpretation of the role of Mephistopheles in Charles Guno’s opera Faust.
Sandra Ņedzvecka: We are even more happy to hear the best of the Mephistopheles. Do this and other roles affect you as a person and a character?
Andreass Bauers-Kanabas: Hmmm, rather my character influences Mephistopheles on stage, because I’m quite flexible and I like to play, I like to be different – not only for the serious bass Zarastro, but also to play the characters in which I have to play.
I like to sing the role of Mephistopheles – it’s wonderful music and well written for the bass voice, and it’s fun to be bad sometimes.
From the audience’s point of view, it sometimes seems that in today’s productions, the director is much more important than the conductor. Was that also the case with this production of Aika Karapetyan and what was the collaboration of all of you?
Let’s say the director was very important, very creative and inspiring, but the production was a great mix. We had a wonderful ensemble, wonderful ideas, a good atmosphere in the theater. The conductor, like the director, was supportive, so the atmosphere was creative and all this contributed to a good result.
Who invited you here?
Ilze Sprancmane – at the Riga Opera House she was responsible for the selection of artists and now participates in the organization of the concert cycle “Together”. She traveled around Europe, also stopping at the Frankfurt Opera House – my theater, where I sang Philip II Verdi’s opera “Don Carlos”. Ilze watched the show, she liked it, and she invited me to Riga to sing Mephistopheles.
Singers today travel from theater to theater, so do conductors, even performances. Are there many opera houses left today that have retained their style and atmosphere?
Of course, each theater has its own atmosphere, but in a globalized world, the gap between them is narrowing.
Everyone travels and the same production can be seen in Munich, London and Paris. Is that okay? I do not know. The question is whether globalization is good.
It can be discussed and people have different views, but it is a vicious circle. Singers travel, the composition changes every show, and you no longer have your own style, it’s changing.
Who are the directors or conductors to whom you would never say “no”, no matter what should be sung. Is Barry Koskis like?
I am not in the mood to say “no” and I will not say, because everyone can give inspiration, I always try to be in a good company and join it, work productively and do not argue.
I can argue on stage, but in a way that does not undermine the common goal.
I have also worked with Barry Koski, he is one of the best directors today, very creative and original. I collaborated with him on the production of Bartók’s opera “Duke’s Blue Beard’s Palace” in Frankfurt, and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. His staged Mozart’s “Magic Flute” is also world-famous – the Berlin Comic Opera has performed it in guest performances in many places, I was with them in Paris, New Zealand, Australia and Budapest. Great joy and good memories.
Can you recall the feeling from the moment you no longer sang in the boy’s voice, but understood – I am Mephistopheles, I am Zarastro!
It was a surprise in a way – I always sang in different choirs and I also met my best friends there, but I never thought of becoming a musician or a singer. I wanted to be a sound engineer. However, this did not happen – I changed my mind and tried my hand at singing. It was a very spontaneous decision. I was told I had to sing, but many people say that.
Because many have good voices, but not everyone becomes a successful singer, because it’s not just a matter of talent. It is also stamina and patience, for the most part in my case.
Your role as Mephistopheles in Riga makes you wonder if Andreas is not offered a role in dramatic theater or cinema?
No. Those looking for actors for films are not interested in opera singers. There are so many actors out of work, especially in Germany … I also know many, and they are having a hard time now. Just because you are a relatively good-looking singer, who is also relatively talented in acting, will not invite you to film. It is a different and completely different world.
But if called, would your answer be “no”?
My answer would not be “no”, but rather – yes. But no one is calling. (laughs)
How much of your creative time do you spend on chamber music and concerts in Riga this week?
Coronavir quarantine was a huge blow to me, as were many artists. Before that I did very well, I sang King Mark and King Philip with success in my Frankfurt theater, then I sang the same Philip II in French in Antwerp, Zarastro in Covent Garden, and then it all stopped.
I had to sing several great roles for Verdi this year, but everything was suddenly canceled. From a hundred to zero in an instant.
It was sad and the time was tough, as was the case for many, and for a moment I was in a melancholy mood. And then I discovered the opportunity to sing songs that I hadn’t done in a long time, because I had to sing a lot in the opera and all the roles were great.
With Schubert’s songs, for example, I had a rather complicated relationship, I sang them during my studies, but now I discovered them as new, because they reflect the artist’s role and significance in society – as today: you are suddenly very lonely, everything seems pointless, pointless, and these songs tell about it – about the eternal search for bliss and the artist’s longing for fulfillment, for success and happiness, but he does not find it all. That’s why I chose songs on this topic for this program. I find comfort in them in a way, and I like to sing them, like the song “The Traveler”. Its last words are something like this: you can go one way or another to find happiness, but it always turns out that it was to be found elsewhere. Or the very first song in the program – it will be Schubert’s “Atlants”, a mythical character who holds the whole world on his shoulders. He also says – I have always strived for bliss, but now I find misfortune, I am the unhappiest in the whole world, because I have to carry this world on my shoulders, carry all its heaviness.
Sometimes an artist has to feel something similar at this time, when there is nothing to do but count this concert in Riga.
You feel loaded with something heavy, I can’t say why – you should feel light, without any weight, but the other way around: you feel the weight of the whole world on your shoulders, like an atlas.
Is this really your only concert during a pandemic?
Yes, the first in six empty months, because the roles have been canceled – Zacaria at the German Opera in Berlin, Padre Guardiano at the Frankfurt Opera, my first Da Silva on stage at Verdi’s “Ernani” in Antwerp – all canceled.
So the future is completely unknown to you?
I would not say so. My next contract, which has not yet been canceled, is with the Hamburg Opera in April. It will play a good role in the German National Opera “The Magician’s Sagittarius” – I will be the bad boy Kaspars, who will also sing in Riga. This is bad. Kaspars is similar to Mephistopheles in Faust. The story of Goethe and the story of “The Magician” are similar and really German – don’t sell your soul, you better believe in God.
Maybe this chamber music program will come to sing somewhere else?
Yes, I have started to prepare a song evening for Schubert’s songs together with my friend, well-known pianist Daniel Hyde, we are trying Schubert, List and Brahms songs. Now it has a time that I did not have before, so this coronary crisis is an opportunity to create something new and perhaps in the future I will be grateful for that time.
Many artists reflect on their place in life during this time. What else could you do without singing – to be a sound director?
Yes, I learned to be a sound director, but that was thirty years ago, right after school. Today, technology has evolved a lot, first of all from analog to digital, and I don’t want to do it either, I want to sing and I hope to do it. However, many artists really ask themselves this question, and it is a pity that they have doubts, it is not our fault that everything has been closed and we feel useless to nothing and no one. But it is a difficult test – do not fall into depression and do not start to doubt.
In Riga, your pianist will be Mārtiņš Zilberts.
Yes, we have already worked together, staging “Faust”, and consulted with him about some arias, which I recorded on a CD here in Riga, together with the Riga Festival Orchestra. The CD will be out soon, I just have to decide when, because I think I have to sing on the day of the release – maybe here, maybe somewhere else, but I have to be present at that moment. But the album is recorded, and I’m very happy about it. Thanks to the Riga Festival Orchestra and Mārtiņš, with whom I prepared Aleko’s aria, which is in Russian, which I do not understand – – Mārtiņš also helped with the pronunciation.
Your surname “Bauers” is accompanied by “Kanabas”.
I adopted this surname when I thought about my family for a long time – my mother’s family comes from Bohemia: it is the Kanaba family, the only one in Germany. Let’s see if this last name comes to life,
in any case, I want to show respect for my mother’s family, which in my musical family was much more important to me than my father’s family. They were refugees when they had to leave Bohemia after the Second World War – they did not regret it, and I love them very much for that.