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Short & Sweet

With Julian Prégardien

Thomas Van Deursen
Reading time
5 min.

On the occasion of his upcoming recital, a collaboration with his father Christophe Prégardien, we asked the German tenor to answer the following questionnaire briefly and boldly.

If you were in a room with all the composers that you have selected for your recital at La Monnaie, what would be your first question?

What would you like to drink?

What would be the first three adjectives you would use to describe the music you have chosen for this particular recital?

Harmonic, diverse, deep.

When you sing, is there a specific gesture that you frequently make?

I am afraid so, yes. Stretching my right hand in front of me, and holding an imaginary cup of water with both hands are two examples.

Is there any sort of ritual that you must perform before going on stage?

Not really, but I prefer not to sit down too much. Walking around gives me a sense of clarity and openness before I hit the stage.

If you could relive one moment in your professional career as a singer…

Tamino’s opening aria in Die Zauberflöte, ‘Zu Hilfe, sonst bin ich verloren’, at the Berlin Staatsoper on February 17th 2019, when I flew in from the wings.

Julian Prégardien as Tamino in ‘Die Zauberflöte’ (Staatsoper Berlin, 2019)
Julian Prégardien as Tamino in ‘Die Zauberflöte’ (Staatsoper Berlin, 2019) © Monika Rittershaus
What would your family, your co-workers or your friends say is your main personality trait?

I hope they would say that I'm a supportive guy.

What was the first piece of music that made you cry?

If I remember rightly, ‘Und ging heraus und weinte bitterlich’ from Bach’s St Matthew Passion, sung by my father at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam. And the latest was Danzón No 2 by Arturo Márquez, played by The Impossible Orchestra.

What profession other than your own would you like to try?

Managing a cultural institution - or running a restaurant.

If you could travel back in time to the past, what would you bring back with you?

The correct use of language and good manners, the curiosity about the unknown and undiscovered. Exchanging information and ideas by post and the long wait for a reply that this entails. The feeling of time passing. Travelling! Only live music and mostly contemporary!

Which singers from the past or present do you listen to for inspiration?

I don’t listen to music a lot. The last beautiful Schubert disc I listened to was sung by Daniela Sindram, who is a colleague at the Musikhochschule München.

What was the last piece of music you listened to?

An die Ferne Geliebte, sung by Georg Nigl and performed on the piano by Olga Pashchenko. A miracle!

Which sounds or noises, other than music, do you love?

Running water, singing birds, leaves in the wind.

What is the first thing you do when you start working on a new recital?

Deciding on an idea. For the last one, we focused on Schubert's long lieder.

Which quality sets a recital apart from other vocal performances?

The dramaturgy behind it. It can be conceived as an emotional journey, an intellectual exploration, or anything in-between. It can be full of contrasts and filled with a wide range of music styles, but there needs to be some bigger idea or connection, if only the shared intuition of the singer and the pianist.

To which daily activity would you compare a recital and why?

A group meditation, or a journey to something either well-known or completely unknown – sometimes both at the same time.

Would you rather end your career prematurely with the perfect recital or go on singing professionally for a very long time but without achieving that same perfection?

I honestly don't know. I have never given the question a second's thought. What I do know, is that I will be happy after my singing career too.

Christoph and Julian Prégardien
Christoph and Julian Prégardien © DR
What was the first recital you attended?

It must have been one of my father’s. In my memory, I seem to remember a church and hearing Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin, Andreas Staier at the fortepiano. I clearly remember the first time my oldest son heard his grandfather singing live: An Schwager Kronos, again by Schubert. And the first recital of mine that he attended: Schumann’s Dichterliebe with Eric le Sage. So please ask my father… He might know!

To sing the first note or the last note of a recital?

The last.

Other than your current partner at the piano, which pianist would you like to be accompanied by during a recital?

By the composers themselves. And by Clara Schumann!

Who are your favourite heroes from fiction? Who are your favourite heroes from real life?

In the first place, my mother, my father, and my partner. From fiction… both Narziss and Goldmund in the eponymous novel by Hermann Hesse, Léon in Alex Capus’s novel Léon und Louise, Augustin Meaulnes by Alain Fournier, Andreas Egger by Robert Seethaler - and Don Ottavio by Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte.