Elbphilharmonie Talk with Anna Prohaska

The successful soprano in conversation about the spectacular production of »Saint François d'Assise« in the Grand Hall, death metal and singing in flight (German only).

It is surely just a calendar coincidence, but Anna Prohaska still mentions it: 1983, the year when she was born, was the same year in which the first and only opera by Olivier Messiaen, »Saint François d’Assise«, was premiered in the Palais Garnier in Paris. Olivier Messiaen was one of the most important French composers of the 20th century, a deeply devout Catholic, who devised a soundscape all of its own in which birdcalls transposed by him into notation play a key role, also and especially in »Saint François d’Assise«.

Just one single female voice intrudes into the pious man’s world of this piece. This voice does not belong to a human figure, however, but to an angel. In the new production of »Saint François d’Assise« at the Elbphilharmonie in June 2024, staged by Georges Delnon and conducted by Kent Nagano, the artistic management team of the Hamburg State Opera, Anna Prohaska sings this angel. In the podcast recorded immediately before the first stage orchestra rehearsal, the soprano talks about her approach to Messiaen, her Catholic influence and her great anticipation of this so special production.

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Anna Prohaska also talks about the spectacular position seven metres high above the stage floor from where, in an apparatus secured with ropes, she sings the central aria of the angel in the second act of this work. Of course, the conversation is also about Kent Nagano, with whom she launched Jörg Widmann’s work »Babylon« twelve years ago at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich and for whom »Saint François« is a vital subject. After all, he was alive at the time of its premiere by Olivier Messiaen and his wife Yvonne Loriod in Paris and arranged the performance as their student and assistant to conductor Seiji Ozawa.

The singer, as you know, is also inclined towards the darker varieties of rock music, but the answer as to whether she prefers listening to grunge or death metal is not revealed here. This is appropriate for this passionate top soprano, who a few days after this conversation discovered that she was nominated as »Singer of the Year« for the Opus Klassik this year.

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