For Christian Gerhaher, the pandemic is an opportunity to remember that without the arts, “we would be without substance”.
11 July 2020 17h42
Christian Gerhaher, the cry of alarm of a baritone discreet
AIX-EN-PROVENCE — If it is not the most publicized, it is one of the baritones of the most sought-after in the world. In the Face of the pandemic, Christian Gerhaher is concerned about the fate of young artists, calling for a revision of the contracts so that they do not become “slaves”cultural.
The German of 50 years ago is less well known than his compatriot Jonas Kaufmann, regarded as the greatest tenor of his generation, but his employment of time, pre-COVID, was not less filled.
For one of his rare appearances in France, he would have had to sing in July at the international festival in Aix-en-Provence in the title role of the opera Wozzeck, and in a recital. At the end of June, it is still made despite the cancellation of the festival to sing a recital with Alban Berg and Franz Schubert, which will be broadcast Sunday in France on France musique and Arte concert.
Gerhaher is considered the current master of the Lieder, this poem German put to music and sung by one voice accompanied usually by a piano, a little the ideal format in a context of social distancing. It is also equally remarkable in his opera roles.
After a career built with his longtime friend pianist Gerold Huber — a unique collaboration of 32 years, he said they felt an anxiety to see the younger generation build his own at a time when the arts have been greatly weakened.
“The freelance artists are in great danger, especially the young people,” he acknowledged in an interview with the AFP.
According to the Bavarian who had abandoned the study of medicine, for the song, “some are treated as slaves cultural at this time; we said to them, “you don’t need to be paid for, it is already a huge chance for you to sing” in these times. This is unacceptable.”
If he regrets the missed appointment to Aix, it’s not apitoie not on his fate.
“I live well, and during the confinement, I had a kind of sabbatical in which I dreamed since a long time. It’s been 20 years that I feel overbooked and every year I say to myself, I have to stop (…) but for many artists, it has been catastrophic,” said the father of the family.
He deplores especially the lack of protection of performers vulnerable in the event of force majeure. “There is no regulation, there is no union that represents us because we are too individualistic, too competitive.”
If he / she enters the time of an evening to a concert webcast, he is wary in regard to this medium “in the seemingly innocuous, but which poses a real problem (…) when the artists are not paid”. “This is not clear, there is no law for compensation.
“We are not just streamers, we are doing an activity that requires a lot of talent,” says the singer, who recalls that a recital of one hour thirty minutes is “very physical”.
The baritone, with which every recital, Munich, London, or New York, is an event, says he is even open to gestures of solidarity.
“I don’t have the stamps of the dream, but I’m paid well. And if it is necessary to reduce a little the big salaries to increase the salaries of base, I won’t be able to say” no”, said the one of whom it was said that he formed together with Gerold Huber as “the best duo of classical music” of our time.
Stranger to the “star system” of the operatic world and on social networks, the baritone laments the decline of music education in his country, defends his art, which became rare.
“Yes, it is a niche and what is not serious,” he states. But for him, the pandemic is an opportunity to remember that without the arts, “we would be without substance”.