AKM to host Austrian soprano
As part of the 50th Istanbul Music Festival, Austrian soprano Anna Prohaska will take the stage at the Atatürk Culture Center (AKM) on June 9. At the concert, she will share the stage with Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
Drawing attention with her delicate and passionate interpretations, Prohaska, always works with respected conductors since her debut at the Berlin State Opera. She gave many concerts with Daniel Barenboim, Philippe Jordan and Simon Rattle.
In an exclusive interview, Prohaska answered questions ahead of her Istanbul concert.
You have shared the stage with some of the most successful conductors and prestigious orchestras in the world. Is there a milestone in your career that holds a special place in your heart?
In concert repertoire maybe my first appearances in Lucerne with the Berlin Philharmonic and Claudio Abbado performing the Lulu Suite and Mozart arias. And in opera my first Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier with Sir Simon Rattle at the Staatsoper Berlin.
Do you remember your first stage performance? Can you tell us a little bit about it?
My first opera role was Yniold in Pelléas et Mélisande at 17 at a university performance in Berlin although I was still at school. I was tremendously excited to be part of this incredible piece. The director was Jörn Weisbrodt, an assistant of Robert Wilson at the time. The production was full of symbolism and we had a spiral of real ice blocks on stage which melted throughout the performance - incredibly inventive and beautiful. It became my favorite opera and I was obsessed, played the score on the piano all the time, listening to recordings a hundred times. And my great dream was to sing Mélisande at some stage, which I managed to do in Hamburg with Kent Nagano in 2019 - my Pelléas was Rolando Villazòn and my Golaud was Simon Keenlyside. An absolute dream come true. I cried for three days when the project was over.
You’ve had an incredible career journey so far. Do you have any special milestones you’d like to achieve in the future?
To be honest - I will always be obsessed by the great Handel operas and oratorios. I have done a few, Merab in Saul, Angelica in Orlando, Morgana in Alcina, Poppea in Agrippina, Iphis in Jephtha… Cleopatra is already coming up soon. But Theodora, Rodelinda, Ginevra… so many more great heroines are missing which I would like to portray. Now I have sung my first Vitellia with Cecilia Bartoli in La Clemenza I can imagine singing Donna Elvira and Fiordiligi soon.
You’ve won a lot of prestigious awards in your career ranging from Hanns-Eisler-Preis für Komposition und Interpretation zeitgenössischer Musik, Daphne-Preis, Schneider-Schott Music Prize to Echo Deutscher Musikpreis Klassik, Kunstpreis Berlin and International Classical Music Award in Baroque Vocal category. What do awards mean to you?
Of course, it is always nice to be acknowledged and I am very grateful for these prizes. Especially receiving the Daphne prize which was an audience award of all Berlin theaters for the best newcomer artist that year meant a lot to me. The commission came to one of our shows of Mozart’s “Abduction from the Seraglio” and presented me the award on stage during the bows and I had to give a speech - it was like being at the Oscars, incredible. But I know many artists who are brilliant and create very interesting projects who don’t win prizes. I don’t want to complain, but the business is of course very nepotistic - if you’re not “in” with the right crowd, you won’t be listed. So, I try not to take awards so seriously.
You will take the stage with conductor Giovanni Antonini in Ankara. Can you tell us a little bit about your collaborative process with him?
A: Giovanni and I have known each other for a few years now and have recorded a CD - Serpent and Fire - with arias by Händel, Purcell, Hasse and Cavalli built around the north African queens Dido and Cleopatra with his ensemble Il Giardino Armonico which I have had the pleasure of working with a few times now - also with Mozart and Haydn arias. Giovanni and I also built a program around sacred works of Vivaldi and Bach with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra. We know each other well and have a certain kind of shorthand in communicating — he is the perfect accompanist for a singer since he is a flautist who also survives on oxygen and understands a singer’s phrasing and breath control a lot better than perhaps a pianist or string player. I find his Beethoven and Haydn interpretations absolutely groundbreaking. There is nothing better.
Have you been to Türkiye before? If so, can you tell us about your experiences and impressions of the country?
This is my first time - I am almost ashamed to say. I have many Turkish friends in Berlin, and they keep telling me I have to go. So now finally it’s happening! I am obsessed with archeology and art history so I’m sure to find loads to do around the rehearsals and will be inspired for many more trips to come.