August 19, 2019

How Do You Conquer One of Opera’s Toughest Roles? Start Light

How Do You Conquer One of Opera’s Toughest Roles? Start Light

Mr. Barenboim became a crucial collaborator. “I was already quite old when I started singing Wagner,” Mr. Schager said. “I was 39 years old and had mostly sung operetta before. But he didn’t care. He told me, ‘I know you can do it.’ It was for me fantastic to find a great maestro who believed in me this way.”

Mr. Barenboim said that Mr. Schager “has many unusual qualities. He has a very impressive voice, lots of musical intelligence, and he’s a bundle of energy. I think it was very useful for him to start his professional life as an operetta singer, which can be quite hectic. And it strengthened his stamina.”

He has become the go-to Siegfried for high-profile upcoming “Ring” cycles, including at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany in the summer of 2020; at the Paris Opera that fall (led by Philippe Jordan, his conductor at the Met); and at the Berlin State Opera starting in 2022.

[Read our profile of Mr. Jordan, the conductor of the Met’s “Ring.”]

Mr. Barenboim brushed away concerns that so many grueling performances would take a toll of Mr. Schager’s voice. “There are no rules for this thing,” he said. “For most people, yes, but he’s an exceptional case, not only vocally but also in terms of endurance.”

While Mr. Schager said that he doesn’t rank his roles in terms of their difficulty, Siegfried has few rivals in terms of length.

“Yes, the Siegfried in ‘Siegfried’ is very long,” he said. “You have to sing for four and a half hours and always be on stage. But I would much rather speak about the energy that is in it. When you go for it, you don’t feel that it is difficult. The next day when you wake up, you see that it was a difficult, long evening. But when you’re in the middle doing it, it’s pure vitality.”

“At the end of a performance,” he added, “I’m so full of energy. I always have the feeling: Come on, let’s do it again!”

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