Semyon Bychkov, on the world's stage
Semyon Bychkov's new recording of Wagner's "Lohengrin," made with his WDR Orchestra Cologne, is scheduled for release in a couple of weeks. And Bychkov, the former music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, is interviewed about it in the June issue of BBC Music Magazine.
That is Bychkov at right in the picture above. The biker-looking guy on the left is Johan Botha, who sings the part of Lohengrin in the recording and who just sang the part with Bychkov in April at London's Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. I have not been able to figure out who the person in the middle is. Anybody out there know him?
I have gotten the chance to talk to Bychkov several times, and I love it. He is warm, bubbly, likable and quotable. He is very affectionate about Buffalo and always seems to have time for anyone from our town, a weakness of his that I use freely to my advantage.
The last time I talked to him was in 2004, when he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera, where he was conducting "Boris Gudonov." On that occasion, Bychkov talked about how he was always open to new musical experiences. "If I allow myself only to live with objects that are dear to me, at some point it would sort of wear thin," he said.
Wagner seems to be Bychkov's biggest enduring passion. He loves the music of Wagner and walks around turning it over in his mind: the characters' motivations, what you can read in the music, how the dramas reflect our own everyday lives. He has talked with The News about that, and he elaborates on that fixation of his in the BBC Music interview.
"Wagner identified with every character that he created, whether it was Brünhilde, Wotan, Parsifal or whoever," Bychkov reflects. "I believe there is something of Wagner in Ortrud," he says, referring to the villain in "Lohengrin." "He too was hated, and himself hated; he too was betrayed, and himself betrayed. That is why Ortrud, and indeed all his most vile characters, are much more layered than their texts suggest. And then you realise that nothing is really so simple, and nothing is simply as it appears."
And this opera obsession all started when he was practically a kid, and was called in at the last minute to conduct Verdi's "Il Trovatore" at Artpark!
You can read BBC Music's Q&A with Bychkov here.
And you can read a lengthier interview with Bychkov about "Lohengrin" here.
-- Mary Kunz Goldman