We speak to Björn Bürger, who, fresh from starring in Il barbiere di Siviglia this year, will be appearing in Ariadne auf Naxos in Festival 2017.
You’ve just wowed the Festival 2016 audience as Figaro in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia. How did Glyndebourne live up to your expectations? Was there anything that surprised you?
To be part of an opera production at Glyndebourne is a very special thing for a young opera singer. For me the most wonderful experience was to see how familiar the whole company is working and how quickly I became a part of this family. During the long rehearsal period and a long run of 17 performances of Il barbierie di Siviglia, which all in all took almost four months, I felt I was working with friends, not just colleagues.
Björn as Figaro with Taylor Stayton as Count Almaviva in this Festival’s Il barbiere di Siviglia. Photo: Bill Cooper
You’ll be back at Glyndebourne next year as Harlequin in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos. Can you tell us a little about the character and his role in the opera?
The Harlequin is one of Zerbinetta’s lovers. He knows he isn’t the only one but adores her anyway. The moment Ariadne enters the scene, Harlequin develops feelings for her as well, but in his role as a comedian his attempts to catch her attention aren`t very successful. Even when he sings his little aria Lieben, Hassen, Hoffen, Zagen to cheer her up, Harlequin doesn`t impress her much. He’s the light-hearted lover.
You’ve sung the same role before in Frankfurt. How do you feel about revisiting this role and what does it mean to you?
The Harlequin was my first main role I sang at Opera Frankfurt. It was my very first season as an opera singer and I was actually rehearsing on my first Papageno [in Die Zauberflöte] in Frankfurt when they called me to jump in as Harlequin for an indisposed colleague. I’d already studied the role to sing it later that season, so I made my debut a couple of months earlier then expected. Because of that I have a very special relationship to the Harlequin and I’m very happy having the chance to sing this wonderful role again at Glyndebourne.
Björn in rehearsals for Il barbiere di Siviglia. Photo: Richard Hubert Smith
Harlequin’s aria Lieben, Hassen, Hoffen, Zagen (‘To love, to hate, to hope, to quail’), in which he tries to inspire Ariadne to feel hopeful again, is a popular auditioning piece for baritones. What makes this aria so special?
I think the Harlequin aria shows many different shades of a singer’s voice in a very compressed way. It includes beautiful lyrical lines, one has to show a couple of high notes and every few bars you have to change the colour and idea of the phrases. The quick Harlequin tries to show as many emotions as possible in less than two minutes.
What are you most looking forward to next summer at Glyndebourne?
I’m very much looking forward to continue working at this wonderful opera house while enjoying the beautiful countryside, which combines nature and peace with one of the most important opera festivals in the world. As a musician what else can you wish for?
Aridane auf Naxos will be on stage in Festival 2017 from 25 June to 27 July 2017.