France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview
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|Subject: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview 9th December 2016, 20:46|| |
Philippe Jaroussky · Big interview:Monday to Friday > 5 parts in 5 daysFrench radio: France Musique
19 to 23 december 2016
every day... same time 13:00 – 13:30General information, France Musique
:[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]Les grands entretiens par Stéphane Grant:[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]Program · 19 december 2016: [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
France Musique: Philippe Jaroussky > Du 19 au 23 décembre 2016
Le contre-ténor français rend visite à France Musique dans les Grands Entretiens. Son timbre de voix bien particulier et la maîtrise technique qu’il met au service des nuances de chaque œuvre en ont fait un nom incontournable de la scène musicale internationale.
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|Subject: Re: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview 30th December 2016, 20:00|| |
I don't mind having a go at translating it for you but can it please wait until after the holidays? On the face of it, it looks like a lot of work (5 episodes of 30 minutes) but I imagine that the interviews are fairly liberally interspersed with musical extracts (I haven't had time to listen yet) ...
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|Subject: Re: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview 30th December 2016, 23:02|| |
Thank you for your kindness! Of course, I'll be waiting patiently. You are right, for example the first episode (27 minutes) contains about 18 minutes of talking.
Have a good holidays!
Happy New Year to all!
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|Subject: Re: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview 10th January 2017, 16:42|| |
Back from holidays now and will post something shortly.
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|Subject: Re: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview 12th January 2017, 17:57|| |
Here's the first episode. I'm slowly (very slowly!) working through the rest.
PJ on France Musique – Interview with Stéphane Grant
PJ: My name is Philippe Jaroussky. I was born on 13th February 1978 at Maisons -Lafitte and I’m a countertenor.
(Audioclip of PJ singing “Cara la dolce fiamma”)
SG: Could we begin with your family name, Philippe Jaroussky, which sounds terribly Russian, doesn’t it? What exactly are your family’s origins?
PJ: Yes, Jaroussky, if it is pronounced as it should be – ya-russki – it means “I’m Russian” and you can’t get more Russian than that! Many people think it’s Polish; perhaps it does sound more Polish than Russian. My great grand-parents fled the Russian revolution and met each other in Paris.
Family legend has it that when my great grandfather arrived at the French border, and they asked him his name, he didn’t understand and replied “Ya Russki”. It’s very strange as we have very little documentation about my great grandparents and we’ve never even managed to find out their real family name. We know that he was a White Russian, a supporter of the Czar. Perhaps he wanted to hide his identity; perhaps he was simply a political refugee and he preferred to make a complete break with his past.
SG: I wanted to ask you if this family history counted for a lot (for you) because it’s rather singular - a story of a family caught up in great historical events - but apparently not …
PJ: It is by nature rather anecdotal. My great grandparents were so keen to integrate that they didn’t even teach their children Russian – so it was lost very quickly, unfortunately. It’s true that I have 25% of Russian blood coursing through my veins but I have neither the culture nor the up-bringing you might expect from this.
SG: And you’ve never been tempted to or wished to retrace this family history?
PJ: Yes, one has tried but it’s rather complicated by the fact that we have so little information. Maybe I’ll have more time later to delve into family history. There comes a time in life when one wants to know where one comes from. There’s also a rather strange story on my mother’s side of the family. My grandmother was an abandoned child adopted by social services (la DDAS) and she was the subject of a secret file. My mother tried to look into this a short while ago but the file was never found – so there’s much frustration on both sides of the family.
SG: If we can go back to the bosom of the family, to the family home of little Philippe Jaroussky – what was your earliest childhood world like? What did your parents do? Was it a family steeped in music or not at all?
PJ: Yes and no. I’m from the suburbs. I was born in Maisons-Lafitte but I lived for 24 years in Sartrouville. My family could be described as average, middle class. My father was a sales executive. My mother stopped working after I was born. I have an elder brother who is now 48 years old. I enjoyed a rather happy suburban childhood. I came upon music rather by chance but it’s true that my parents listened to quite a lot of classical music. They listened to all kinds of music but my mother listened to the great violin concertos. I remember we had cassettes (at that time one listened to cassettes) of the concertos of Sibelius, for example, or famous arias sung by (Maria) Callas. My mother told me that she cried on the day that Callas died. She had a certain affinity for classical music.
SG: And this caught the ear of the little boy that you were at that time?
PJ: I think so, yes. My mother says that I “sang” practically as soon as I was born. This seems rather odd and it might make you smile, but apparently I already made sounds, many sounds, and at a very, very young age, I sang along to all the publicity jingles. I memorised music quite easily. Maybe a pre-disposition to music was already there and just needed to be awakened.
SG: Was there any other music around, other than classical music, other than the great violin concertos and Maria Callas – like the French (varietés) songs on the radio. Do you remember?
PJ: I had a brother who was 10 years older than me. When I was 5, he was 15 and a fully-blown adolescent. He listened to a lot of Michael Jackson. I don’t know whether this had any influence on my tastes or not.
SG: Did you like it?
PJ: Yes, I liked it a lot. I listen to it often. I’m very interested. What I find touching is his childhood recordings. It’s unhinging, this radiance that makes him a great artist.
(Clip of Michael Jackson singing “Ain’t no sunshine”)
SG: It must be very interesting – Philippe Jaroussky - listening to Michael Jackson’s voice when you yourself are a countertenor.
PJ: Yes, quite interesting, because I think the countertenor voice – it may seem a bit pretentious or odd to say so – is the nearest classical voice to pop (music). Even if one uses one’s voice in a classical way, there is something that remains intact, unspoiled. It also depends on the type of countertenor voice because some (of them) are more operatic with much more vibrato. As far as vibrato is concerned, generally, there is less of it with the countertenor voice. It is criticized for this even; they call it a “white” voice, for example. I have often been criticized for this. The high male voice has been – is still being - used a lot by singers in pop groups. I find it interesting to hear - not just in pop but also in music other than classical music.
SG: Were you a good pupil when you were at primary and high school?
PJ: I was a very, very good scholar right up to high school. I was one year ahead (of the other pupils). I passed my Science Baccalaureate when I was 17. I began studying music in the 6th or 5th class. It was a high school teacher who advised my parents that I should study music at the Conservatoire because he thought that I sang well and had a good ear (for music). We keep going back to singing which was always there right from the beginning. I started learning the violin at the age of 11. I must have been in the 5th class. This took hold of me more and more – consumed me, one might say. The discovery of music had an enormous impact. As far as general studies were concerned, I worked a lot less hard from high school onwards because I already had the idea of taking up music (professionally).
SG: Let’s go back to the meeting with this teacher who made you discover classical music. How exactly did this happen? What was the musical impact and the way he advised your parents that you should continue to follow a musical path?
PJ: I was in the 6th class at the Collège Colette at Sartrouville and it was through a teacher called Gérard Bertram – perhaps, he is listening today. We had the famous, statutory one hour music lesson per week where one is supposed to learn to play the recorder – I don’t know if this is still the case – but we all used to rush to his class because he was a young, very talented teacher who communicated his passion for music in a very intelligent way. He made us listen to a lot of classical music and he also composed songs for us. We even recorded a CD where I had a solo.
SG: So you wrote songs with him?
PJ: Yes. It was very important for him that we adolescents were able to express ourselves, that we had something to say. It was quite extraordinary. He told my parents that if there was one pupil in his school who should take up music, it was me. My parents hadn’t given any thought to this at all at this time because when I was younger I was very keen on drawing. I drew all the time. I copied pictures all the time. I was a bit of a megalomaniac. I copied pictures of Van Gogh, Frans Hals. It’s quite touching when I see these pictures again at my mother’s place, these pictures that I painted when I was 12 or 13 years old. It all seems rather surreal to me now.
I started at the Conservatoire in Sartrouville. It was wonderful. Already, in the first year we could try out some instruments. Normally, in the first year, you are not allowed to do this – you are only supposed to study theory. I tried out 4 instruments – the violin, the flute, the oboe and the trombone. For a long time I hesitated as to whether I should settle for the violin or the oboe. Finally, I started learning the violin at the age of 11 with my teacher, Madame Machuel, the mother of the composer, Thierry Machuel. She was a very strict, very thorough teacher who taught me a lot about discipline and the work involved in music. At 11, 11 ½, I had started relatively late for the study of the violin; it’s better to start at 7 or 8 years old. Very soon I was practising all the time, progressing by leaps and bounds and trying to catch up on my late start. Given my abilities, they advised me to study piano as well and I started with the piano at 15 years old. And then I found myself with a dilemma. My parents were very supportive about the idea of my becoming a professional musician but like many parents, they told me to pass my Baccalaureate exam first. So I passed my “Bac” and then I tried to work a lot more. I studied harmony and composition and I remember that during a two year period, I attended 4 different Conservatoires – at Sartrouville for the piano, Boulogne for theory, analysis, composition, Versailles for the violin with Marianne Piketty and then I enrolled at Hauts de Seine/Paris for the course of Baroque singing at the age of 19.
SG: What was your relationship with your violin at the beginning?
PJ: I’m a violinist at heart, even now. It’s a fascinating instrument but you suffer a lot with it too. I had a very sado-masochistic relationship with it because it’s a very difficult instrument.
SG: When you say you suffered a lot, do you mean musically or physically?
PJ: It’s quite physical, actually. You have a relationship with this violin which rubs against your neck when you practice with it for 6 or 7 hours a day for exams. It’s a relationship with physical suffering and at the same time there’s a sort of frustration because I never succeeded in catching up or taking much interest in pure and simple technique. I was often told that I was a good musician but a very bad technician (on the violin). I found this rather unfair because, after all, what is really better – is it to make music with one’s instrument or is it to play as fast as possible? At some point I dropped out a bit and I wasn’t very happy in my final years with the violin. I wasn’t very sure of where I was going. Singing was really a revelation with regard to what I really wanted to do with music in my life.
SG: Was it the singing, which came a little later, which made you decide that music would be your profession or did you realise this even before (learning the) the violin?
PJ: Yes, I thought about being a violin teacher at the Conservatory and because we studied theory a lot, at one stage, I had the crazy idea of becoming a composer. I started trying to compose as an adolescent and I very quickly realised that I didn’t have much to say.
SG: Did you keep your efforts at composition like your childhood drawings?
PJ: Yes, I kept my first efforts. They were a bit post-Debussy-ish, shall we say. When I was at the Conservatoire at Boulogne, the study and analysis of Messaien’s works with Naji Hakim had an enormous impact, with the opening up of the mind to this new (musical) language. It was really exciting. The revelation with singing came about when I went to listen to a concert by a countertenor, Fabrice di Falco. He was singing Farinelli’s and Händel’s most famous arias, accompanied by the organ, in a church in Paris. There was really this trigger mechanism. It was my first real experience of this voice type. I was absolutely fascinated by this high male voice reverberating through the church. It was quite magical and a revelation at the same time. In the course of one evening, I could see myself in his place. I had this instinct to sing high like that at home. Perhaps the fact that I was a violinist nurtured this connection with high notes. I immediately saw myself doing this and I met his teacher, Nicole Fallien. We are still working together after 20 years. We’ve never left (each other). There was this immediate impact and an absolute certainty that I never felt with the violin or the piano. When I met my teacher for my first lesson, I sang an extract from Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. She told me that my voice was lovely but very, very, very small, very musical but small and that she didn’t think I could become a countertenor. Apparently, I replied, with all the wisdom of my 18 years: “Trust me. I know I can.” It was as if I could foresee the future, which is quite unbelievable. Perhaps the finest gift that life has given me is this sudden conviction to become a singer.
(Audio clip of PJ singing “Fac ut portem Christi mortem” from Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater)
SG: This impact, this emotion you felt at Fabrice di Falco’s concert, was it due to the extraordinary voice of the countertenor or was it also connected with the repertoire which you were hearing and discovering?
PJ: Yes, my connection to baroque music is really because of the voice. When I was a violinist, I was deeply into Shostakovich, Brahms, - really the most romantic of Post-Romantic music. Generally, when you study the violin, you learn sonatas and partitas but it’s really a bit like an exam exercise. Usually, you learn scales, an extract from a Bach sonata or partita and a concerto movement. That’s the way it was for the Conservatoire prizes; I don’t know if it’s still like this. I even remember going with a friend (to the cinema) after the final year of the Baccalaureate. It was the year that the film “Farinelli” came out. I wasn’t yet singing and I remember finding the music monumentally boring. It’s funny because barely 3 or 4 years later, I was, more or less, singing all of the arias in the film – Cara Sposa, all the excerpts from “Rinaldo”. It’s amazing how one’s tastes can change. I really discovered baroque music through singing.
SG: And were you already singing at school, or at the same time that you were studying the violin, or not at all? Did you belong to a choir or anything like that?
PJ: Not at all. Apart from the experience with my music teacher when I even won a song contest at my school singing “Les Démons de Minuit”. Not much to boast about. At least it was high (vocally). We were in the 80s, after all. I have many countertenor colleagues who sang as children, who were even child stars – like Bejun Mehta and Max-Emanuel Cencic, who even recorded solo albums as children. For me it was both a late and a youthful discovery. When you start singing as a boy of 18, you are still relatively young.
SG: You said at the beginning that your parents were very supportive of your musical apprenticeship, but what did they say when you discovered your voice at 18?
PJ: I was lucky from the start because my mother liked countertenors a lot. She was familiar with Gerard Lesne’s work and had some of his discs. So when I began to sing as a countertenor, it did not strike her as being all that odd. Then they supported me a lot when after the Baccalaureate, to the great dismay of my teachers, I decided not to go to University but only to enrol in Conservatoires.
SG: You must have been very sure of how things were going to turn out …
PJ: No. They allowed me 2 years. My parents told me: “Pass your Baccalaureate first and as you are only 17, we’ll give you two years to see how it goes with the music”. It was a leap into the totally unknown. They were quite distressed because they didn’t know where I was going at all. I hadn’t yet discovered my voice. I was really very lucky because many parents are afraid when their children tell them that they want to take up music professionally. It’s not always easy. It requires a lot of sacrifices on the part of the parents too. These studies are relatively expensive and at a certain level you have to buy instruments, scores and a lot of other things.
(Audioclip of PJ singing “Dall’amor più sventurato”)
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|Subject: Re: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview 12th January 2017, 19:52|| |
Thank you for your time and effort to translate the interview!
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|Subject: Re: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview 13th January 2017, 07:05|| |
Artemis, many thanks for translation! There are a lot of very interesting details at this part!
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|Subject: Re: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview 13th January 2017, 13:50|| |
Endless thanks for your great work and your constant faith!
" J’essaye de contrôler mon image et je ne vois pas pourquoi je parlerais de ma vie privée ou pourquoi je devrais faire connaître publiquement mes choix politiques ou autres." ©
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|Subject: Re: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview 13th January 2017, 22:33|| |
What an Interview
So happy for Philippe Jaroussky that at last revealed some secret of his Family and his Childhood
This interview is best , In my opinion
When you discover more and more about Opera singer , Ballet dancer even Musician
I am happy
with respect Philippe Jaroussky
Just my point of View
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|Subject: Re: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview 14th January 2017, 03:40|| |
Thank you so so sooooo much for the translation, time and effort you put into it.
We greatly benefit from your work!!
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|Subject: Re: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview 14th January 2017, 08:48|| |
Many thanks for all your kind words. I'll post some more shortly. You'd better all pray for bad weather when I'm more likely to stay indoors sitting over my computer!
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|Subject: Re: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview 14th January 2017, 12:11|| |
Wow! - What a great start of this very thorough in-depts-interview with Philippe Jaroussky! Thank you som much for the English translation!
I'm really looking forward to read the next part!
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|Subject: Re: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview 14th January 2017, 18:56|| |
Dear Artemis! It takes a lot of time. Thank you!!!
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|Subject: Re: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview 22nd January 2017, 17:50|| |
Here's the second instalment. I have to say that it's a lot easier to translate a written text. With speech, you have to take into account that people repeat themselves, use "fillers" when they are looking around for what to say and leave sentences half-finished. Anyway, I hope it's understandable!
PJ on France Musique – Interview with Stéphane Grant
(Audioclip of PJ singing “Cor ingrato dispietato”)
SG: You mentioned Nicole Fallien, the teacher you met for the first time exactly 20 years ago in 1996. What memories do you have of your first lessons?
PJ: When you start singing (lessons), you have (strong) feelings of pleasure, of euphoria. It’s a bit like releasing chemicals into the blood, I think. The vibrations, the sensations you feel are more greatly enhanced than when one is in a normal state – rather like acting on stage. Quite simply, you feel more alive; you are expressing something profound, a vital force. I have to labour this point now that I’m beginning to give masterclasses. I don’t actually care for the expression “masterclass” very much. I see many very stressed students. Starting a career as a singer is very scary. You are full of doubts. You don’t know exactly what voice (type) you have or what repertoire to adopt. You don’t know how and with whom to begin. You get a lot of different (conflicting) advice. One person tells you to sing in a certain way and another tells you the opposite. I tell them to stay tuned to this vital energy, this power and vocal pleasure, to the physical sensation of pleasure. It could also be an excellent basis for technique.
SG: And what did you find with your own voice at the beginning?
PJ: Nicole very quickly found that she had a problem, because I started at 18 …
SG: She had doubts about you as a countertenor at the beginning, didn’t she?
PJ: She told me that she became convinced after 6 months. In six months, considerable progress was made with the voice. At the same time, it was rather alarming that at 20 years old, I was getting my first professional engagements with two big names in the baroque music world – Jean-Claude Malgoire, who hired me straight away for the Monteverdi trilogy – and Gérard Lesne with whom I made my first recording – Scarlatti’s “Sedeccia”. I had to work a lot because I was taking on (musical) scores that were really too difficult for me. I’d only had 2 years of singing experience. Obviously, I could read music very well because of my experience with musical instruments but with the voice, it was a bit more intuitive.
SG: How did you work on this at the beginning?
PJ: It’s complicated because at the beginning, it’s all about enjoyment. It was almost subconscious with me. It was completely crazy to sing Nerone in “L’incoronazione di Poppea” at the age of 21 but at the same time, there was an astonishing freshness and beauty (to it). Unfortunately, afterwards there were some rather difficult periods. After a few years, you listen to yourself and begin to doubt yourself. There’s quite a bit of pressure too; you begin to sing in larger concert halls and the voice has not yet sufficiently developed for you to be able to do this with ease. Let’s say there were 2 or 3 rather difficult years of running around with Nicole trying to master all these scores and take on all these engagements which came one after the other and a bit too quickly for a young singer.
(Audioclip of PJ singing “Fermati, o barbaro” from “Sedeccia”)
SG: We’ve established that it’s now 20 years that you have been working with Nicole and you still work with her. You’ve had a flourishing career for quite some time and yet you still have the same teacher who works with you almost on a daily basis. Do you know straight away when you have found the right teacher to accompany you on your musical journey?
PJ: At the beginning, when you start to have a few problems, you might have some doubts; you might ask yourself if this is the right teacher or whether it might not be better to work with someone else. What is great for me is that I’ve often arrived for a singing lesson feeling very tired and then after 2 hours, I’m no longer tired at all and can sing in fine form. It’s a good sign. There are teachers where the opposite is the case – you turn up fighting fit and then after 2 hours you are tired. This is not a very good sign. I think what makes the quality of Nicole’ work so good is that she has been a teacher for nearly 30 years at the Comédie Française (for stage actors) and that she likes to stick with what is “natural”. By this I mean not enlarging the voice artificially, because this is a problem she deals with all the time with stage actors – “salvaging tired speaking voices” as she calls it. We’ve always taken this as our base and been rather prudent – slowly and patiently developing the voice. She was right. At the beginning my voice was very small but very flexible. At the Conservatoire they called me “The Machine Gun” – anything to do with coloratura and that sort of thing always came very easily to me. On the other hand, for text interpretation and vocal maturity, to be honest, it took me nearly 10 years to feel comfortable.
SG: At the same time that you found your teacher, Nicole, you started straight away on the singing course at the Department of Ancient Music at the Conservatoire National de Région?
PJ: No, one year later in 1997. I was lucky enough to study in this department when I was very, very young – at the insistence of Kenneth Weiss who accompanied me for the audition (for entry into the Conservatoire). I sang “Dopo note” from “Ariodante” at the age of 19, I remember. I was very lucky because I was able to take advantage of the teaching of some of the first baroque specialists. This was invaluable. I had teachers such as Michel Laplénie, Jean Tubéry, Sophie Boulin, David Simpson and a whole lot of other professors. I followed many chamber music courses and had a lot of meetings with young musicians. It was really an in-depth study of the baroque repertoire (that I had) during these 4 years – baroque declamation, gestures, dance, temperament – all the different baroque repertoires – German, French, Italian. These were 4 really worthwhile years.
SG: You started out at a time when interest in baroque music was booming. You already mentioned some names, but there were other big names that during an 18, 20, 40 year period were instrumental in the revival of this music. And you arrived right in the middle of the glory days.
PJ: Yes, in the glory days – a period when the countertenor voice was already known. There were some well-known French countertenors already - Henri Ledroit, for example – and it was the golden age of Gérard Lesne, who at that time was recording two CDs a year and created wonders with his (ensemble) Seminario Musicale. This inspired me to pass the audition for a course at Royaumont. These voices were known at the time, but the higher register of the countertenor voice was less known, the voices of “sopranists” as they are called, although I don’t like this classification very much. The fact that I was a “sopranist” facilitated a relatively early start (to my career). It was at a time when men playing men’s rôles were much sought after for the higher repertoire -notably the rôle of Nerone in L’Incoronazione di Poppea or, in the case of Gérard Lesne, the rôle of his son, which is a soprano part, in the oratorio “Sedeccia”. The idea of hiring a man instead of a woman in this kind of rôle was beginning to take root in the world of baroque music.
SG: I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify some of the terms with you: countertenor, sopranist, haute-contre, alto, falsettist. What’s the difference between them?
PJ: For me, it’s easy. I use the general term “countertenor” all the time. For me, a countertenor is a man who sings in head voice, who can use his chest voice, of course, for the lower notes from time to time – his tenor voice, for example – but he mainly uses his head voice. An haute-contre does the reverse – he’s a tenor, who for the higher notes uses a mixed head voice. It’s confusing because certain countertenors, like Gérard Lesne, have an ease of passage in the chest voice enabling them to interpret haute-contre rôles, like David in “David et Jonathas”. And then terms like “sopranist”, “alto” describe the tessitura (vocal range). As far as tessitura is concerned, I’ve always considered myself to be a mezzo-soprano with a fairly light timbre. I’m a little wary of the term “sopranist” because as soon as you talk about sopranists, you think of performances exclusively in the very high range and I find it no longer makes any sense. At the moment, we have some great countertenors – I’m thinking of Franco Fagioli, who is very much at ease in the higher register, but who doesn’t describe himself as a sopranist. He’s a countertenor. There are many countertenors now – like me and many of my colleagues - who often juggle between alto, mezzo and soprano parts. We have this flexibility – and that’s why the term “countertenor” seems to me to be the most appropriate.
(Audioclip of PJ singing Qual per ignato calle)
PJ: If you re-examine my discography, you’ll notice some surprising things. I began by singing relatively high – soprano, 2nd soprano and it was not long before I did the CD of Vivaldi’s Cantatas, which is more or less in the alto repertoire. When I listen to this CD now, I think the lower register seems fairly solid. Afterwards I began to sing higher pieces, but generally you could say that my tessitura hasn’t changed all that much over 20 years. Obviously, in the way of singing and with greater physical involvement, it has changed a lot but the tessitura has stayed more or less the same.
SG: When one discovers one’s voice and the need to work on it with a teacher, do you also discover that you have to sustain a quasi-mental/psychological relationship with it (the voice)? Do you have to work on this as well and how do you manage to live with it as a singer?
PJ: I could never have dreamed, at the age of 18, of being on stage all the time as a soloist, and travelling. The first time I travelled by air was at the age of 20 with Jean-Claude Malgoire for a performance of “L’Incoronazione di Poppea” in Marseille.
SG: And the first time you visited an opera house – was it as a (professional) singer?
PJ: Yes. It’s surprising. At the beginning, you don’t really take it all in and it’s only after one or two years that you become aware of the pressure . It’s very different and it changes things. I’ve always been more cerebral than physical . Nicole and I really battled with this because the voice is deeply physical and if you want to last in the profession, you have to work on it a lot. From time to time, I run into some of my former teachers – notably from the Conservatoire de Paris – who tell me that they were afraid that I would not have been able to cope. They were afraid for me because at one stage, it was a case of “too much, too soon”. Nevertheless, I survived because I continued working and questioning things. Now I’m much more robust than before but with hindsight, I can imagine that I might have stopped singing at a certain moment. I think if you are overworked, you fight against yourself and you can lose the pleasure you take in singing. This is very dangerous for you both psychologically and physically.
SG: Your studies finished in 2001 after graduation from the Conservatoire, didn’t they? But you said that your first engagements took place prior to graduation with Gérard Lesne and Jean-Claude Malgoire. It was at the end of the 90s that you met Gérard Lesne …
PJ: Exactly. I also had a very significant meeting with Philippe Maillard. We did a staged performance of “Alcina” at the Conservatoire, where I had the small rôle of Oberto. Kenneth Weiss had invited Philippe Maillard along and he (Philippe Maillard) decided, after this initial contact with my voice, to arrange my first recital in Paris at the Musée Grévin. I sang extracts from Händel’s “Ariodante”, “Serse”. A great personal bond was formed at this meeting. At that time, Philippe Maillard was only a concert producer; he was not yet an agent. It was only after some years that he founded his agency. I was his first artist. I hadn’t got an agent at this stage and he’s still my agent. I’ve really remained faithful – faithful to my teacher, to my agent and to my recording company. I’ve now worked for nearly 20 years with Alain Lanceron. I made some really crucial contacts when I was extremely young which were very important to me.
(Audioclip of PJ singing “Ombra mai fu”)
SG: Did you suffer a lot with stage fright when you gave your first professional recital at the Musée Grévin?
PJ: Not at all. No – because when I was young, between 18 and 21, I really didn’t know what the profession was all about. I had no experience of music criticism or of recording. I discovered everything very, very quickly. I found myself in front of a microphone at the age of 20 recording the Scarlatti oratorio with Gérard Lesne. I played the rôle of Nerone by instinct rather than anything else. I remember the first time that I sang Nerone at Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines with Jean-Claude Malgoire. When the curtain came down after that wonderful duet “Pur ti Miro”, I had an overwhelming feeling of absolute pleasure, of complete happiness – having got through to the end singing this marvellous music. It was on that evening that I told myself that I really wanted to devote my whole life to this.
SG: And to make your début with someone like Jean-Claude Malgoire – to whom you have remained faithful, since you were working with him a short while ago singing “Les Nuits d’Eté” at Tourcoing for the 50th anniversary of La Grande Ecurie et la Chambre du Roy – a leading exponent and collaborator on so much baroque music in France!
PJ: Yes, a great pioneer – many singers began their career with him – Véronique Gens and many others. He gave a lot of singers the opportunity to sing major rôles very early on (in their career). One of the difficulties of being a young singer is that you can easily get hired for small parts lasting 5 or 6 minutes. These are often the most difficult parts to do because it is not easy to immerse yourself on stage. He offered principal rôles straight away to a lot of singers. He’s someone who is very kindly disposed towards singers and he has a real flair (for talent). He discovered my voice when he came to visit Gérard Lesne at Royaumont during my course there. Three days later, I received a phone call offering me the possibility of joining his company for 4 months. I’m very lucky because even as a student, I already knew that I had future prospects and that I was getting hired. It can be difficult – sometimes I see students leaving the Conservatoire with a very high level of (singing) competence but who have great difficulty in beginning their career. It’s always difficult beginning a career. If you are not lucky enough to make the right connections, it is not going to be easy. The world of auditions is very difficult.
(Audioclip of PJ and Nuria Rial singing “Pur ti miro”)
SG: So you escaped all this because everything went very smoothly – the meeting with Gérard Lesne, the meeting with Jean-Claude Malgoire, the engagements, cutting your first disc early on. Normally this is done through auditions.
PJ: Quite so. I’ve only done three auditions in my life and they were not particularly productive – but they made me realise how difficult all this is. I remember an audition at Glyndebourne over ten years ago. I was alone with a pianist and we had to audition in front of a camera. I had made a special trip to do this but I was not hired. You have to learn how to do auditions. It’s all part of what a young singer has to do – to succeed in convincing someone who doesn’t know you to hire you – not easy!
SG: How did Jean-Claude Malgoire help you on the musical front and with stagecraft? It’s one thing to sing but quite another thing to tread the boards of a stage or an opera house.
PJ: I had absolutely no theatrical experience whatsoever. I’ve often said that I’m not a born actor. It was really incredible to play a character as complex as Nerone at the age of 20 with no theatrical experience. I can say this now with the passage of time – when Nicolas Rivenq, the producer for this production, saw me taking my first steps on stage during rehearsal, he told Jean-Claude Malgoire that I was an absolute disaster who didn’t know how to put one foot in front of the other. Jean-Claude replied “Don’t you worry; the lad will learn”. It’s true with this kindly disposition and trust, you can learn. I’ve learned a lot watching other singers.
(More “Pur ti miro”)
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|Subject: Re: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview 22nd January 2017, 18:21|| |
Thank you for the translation of the second part! We are patiently waiting for the other parts too...
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|Subject: Re: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview 23rd January 2017, 08:38|| |
Thank you very much, Artemis for an excellent job! - This has to be the best interview with Philippe, ever! - At least, so far... Keep up the good work! - I'll be waiting patiently for the next part...
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|Subject: Re: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview 31st January 2017, 12:51|| |
Here's episode 3 ...
PJ on France Musique – Interview with Stéphane Grant
(Audioclip of Gérard Lesne singing “L’empia sorte” (Sedeccia)
SG: You mentioned Gérard Lesne’s name in the previous broadcast – a great singer. What was it that you admired about him at the time when you discovered each other?
PJ: Yes, you could say that Gérard fell in love with my voice when he was discovering this rather high countertenor voice. I followed 3 courses at Royaumont. It was during that time that he had the idea of recording Scarlatti’s “Sedeccia”. With Gérard I discovered the need for, and the importance of, accuracy; he’s someone who is extremely precise with an incredible ear for accuracy. I learned a lot during the course of the recording, how to record, etc. Of course, I listened to his CDs a lot. With the passage of time, it’s safe to say that Gérard Lesne has one of the finest countertenor discographies in existence – both for the quality of the recording and the quality of his ensemble. Perhaps I got the idea from him to found my own ensemble in order to be able to offer my own (musical) programmes.
SG: Gérard Lesne’ ensemble is “Il Seminario Musicale” and yours, which you founded in 2002, is called “Artaserse”.
PJ: Quite early, in fact. I recorded my first CD dedicated to (Benedetto) Ferrari with them. The ensemble has developed enormously over the years – and then there is the singularity of the repertoire. If you look at Gérard Lesne’s repertoire – of course, he has recorded some well-known pieces, but there is also much buried treasure, less well-known pieces. Very quickly, I acquired a taste for recording composers who had not been lucky enough to be recorded previously.
(Audioclip of PJ singing “Cielo sia con tua pace” – Ferrari)
SG: Did the cultivation of the countertenor voice in the 20th century influence the beginning of your career? As well as Gérard Lesne, you also mentioned Henri Ledroit, a great French singer who sang baroque music as well as contemporary works, something you are interested in yourself now.
PJ: I listened to him a lot.
SG: Before meeting you, I read up a bit (about countertenors) – about Alfred Deller, who was singing in the middle of the 20th century, the beginning of the 40s. He discovered his countertenor voice; nobody was able to train his voice because at the time nobody knew what a countertenor was. Afterwards, when there was a taste for it, he inspired singers like René Jacobs, James Bowman and many others.
PJ. He was pivotal because he was the first to say: “This is the way I sing, this is what I do”. For us now, it’s a lot easier. I think, even in Gérard Lesne’s time, it was still rather difficult. There were very few (of us). Now I see a huge number of young singers, a lot of young countertenors. I watch videos on YouTube. It amuses me because I see a lot of videos of them singing Vivaldi’s “Vedro con mio diletto” using my own ornamentation. I find this interesting. To a lesser extent, I even see students who tell me that they began singing because they heard me. I think it’s great!
SG: Discovery of your voice, début of a professional career, your first CD and the founding of an ensemble – what was behind the idea of your own ensemble? Was it a sort of musical laboratory to reclaim a certain repertoire and kick-start your career?
PJ: The Conservatoire de Paris encouraged us early on to do research. I remember we had free annual access to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and I made use of it straight away. We had to write a thesis/dissertation at the end of our studies. I did mine on Carestini. If I did a Carestini CD afterwards, it’s not just by chance. I spent 3 years copying Carestini’s arias in various libraries, notably in Paris. I even made a special trip to Milan to recover one of his arias. I told myself that with my voice, which was neither high soprano nor alto, I quickly had to find music particularly suited to it. I couldn’t count on being hired for parts adapted to my voice because there were very few. Straight away I thought of founding my own ensemble in order to offer my own concert programmes – quite simply to sing music suited to the voice that I had at that time, and still have. I had this good idea early on. It also enabled me to find out very quickly what kind of music I did and didn’t want to hear, and to know what kind of sound I wanted to hear. I was greatly enriched by my collaboration with all the baroque conductors I met – Christie, Malgoire, Spinosi, Minkowski,and loads of others.
SG: Exactly. In frequenting the libraries so young, you discovered music that nobody knew, in fact – arias written for a castrato like Carestini, for example. There must have been hidden treasures that one longed to unearth, which was indeed the case later.
PJ: Obviously, you could use the services of musicologists - something I do more and more now that I have less and less time to travel. What is interesting when you do your own research, is that in looking for something in particular, you find something else entirely. This is wonderful. I remember when I started doing research for a Mozart CD, I ended up doing a J.-C. Bach CD. What I find interesting is that research feeds the imagination as well as future projects.
(Audioclip of PJ singing “Fra l’orrore” – J.-C. Bach)
SG: At the same time that you were discovering the music and the repertoire of these castrati, you were also learning about their lives …
PJ: Yes I was immediately fascinated by the stories of these singers who generally came from very poor family backgrounds; very few of them became really famous – and also the way they took their revenge on life, their diva-like antics and the wars between castrati. It was the life of a diva, a life of travelling but also of great sadness and deep distress. They were people who had been sacrificed on the altar of art and who only found justification for their existence when they were on stage. They were often mocked in their everyday life. I’ve always found this very touching. A lot has been said about the (singing) technique of the castrati – an unbelievable technique, incredible breath control. In the last recording of the last castrato, Moreschi, you can hear this extremely resonant timbre, almost like a shrill tenor.
SG: At what time was he singing, this last castrato, Moreschi?
PJ: 1906. He was the last castrato singing at the Vatican. This is much talked about but I think there is emotion in the (castrato) voice which is connected to history, to the sacrifice and then this rather child-like timbre arouses emotion too. I think we have difficulty nowadays trying to judge the emotions such a voice could arouse when heard live.
SG: These were unusual lives, with a unique repertoire – which brings us to what you sing in homage to them in a way – Carestini, Farinelli, who had a different career, a dazzling career, though Carestini sang for a much longer period.
PJ: Carestini created far more masterpieces than Farinelli. Farinelli’s virtuosity came at a price. I mean to to say, that in a way Farinelli occasionally castrated the composer’s imagination. Incidentally, there is that famous (fictitious) scene in the film “Farinelli” where Händel tells Farinelli that he has castrated his imagination and that he would not compose any more operas. His voice held so many possibilities - he could sing virtually anything without needing to breathe - that the composer was a bit of a slave to it. He had to compose ever-increasingly difficult arias and Farinelli paid the price for this. Carestini had a much longer career. He sang for all the great composers – Scarlatti, Vivaldi and Händel, of course – creating what is perhaps the greatest castrato rôle – Ariodante. Carestini’s career was much more rewarding in musical terms but his career also had a downward spiral. We know that his last time on stage in Milan was not very successful. The voice was no longer what it was. Farinelli stopped singing on stage very early on, so he was probably better able to sustain the myth.
SG: Carestini, the story of a castrato – you paid homage to him with a CD recorded in 2006 with Emanuelle Haïm. You mentioned the rôle of Ariodante – is this a rôle that you have played or that you dream of playing?
PJ: For me, it’s the perfect rôle but, unfortunately, I will never sing it on stage. In recent years, I’ve often sung the rôle of Ruggiero in “Alcina” which was also created by Carestini. It’s a rôle on a more human scale, much easier to sing and which better matches my own personality. Ruggiero is a more feminine character than Ariodante, who is a more warrior-like hero. And then the rôle (of Ariodante) is too difficult. I recorded the aria “Scherza infida” when I was very young but I will never sing Ariodante on stage.
(Audioclip of PJ singing “Scherza infida”)
SG: If there’s one artist whose name crops up in just about every interview for some years now …
PJ: I’m faithful, I am!
SG: It’s Cecilia Bartoli – what is it about her that you admire so much?
PJ: My admiration stems from the way she has of speaking (communicating) and singing at the same time. I’ve always said that Cecilia is one of those rare artists who sing in 3 dimensions. I always feel that she’s 3 dimensional, not just two or one! And then, of course, there’s her energy, her Italianità (“Italian-ness”), which has always fascinated me, because obviously, I’m not Italian myself. When I sing in Italian, I’m always seeking that same richness, that Italianità. And there’s the way she expresses the text; she revolutionised the way of singing and expression, that way of communicating when singing. I was so spell-bound that I wanted to sing just like her but I very quickly realised that I was just not capable (of doing so) – also, it was not necessarily the best way of nurturing my voice. I remember my first meeting with Cecilia very well. It was in Germany, when I received the Echo Klassik award for the first time. I was the (male) Singer of the Year in 2008, I think, and she was also (female) Singer of the Year. It was already a bit surreal as far as I was concerned. I remember feeling a tap on the shoulder and I turned round and Cecilia said right away “I’ve listened to your Carestini album and I think it was really well (intelligently) done. That was our initial contact but we did not work together at once. A few years later, I received a call inviting me to participate in Händel’s “Giulio Cesare” at Salzburg. It was a great thrill to share the stage with Cecilia. Afterwards, there were two more collaborations. She invited me to sing duets with her on her album “Mission” and I reciprocated by asking her to do 2 duets with me on the Farinelli/Porpora album. Our paths cross from time to time and there is, of course, the production of “Alcina” which will take place in Zurich soon. There will also be a series of concerts next June where we sing together. It’s a great story of musical friendship. She’s an example of the work ethic; she’s someone who is always working towards improvement. It’s always a great learning experience to work on a production with her.
(Audioclip of CB & PJ singing “La gioia ch’io sento”)
SG: Since we are talking about (rôle) models like Cecilia Bartoli for the classical repertoire, I’ve often read of you mentioning other names for completely different repertoire(s) – Freddie Mercury, Ella Fitzgerald, Edith Piaf. What is it that you admire about them? Is it the music, the text (interpretation), the sensitivity? What is it exactly that you feel for artists like them?
PJ: Obviously, with Freddie Mercury and Edith Piaf , it’s that their singing comes straight from the guts, visceral. I said earlier that I was more intellectually than physically inclined. And when I hear voices like that from singers who put all their cards on the table, it’s enormously moving. Ella Fitzgerald is still one of my favourite singers. I think she’s absolute perfection in everything – the colour(s), the perfect intonation, the simplicity and musical honesty. There are never any gratuitous effects; it’s all about feelings and this is always an inspiration for me. Another artist who overwhelms me completely when I listen to her – who unfortunately left us far too early – is Lorraine Hunt. She’s another artist I admire enormously and I recommend people to listen to her if they don’t know her already. She’s a complete artist with an uncompromising personality. It’s greatly beneficial to listen to artists like her.
SG: Lorraine Hunt – this brings us to William Christie, because she worked with him a lot. You talked very early on about the experience of working with certain conductors, particularly when one is setting out on one’s career. How important are such collaborations for artistic enrichment - William Christie, later Emanuelle Haïm, Jérémie Rhorer, Marc Minkowski, Spinosi. I imagine that they were all important to a different extent.
PJ: You can make a list of conductors that I’ve worked with – although I met William Christie relatively late. Early on, after Malgoire, I met Jean-Christophe Spinosi – slap bang in the middle of the re-discovery of Vivaldi’s operas. I think I’m the only singer to have participated in all the 4 complete Vivaldi operas that Jean-Christophe recorded for Naïve – “La Verità in Cimento”, “La Fida Ninfa”, “Orlando Furioso” and “Griselda”.
SG: As well as the recital.
PJ: Plus the recital “Heroes” which had an enormous success. I think it’s still my best selling CD. That was a very important collaboration. We both burst forth on the scene at roughly the same time and Vivaldi was our first “vehicle” and his music brought us an enormous amount of luck. It was a very significant meeting, as well as a musical connection. Perhaps the fact that we are both violinists by training brought us closer. I worked in parallel with Emanuelle Haïm because the “Carestini” CD and the “Heroes” CD were recorded in the same year. I learned a lot with Emanuelle because she is a “chef de chambre” by training. It was exciting. And William Christie, to whom I came rather late. My first collaboration with Bill was on “St. Alessio” – the famous project with an all-male cast, notably 7 countertenors. That was when I met Max-Emanuel Cencic and we recorded a CD of duets with William Christie shortly afterwards. We (PJ + Christie) met relatively late and I think it was just at the right time for me. There was a link between the colour of my voice, my personality and the rôle of St. Alessio, which is a tenuous, rather strange rôle. I remember when I went for my audition, the opera was more or less completely cast, except for the rôle of St. Alessio. I remember passing Max-Emanuel, who was auditioning for the rôle of the Sposa, my wife, in the corridors. We were both hired for this production. Afterwards we (PJ + Christie) worked on “L’Incoronazione di Poppea” and then “Theodora” last year. He’s someone who can communicate very directly. I know that when William Christie is at the harpsichord, I sing in a different way. There’s something quite magical about it.
(Audioclip of PJ and M-E C “Se l’idolo che adoro” – Bononcini)
SG: To the list of conductors we’ve already mentioned, we should add the name of Christina Pluhar, with whom you do different kinds of projects.
PJ: Yes, she’s the first one who got me to go haywire, you could say. There was already a kind of exuberance and originality in the way of interpreting Vivaldi with Spinosi, but the humour and improvisation, which has been present in Christina’s work with L’Arpeggiata for many years already, came as a complete surprise for me. Of course, I go along with this, with her, because of the (high) quality of her musicians and the freshness (of her approach). I’ve recorded a lot of CDs with Christina and done a lot of concerts (with her). I like it a lot because she elicits very strong reactions. We noticed this with her Purcell CD.
SG: For the way she interprets the music, Monteverdi, etc.
PJ: Exactly – a certain jazzy aspect, stuff like that. Nearly all the projects that Christina has done are guided by the idea that improvisation can create magical moments that would not have been possible otherwise. Everything is guided by this idea of improvisation. I think that when an artist improvises, he reveals his deepest inner nature. When she interprets Monteverdi and Purcell in a jazzy way with one or two blue notes, it’s a way of saying that after all the work done on baroque music these last 20 years, this militancy, that baroque music should be played in this way … - baroque music has changed a lot in terms of interpretation - we no longer even play Mozart or Beethoven in the way that we once did. In the end, is that the ultimate truth or is there not still room for a certain mystery. This way of playing this music and interpreting it in the opposite way of what one might expect, isn’t it a way of saying “Do we really know how this music was played at the time”?
(Audioclip of PJ singing Purcell’s “Music for a while”)
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|Subject: Re: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview 10th March 2017, 18:03|| |
Here's Episode 4 (sorry for the delay):
PJ on France Musique – Interview with Stéphane Grant
(Audioclip of PJ singing “Fra le procelle”
SG: It’s clear that in the not so distant past, on an album like “Heroes” recorded in 2006 with Jean-Christophe Spinosi, there was something dizzying about the virtuosity and facility of that voice, a sort of intoxication with singing. What relationship did you yourself have with your voice at that time?
PJ: Yes, there was a sort of intoxication and an enormous pleasure in rattling off the non-stop coloraturas, surpassing myself. I was looking at a video of the recording session of this CD “Heroes” recently, and it seemed like I was going that extra mile, stretching myself to the absolute limit.
The fact is that there is still an enormous amount of things for me to record. Now I’d like to explore and move in two directions. At the moment there is an (over)abundance of recitals of Neapolitan music, the castrato repertoire, and I’d like to go back to the basic countertenor repertoire. There are two possibilities – the basic Baroque repertoire of Purcell, Dowland, Bach obviously, which is maybe less virtuosic but which is nevertheless better suited to certain countertenor voices like my own, for example – and then there is the basic countertenor repertoire from the very beginning, from the re-emergence of that voice after the Second World War with Alfred Deller; the creation of contemporary works. This might strike one as astonishing, but I think the countertenor (voice) has a burgeoning future with the creation of contemporary works. For about 5 or 6 years now, I’m getting a lot of requests from composers who are interested in the colour of the (countertenor) voice and its sexual ambiguity and the variety of rôles it could interpret. Nowadays, everything is possible in opera; you can tell just about any story. It could be about DSK (Dominique Strauss-Kahn – nervous giggle here on the part of SG – it would definitely give Turnage’s “Anna Nicole” a run for its money! -A.
) or the war in Syria. There’s a huge diversity in the stories that can now be told through opera and the countertenor can bring an interesting perspective to all of this.
SG: It was Benjamin Britten, who at the beginning created the rôle of Oberon in”A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for Alfred Deller. What kind of contemporary work would you like (to create)? Are you open to interpret all kinds of aesthetic and music?
PJ: Interestingly, when you agree to participate in a contemporary work, generally, you accept (the engagement) before the music is actually written, which requires a relationship of trust with the composer. It’s also a means of self-discovery. I remember when I created the work of Marc-André Dalbavie, the Sonnets (of Louise Labé), a work which has had its share of success and which I sing every year with large symphony orchestras, I discovered things about my voice. When Suzanne Giraud generously offered me the rôle of “Caravaggio”, she played on the extremes of my vocal range, and it was another sort of challenge. This year I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to take part in the creation of Kaija Saariaho’s magnificent work “Only the Sound Remains” where my voice was processed by computer - also a discovery for me. I feel just as much at home (in contemporary works), and I say this to be “provocative”, as I do in Mélodies Françaises. This might seem strange coming from a countertenor but I find it very rewarding to work and collaborate directly with the composer and to be able to tell oneself that one’s voice has inspired a composer. For me there’s nothing finer than creation.
(Audioclip of PJ singing in “Only the Sound Remains)
SG: Will the Parisian public get an opportunity to discover Kaaija Saariaho’s opera soon?
PJ: Yes. We can already make it public. It will be in 2018 at the Opéra de Paris - and it will be my début with the Opéra de Paris.
SG: At the Palais Garnier. It seems rather odd to make your début at the Opéra de Paris in a contemporary work when you have championed the Baroque repertoire and when your name is indelibly associated with that repertoire.
PJ: Yes, one of life’s surprises! I also find it very amusing. Perhaps it will enable me to discover another facet of my personality and my voice. The Parisian public already knows me in the Baroque repertoire for many years. I think it’s a great opportunity to offer them something completely different.
SG: Mélodies Françaises is another branch of music that you have been exploring for a number of years. By whose voice, other than your own, have you cultivated this repertoire?
PJ: When I recorded my first CD of Mélodies Françaises, “Opium”, it took everyone a bit by surprise. I don’t think that I was the first countertenor to be interested in this repertoire but, strangely, I think I was the first French countertenor. Everyone was rather surprised and asked: “Why a countertenor in this repertoire? It’s not written for this voice-type and he’s a Baroque specialist”. But this goes way back to my early beginnings, my teacher, Nicole Fallien, being a specialist in the French repertoire. I remember learning to sing as much with the songs of Fauré as with Pergolesi or Vivaldi and my first recital with my piano teacher, Pascal Montard, at the age of 21 at the Salle Cortot, centred on Verlaine’s poems set to music. So this is not something that goes back for just a few years, it has always been with me - for several reasons – my past as a pianist, obviously and I love this French repertoire from the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century – Fauré, Debussy, Reynaldo Hahn – and it’s very natural for me to sing in my own (French) language. I think it’s essential for all singers to (sometimes) sing in their own language. Obviously, with (French) Baroque music, there is very little for me to sing, apart from religious music.
(Audioclip of PJ singing Reynaldo Hahn’s Fêtes Galantes)
SG: Is it difficult to sing in your own language?
PJ: People do often say that French is a very difficult language to sing in, even for native French speakers.
PJ: I don’t agree much with what they say about the difficulties of the sounds, “en” “on”, etc. It’s the subtleties that are difficult. What quickly drew me to singing in French was that it allowed me to work more in depth with the idea of “speaking” and singing at the same time. When you sing in your own language, the words strike a chord with you in a different and more subtle way. There’s something more emotional in every word. You learned each word as a child and there’s a flavour to every word which runs very deep. This really taught me to try to be as honest as possible (in interpretation). I think I was able to make a lot of progress in this. I don’t intend to abandon this repertoire over the course of the next few years. I’ve already done two large CD projects and I’ve taken on the rather crazy challenge of singing “Les Nuits d’Eté” (Berlioz) with (large) symphony orchestras. And there will definitely be another project in the future; I haven’t decided exactly what yet.
SG: How has your voice changed over the years – say, over the period of 20 years, since you were 18?
PJ: My tessitura (vocal range) hasn’t changed all that much. What has certainly changed is the way I interpret the text. I’ve worked a lot on this. And there is also a sort of inner calm. It’s true that to sing well, you have to have sung badly. As we mentioned before, I did have a few difficulties when I felt that singing was costing me too much effort and (since then) there has been some real in-depth work.
SG: Was that because you were taking on unsuitable repertoire or was it something else?
PJ: There was a moment when work was not enough and it was perhaps necessary for me to take a break and think about a different rhythm (of life). I worked in parallel with Frédéric Faye for more than 7 years on something more deep and spiritual – why one sings, how, every note, etc. It was very rewarding work which enabled me to make my voice heard in a much freer way, and much more connected to the text. I’ve also discovered that in opera you come across colleagues whose voices are very loud close up but not so loud at a distance (i.e. that they don’t carry well – A.). It’s all to do with frequency and the way the voice vibrates in the air. When, like me, you don’t have a naturally large voice, the waves have to be as free as possible. I now know that I can make myself heard quite well in (large) halls. I don’t have so many complexes about this as before. I was really complexed about this in the beginning. I was obsessed with the idea of (voice) projection and in the end, I found the (right way of) projection from within myself. It has taken more than 10 years of work and it still requires a lot of work.
SG: That’s fascinating because you can see that it’s not necessarily enough to work out vocally but that it also comes from within.
PJ: Very, very deep (reflexion) and at the same time, this is what is fascinating about singing – introspective work all the time. I was lucky enough to come across teachers like Nicole and Frédéric who forced me to think about this, in parallel with the repertoire – to think deeply about why I sing and what I really want to say. It’s something that will stand me in good stead throughout my life and something that I would like to pass on to young singers. In future, I would really like to pass on this experience, this curiosity and deep reflexion, which one has as an artist, to young singers and musicians.
(Audioclip of Debussy’s Fantoches)
SG: We’re already talking about passing on the knowledge even at your young age but how is this going to be done – in courses, by lessons or perhaps an academy?
PJ: Over the past few years, it’s taken place by invitation at a series of one-off masterclasses and I find that I enjoy doing this enormously.
SG: Which is not always the case - being a great singer or a great instrumentalist is one thing, but teaching is something else …
PJ: Exactly. I discovered that I get as much out of it myself as I give to others. I found out that after spending 4 hours of giving precise examples and trying to explain things in depth, I sang better myself the following day! It gave me a taste for teaching and it’s wonderful to watch a young singer’s face light up with the realisation that singing is much simpler than they thought and not a battle. On the contrary, it’s self-assembly – the extremes of discovery that I sometimes try to impart to young singers – that sound comes back rather than leaving - and it’s a feeling of unbelievable happiness and enrichment for everyone. I had this idea of creating an academy and courses will start in September 2017. I was lucky enough to be asked to take part in this new venture, La Seine Musicale on the Ile Seguin. I’ll share the premises with Laurence Equilbey and her orchestra, Insula, and with the Maîtrise de Hauts de Seine and their director, Gaël Darchen. I’ve had this idea for some time and it’s probably connected with my own background and the fact that I discovered music rather late in life though a college teacher who spurred my parents on to let me study music. I’m convinced that we risk missing a lot of talent - for classical music. There are a lot of wonderful teaching programmes for children at the moment but I believe that you can never have too many projects. I had the idea of founding an academy, working with young children, which would concentrate on two things. I’d like to offer young children the opportunity of intensive and tailor made study of an instrument. That’s the first project and there’s a social dimension to it as well. I’d like to work with children who, because of their social background, are not exposed to classical music. That’s the first direction that this musical academy will take. There will also be an academy for young (professional) talent. The idea is to give a helping hand to young musicians upon leaving the conservatoire – to help them with their first recordings, to help them to appear before a greater audience and to do concerts. This idea stems from the fact that many young, brilliant musicians leave the conservatoire but are unable to establish a professional career easily. It’s something that I was keen to do whilst I am still in full (professional) activity. This is very important to me. I didn’t want to wait until I stopped singing to create this academy.
(Audioclip of Rossi’s Lasciate averno)
SG: In 2013 you took a big break of 9 months – quite a luxury to take a break like this, a sabbatical, in the middle of your career. It was something that you had anticipated and planned for many years.
PJ: Yes, you could say that it created quite a stir. Everyone talked about it and I still have people who ask me how it went and I tell them that it took place 4 years ago!
SG: From where did it come, this idea to stop and take a break - to take stock of where you were with your career, your voice, your repertoire and where you wanted to go (in the future)?
PJ: For 2 or 3 years before I took this decision, I had the impression that I was always chasing behind engagements. I lacked the 1 or 2 weeks needed between each engagement to live a normal life and not be working all the time. It was really by chance that I met Alexandre Tharaud at breakfast in Tokyo – “Lost in Translation” you might say. When I asked him what he was doing the following year, he replied “Well, nothing”. We all know the bond that Alexandre has with the piano and music. I think it’s a marvellous idea. In our profession, engagements are planned 3 or 4 years ahead and a break can be scheduled in advance without dire consequences to our career.
SG: You can’t just do this on a whim; it has to be planned in advance.
PJ: Yes, it has to be planned. I made a lot of announcements about it as well because I didn’t want people saying that I was stopping because I no longer had any voice or that I was tired. I really planned it in advance to take time to reflect and take a step back. I stopped singing totally, without emitting as much as a sound, for 3 months. For the first few weeks, the first month, I felt rather guilty. Curiously, after the first month was over, I could really have seen myself stopping forever. It seems strange, but it nourished me on my return – that is to say, that starting to sing again for the second time, was a real choice on my part. I needed this break to be able to ask myself if I really wanted to carry on singing for the next 20 years. I needed to distance myself. There was also a wish to return to something more like normality in relation to others – not just musically. In our profession, we are a bit like big kids. We’re pampered; we’re always talking about ourselves. People are curious about us, but are we really interested in other people? It really becomes an exercise in narcissism. There is a culture of the ego, which actually, you need to have. When I record a CD, I don’t just do it for myself. I want to talk about it and I want people to listen. But, quite simply, after a while, it’s important for an artist to listen to others. That’s why I took those 10 months off to travel and, to sum it up, to be “Philippe” rather than “Philippe Jaroussky” – to arrive at an airport with nobody waiting for you, to take your own taxi, to come across somebody disagreeable, to have a more normal and less artificial life.
(Audioclip of PJ singing “Ich freue mich auf meinem Tod” (J.S. Bach)
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|Subject: Re: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview 17th March 2017, 22:19|| |
Hi, Jufilfan, that's very sweet of you and thanks for the flowers!
Here's the translation of the fifth and final
interview with Philippe.
PJ on France Musique – Interview with Stéphane Grant
SG: In order to prepare for this in-depth interview on France Musique, I read some of your other interviews, where you say that among the artists you admire a lot are (please correct me if I am mistaken) Fritz Wunderlich and Rosa Ponselle.
PJ: Of course, I listen to a lot of the current singers but I also listen to many singers from the past – but not for the same reasons. With Fritz Wunderlich, what I admire greatly is the (deceptive - A.) simplicity of his interpretation, a sort of purity which I identify with and which I’d like to emulate. Rosa Ponselle is perhaps more surprising but (my admiration) is born of personal frustration.
SG: Just to remind listeners who she was – a great soprano from the beginning of the 20th century a huge star at the Metropolitan Opera in the Verdi repertoire –“Traviata” - and bel canto, “Norma” obviously.
PJ: She was one of the idols of Maria Callas, a sort of rôle model, if you like. When you listen to Rosa Ponselle singing “Casta Diva”, this is glaringly obvious. I think we singers are all a bit alike – sometimes we’d just like to have another (different) voice.
(Audioclip of Rosa Ponselle: Casta Diva (Bellini)
PJ: Another singer I listen to more and more, and every time I derive huge pleasure from that magnificent voice, is Leontyne Price. It’s not for nothing that she was nicknamed the “Stradivarius”. Obviously, I’ll never have that sort of voice. It’s funny because this year I was lucky enough to receive the German Echo Klassik (Male) Singer of the Year award and Anna Netrebko received the (Female) Singer of the Year Award. I sang Handel’s “Lascia ch’io pianga” and she sang “In Questa Reggia” from “Turandot”. As singers, we couldn’t be more different.
SG: You’re not telling me that you dream of singing “Turandot”?
PJ: I’d love to be able to. It’s fascinating to see how a human body can produce such rich vibrating sounds. I love this. It’s fantastic that there is so much variety in (the voices of) classical singers – to have singers who can sing Wagner or Turandot and others who sing Monteverdi, medieval music and a lot of other things.
(Audioclip of Anna Netrebko singing “In Questa Reggia” (Puccini)
SG: What for you would be the unattainable goal, the rôle of your craziest dreams, if we dig deep into the realms of fantasy? Which rôle, that you will never sing, do you dream about?
PJ: In all honesty, I’ve always said that I dream of having an extra (vocal) string to my bow. You always want more. There are many things I would have liked to sing. One composer I would have liked to have sung more of, and it’s a source of great frustration, is Mozart. Unfortunately, there are very few (Mozartian) rôles for me. Often, the rôles written by Mozart for castrati are either too low or too high (for me). Farnace in “Mitridate” is not really a possibility and (the rôle) doesn’t even suit my personality and I think rôles like Cecilio in “Lucio Silla” are just way beyond my vocal capacities.
SG: Another question I asked of one of your fellow singers, Sabine Devieilhe, a few weeks ago was “At the beginning of your career, how do you deal with the audience, with public acclaim?” You said earlier that when you did your first real public concert, you didn’t suffer from stage fright - but later - when faced with audiences which, in your case, give standing ovations, how do you deal with it?
PJ: I know her voice but can’t speak for Sabine. There are several stages in a singer’s life. I can honestly say - and it’s a bit of a “provocation” on my part – that at the very beginning (of your career), you are really only singing for yourself. You haven’t necessarily foreseen singing in front of 2000 people. You just sing. Period. And then you want to sing so much, you carry on singing and then afterwards, and it’s completely natural, you have this interaction with the audience. Then it degenerates – that it is to say, that a certain amount of pressure sets in, as well as feelings of apprehension and fear – because at the beginning, you find that you are (always) more or less in good shape and your concerts are of a high standard. Then you do a concert when you are not feeling so good and people are a little disappointed; then you get your first critical reviews. This is also a setback that you didn’t foresee when you began singing. It can be extremely brutal. I’m not one of those artists who say that they don’t read reviews; I read them all. It’s strange, because I have a rather ambivalent relationship with the musical press. Sometimes, I feel like yelling but at the same time, I’ve learned a lot from the critics. If the same criticism is made 4, 5 or six times about a CD or a single concert, then that criticism could be justified, and more work needs to be done on the part of the artist. So criticism is necessary. Sometimes I find it rather brutal because of some of the expressions used. When an artist is criticized for his physical appearance or fun is made of his performance, it’s very hurtful. And now there is a third stage, in as much as I am lucky enough to have a (faithful) public who follow me. And when I share in all the happiness that I give – it’s not pretentious to say this, I do bring pleasure to a lot of people – then, I finally have sufficient perspective to acknowledge that I can’t please everyone.
(Audioclip of PJ singing “Schlummert ein” (J. S. Bach)
SG: You said that there are certain countries that you feel an affinity for – France, of course, Spain, where you perform a lot, and Germany. When you record a CD devoted to Bach and Telemann, I would imagine that it’s very much looked forward to and listened to attentively on the other side of the Rhine – perhaps even criticized, in the best possible sense of the term – but it’s a rather singular thing for a French singer to do, to take on this repertoire. What was your experience with this CD?
PJ: We talked before about the need for me to take risks. I’d thought about recording a CD of Bach’s music for a long time, but hadn’t really found a way of going about it. I’ve not sung very much in German on the concert platform – a few “Passions”, but nothing more. On the other hand, I did learn German at school – obviously, speaking a language and singing in a language are two very different things. I’ve always felt a bit frustrated with Bach’s music. Every time I sang his music, I felt frustrated because of the absolute perfection of his compositions. As soon as I sang one phrase, right away I felt that I needed to start all over again. I felt that I could never quite live up to this music. Many artists feel this way. There are some artists for whom playing Bach is a matter of course, right from the very beginning. I waited for a little while. Now, with all the work that I have done on my voice and on why and how I make music, I felt ready to do it. Why Bach and Telemann? That’s another thing – I immediately thought of Telemann because I had already sung his music at the Conservatoire during my early years and I find his music more accessible, but with an undeniable genius and charm – Telemann is a composer whose name is well known, but his music less so. People say: “Ah, yes, Telemann, one of the great German baroque composers” but he doesn’t really have any “hits” – apart from “Tafelmusik”, perhaps, and there are no well-known arias in his vocal music.
(Audioclip of PJ singing “Die stille Nacht umschloss den Kreis der Erden (Telemann)
SG: Let’s go back a few years, and to the start of these interviews for France Musique - to your early days as an instrumentalist - to the violin. Do you still miss the physical connection with the instrument today? Is singing enough for you? Does it satisfy all your needs?
PJ: I don’t miss it all that much, because now I have a physical connection with singing as well, something that I didn’t have before. However, lots of people tell me that I sing like a violinist. I’m not quite sure what this means. It’s true that I think I’m still a violinist, in the sense that I learned music with this instrument. Even now, when I work with an orchestra, I automatically turn towards the string (violin) section. I always want to talk with them. I’m a violinist at heart and I still listen to a lot of violin music.
SG: That’s what I was going to ask you about. We’ve talked a lot about singers, but who are the violinists that you feel passionate about?
PJ: One of the great violinists who enthralled me throughout my years of violin study – and he’s probably the violinist whose playing most closely resembles the human voice – he even sang for a while as a bass – is Yitzhak Perlman. I was listening to him playing Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto only yesterday - a magnificent violinist. Increasingly, I like very much to work with classical musicians who are not baroque specialists. I have a lot of musical friendships outside the world of baroque music. Many listeners will know that I have musical friendships with Renaud and Gauthier Capuçon – and, of course, with my pianist, Jérôme Ducros. Geneviève Laurenceau is also a good friend, as well as the La Marca brothers; and the Quatuor Ebène, with whom I have recorded. I really would like to work again with these musicians in the future. It’s probably a way of dealing with my frustration at not being a violinist. To be able to surround myself with these brilliant young musicians is probably my frustrated way of taking revenge for not being a violinist!
(Audioclip of “Colombine” (Georges Brassens) – PJ with Jérôme Ducros and Quatuor Ebène)
SG: And what other interests do you have in your life? Apart from music and singing, what else do you feel passionate about?
PJ: I still feel very passionate about painting.
SG: Do you still paint yourself?
PJ: Unfortunately not but I still take an interest in exhibitions and certain artists; this has always been important to me. Many people ask me, for example, how much this inspires me as a singer. It’s always difficult to assess. Perhaps it does, but it’s difficult to know how much. What stimulates me more and more is to see how much an established artist, with all the means of communication at their fingertips, can employ their talents for social ends – to support various causes. I sing more and more at charity galas and such things. It’s very healthy for a singer to set aside part of his time for this sort of thing. There will be more surprises in future but I’m not at liberty to tell you anything at the moment. I said at the beginning of my career that I was not much interested in collaborating with pop artists. Finally, I recently sang a David Bowie song at the London Proms. It was also a kind of madness. Now that I’ve practically reached my 40s, I can indulge more and more in these diversions.
SG: Why not? Do you admire David Bowie as an artist?
PJ: Not particularly. More and more, I’ve come to realise that (my) choice of the countertenor voice - as well as singing professionally - has greatly changed me as a person. I used to be someone rather reserved, rather shy, who liked to go unnoticed.
SG: Well that didn’t work!
To sing in the countertenor voice is a form of eccentricity. It was perhaps my way of expressing my eccentricity.
SG: To get back to when you were first discovered, it must have really annoyed you to be constantly referred to as “the voice of an angel”, but in a way, it’s true because there is something eccentric, extraordinary, about the countertenor voice and the way it links us to the history of the castrati, and the repertoire you choose. What were your experiences?
PJ: I’m better able to live with these associations of “the voice of an angel” now because, with the passing of time, my voice has become more consistent with whom I am. It can express ecstasy and fantasy. Obviously, there are countertenor voices which are more earthbound than mine. At the same time, I’m heading towards things that I can do – sacred cantatas, for example. It’s often been said that my voice is better suited to religious music than dramatic operatic rôles. It’s probably true. It’s always perplexing. You tend to lean towards what you can do best but sometimes you need to shake up these received ideas. You have to find a balance and sometimes go in a completely different direction. You might have a tough time occasionally but, in any case, you should avoid becoming a vocal caricature. I dare to hope that my voice is not just “angelic”. Of course, I can now accept this description but it would be stupid to reduce my voice to just this angelic quality.
(Audioclip of PJ singing “Sol da te” (Vivaldi)
SG: There’s a question that I hardly dare ask, but singers have to subject themselves to strict discipline and routine, almost on a daily basis. Is there any truth in the folk wisdom that if one has a concert or an opera performance in the evening, you have to practically refrain from talking during the day in order to be in the best possible vocal shape, or does it vary from one artist to another? Can singers enjoy the good things in life, good food, good wine, alcohol, and generally have a good time?
PJ: Yes. The intensive technical work that I’ve done has made me more robust now, so I can. On the other hand, there are safety nets relating to the issue of a singer’s normal rhythm of life. There are certain things that I just can’t do if I have a performance in the evening. I have to protect myself. I’m lucky enough to be a heavy sleeper; this is a huge safety net. If you can sleep for 10 or 11 hours a night, you can recover your voice quite quickly and when you’ve reached a certain technical proficiency, you can warm up your voice in 10 minutes. You have greater reserves and more vocal experience. You are more robust and, oddly enough, you can enjoy life more than when you were a young singer. What I always find problematic is (the fact) that I don’t have a very loud speaking voice, so I tire very quickly in a noisy atmosphere. If I am with friends and I talk for 1 or 2 hours, my voice easily becomes tired. This is certainly not the case with a great friend of mine, Marie-Nicole (Lemieux) who has a thunderous voice (on stage) and still uses the same (singing) volume when she speaks!
SG: In the course of these interviews for France Musique, we’ve gone back over your life and career. When you look back on what you have achieved - from the moment that you met your teacher who said “Hmm, countertenor, I’m not absolutely convinced.” to 20 years later at this stage of your life and career, how do you see things?
PJ: There’s not much that I regret, even the mistakes. I even find that, when I listen to some of my earliest recordings, I have a kind of affection for the little lad of 20 who sang instinctively, just for the pleasure of it. I find it very touching, even if the Italian is not perfect and the voice is a bit “green”. I find that when I look back after 20 years – and I’ve had the good luck to do a huge amount of recording – in the end, I feel a sense of tranquillity. I tell myself that if I stopped singing tomorrow, I’ve already had a fine career. It gives me great peace of mind to remind myself of the CDs I’ve recorded, the productions, the collaborations with great singers and conductors. I’ve travelled all over the world and sung in the most beautiful concert halls. I’ve been very lucky and I’m still lucky, but if it all had to stop from one day to the next, I wouldn’t feel any bitterness.
SG: And if it did have to end tomorrow, could you do something completely different? Take up another profession?
PJ: Another profession? I don’t think so. It would certainly have to be music. I’ve often said that, for me, singing is a kind of stage in my life as a musician. I’ve gone from being a frustrated violinist to a contented singer. This has been a huge opportunity in life. Of course, I have at the back of my mind the idea that I would like to be a conductor – not necessarily a conductor in the romantic repertoire; it would certainly have to be the baroque repertoire.
SG: That’s been the experience of Nathalie Stutzman, for example, with whom you have sung Berlioz’s “Les Nuits d’Eté” – (that would be) two singers who have become conductors and who derive a lot of pleasure from doing so.
PJ: That’s clear. A short while ago, she told me that when she was at the helm of a (full) symphony orchestra, she had the feeling of being able to shape the sound from her hands and leadership, and it was an unbelievable pleasure. Nathalie still sings a lot. Her voice is in great shape – with a contralto voice, by the way, age helps to find vocal maturity and weight – but she gets so much pleasure from conducting, that the passage from the end of her career as a singer to a conductor has been completely smooth. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t quite know how this will happen. I don’t have many ideas on the subject. I freely admit that I don’t want to begin quite as quickly as when I became a singer.
SG: Thank you very much, Philippe Jaroussky, for these interviews on France Musique. Just one final question; one last choice of music to sign off this cycle of 5 interviews.
PJ: We talked about a lot of singers during these interviews. If there’s perhaps one artist that I would like to bring more to the attention of the public, it’s Lorraine Hunt. My choice is the most beautiful version of Dido’s Lament by Purcell that I’ve ever heard.
(Audioclip of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson singing “When I am laid in earth”)
SG: A very beautiful and moving Death of Dido sung by Lorraine Hunt, the American mezzo who left us in 2006. It was the choice of Philippe Jaroussky to sign off this series of interviews. His latest projects include the Bach/Telemann CD under the Erato label and he will be seen on stage at the Zurich opera house, where he will share the stage with Cecilia Bartoli and Julie Fuchs, in a production of Handel’s “Alcina” beginning on 31 December.
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|Subject: Re: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview 18th March 2017, 08:37|| |
Dear Artemis, once more thank you for your tremendous work!
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|Subject: Re: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview 18th March 2017, 12:43|| |
This is really awesome! - The best interview done with Philippe ever, so far! - And a huge THANK YOU to Artemis for the time and effort to do the English translation for us, here at the forum! MERCI BEAUCOUP!
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|Subject: Re: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview 19th March 2017, 08:58|| |
Dear Artemis, thank you !!!
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|Subject: Re: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview 23rd March 2017, 14:05|| |
[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Dear Artemis,
may this lauriel express my thanks to you for your exceptional service to Philippes fanship within this forum!
|Subject: Re: France Musique · 19 to 23 december 2016 · big interview || |