Bernd Weikl Interview

My first memory of baritone Bernd Weikl in performance is aural rather than visual. I heard but did not see him as his voice echoed from the cistern in which his character was imprisoned in a production of Richard Strauss’s Salome at the Metropolitan Opera in 1981. When he arrived on stage, his was not the typical, haggard Jochanaan (John the Baptist) but a tall, muscular man with a magnificent head of hair who sang so beautifully, and with such a rich sound and multi-textured expression, that I can truthfully say that I’ve never heard another singer in this role without thinking back to this great performance. The interview begins with a very enlightening description of Jochanaan. “I think that Jochanaan is the erotic center on stage,” Bernd claims. We discussed his then-new recording of Verdi arias as well as other Verdi roles that Bernd was looking at for possible future recordings. This was followed by a discussion of Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia in the context of an unauthorized recording of the opera with him in the title role which he found amusing. I suspected that he wouldn’t want the recording to be played in connection with the interview but he said that it I shouldn’t do any editing and it should remain as it had transpired. Before moving on to another topic, we covered his upcoming recordings of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, where Leonard Bernstein was to conduct, and the rarely-heard Tiefland by Eugen d’Albert. The subject changed at that point and I asked him if there was a particular role that he related to as a man. He chose the title role of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Mandryka in Arabella by Richard Strauss. With great candor he described how he these characters in particular were significant for him. He followed this with his consideration of the character of Hans Sachs in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger (he was due to go to to Bayreuth that summer to perform the role). Of Sachs, who is thought to be roughly the age of 40, Bernd says, “I think that he has a midlife crisis, not an end of life crisis.” The interview concludes with my asking whether there were any roles that he would like to sing as well as roles that he wouldn’t. He goes on to discuss what those roles are and why he would or would not do them. This leads to his mentioning certain French, Russian, and German roles that he enjoyed singing and that he expected would be in his repertoire in following years. This summarizes a few of the highlights from this interview with Bernd Weikl. I hope you will enjoy listening to it.