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Nikolaus Bachler on the Bavarian State Opera: "Munich was not exhausting"

2021-07-30T05:48:27.902Z

The last working day in Munich is July 31st. After the performance of Wagner's “Tristan und Isolde”, Nikolaus Bachler says hello. For 13 years he was director of the Bavarian State Opera. Musically, the house is the undisputed leader in an international comparison. The fact that the many productions were only able to keep pace with this was not concealed. In an interview with our newspaper, the 70-year-old takes stock.



The last working day in Munich is July 31st.

After the performance of Wagner's “Tristan und Isolde”, Nikolaus Bachler says hello.

For 13 years he was director of the Bavarian State Opera.

Musically, the house is the undisputed leader in an international comparison.

The fact that the many productions were only able to keep pace with this was not concealed.

In an interview with our newspaper, the 70-year-old takes stock.

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Conversation in the director's office above Marstallplatz: Nikolaus Bachler and culture editor Markus Thiel.

© Wilfried Hösl

When you came to Munich, Klaus became Nikolaus Bachler.

Did you ever think of becoming Klaus again after you left?

As a child, I didn't like my maiden name, Nikolaus.

That changed then.

In this respect: No, I have no intentions.

If you look at your long list of Munich premieres: How fast was it from the start?

Or was it more dynamic, adapting to the reception?

She was very dynamic.

I am very attached to the sentence: “There is no art, only artists.” Everything has always emerged from constellations.

And from experience, when you get to know a house and an audience better.

In addition, in the 13 years I have never felt that something has too little response.

And I don't mean that self-righteously, it was just like that.

Were there any customs, constraints or the fact that you had to operate something?

Every director seems to have to attach Wagner's "Ring" to his lapel.

No. I have never had any constraints in my life, it is often a freedom and often a burden. I can't even talk about productions because they're over. As Daniel Barenboim always says: “After a note has faded, it is gone.” The only thing that remains of our transitory profession is what our actions trigger in people. My basic conviction is: As long as I work at the theater, I want to create a biotope of creativity, courage, protection, willingness to take risks and innovation. I've always been against convention. And I think that was very successful here. My second intention was: I wanted to undo this division in our profession. There are houses that devote themselves to musical theater but do not have the very first musical powers. On the other side there are housesthey have excellent singing, but the rest ... I wanted to bring that together. In fact, I found the time here to be easy. Vienna was much more exhausting. You felt very accepted. Apart from that, I always work with a very flat hierarchy, even if people think they see it differently from the outside.

At the beginning of your management, you described Munich's cultural life as Mediterranean, Catholic and sensual.

What has changed in your assessment?

I've found audiences to be less uniform, more diverse in the things that reach them and that trigger something.

The second, and it was not always the case here, is this incredible encouragement.

At a certain moment you take it for granted that a house is full almost every evening.

But such a thing is not God-given.

Is that a danger because you think to yourself: I am working with a certain cushion?

Such a cushion can be gone very quickly, which can also be seen when the director changes.

In addition, the cushion is at most only a financial one.

When people always say that the Bavarian State Opera has so much money, they like to leave out a second sentence: It also takes a lot.

From an artistic point of view, there is no upholstery.

There is a parallel to your predecessor Peter Jonas.

It was not until Zubin Mehta became general music director a few years later that his artistic directorship was raised to a new level.

Were the years leading up to Kirill Petrenko taking office a transition period for you?

No.

You might have such a connection as with Kirill Petrenko once in a hundred years.

That was not brought about, it has developed this way since we were together at the Vienna Volksoper.

I've worked well and seriously with Kent Nagano.

We did a lot of well-founded things, there were great moments.

Would you have stayed without Petrenko for so long?

I can not say that.

I would certainly not have been so happy.

Do you feel like you changed the audience too?

I fundamentally reject a didactic approach in the theater.

That is why I am against any form of ideology or education.

I tend towards the empirical and the emotional and believe in the power of our profession.

The audience changed because that's always the case if you've been going somewhere continuously for ten years.

If you do that in the swimming club, you can swim better afterwards.

And if you receive messages in time that require discourse, for or against which you have to decide, then that changes too.

You have faced four prime ministers and several art ministers.

How have the political framework changed in the self-proclaimed cultural state of Bavaria?

Thank goodness little.

“Culture matters” here, as the English would say.

However, the basic attitude that this is considered important has changed.

The Bavarian State Opera remained the most important institute here.

What you also notice about the fact that you always have quick access to the decision-makers.

And, that's a very Bavarian characteristic: you absolutely want success here.

Nevertheless, you must have been disappointed in the past 14 Corona months.

In ten years, if I'm still alive, I'll probably say to myself: That was one of the most important times of all.

It was difficult, I didn't skimp with criticism either and defended myself against things that I didn't understand.

But at the same time I experienced an energy in the house that I did not know before.

Suddenly we all noticed: What we are allowed to do is not so self-evident.

Especially at a state company.

The directors change, but the retirement arrives - there is no such thing as this automatism.

We have to be more resourceful, faster, more flexible, more courageous.

Does that mean that the general manager has to be more active as a seller of his house and more aggressively seek out the public?

I think this is a mistake.

The stupidest word for me in this relationship is manager.

We are there to risk money and, in some ways, to be wasteful.

In the future, there will be an even greater need for an artistic director who also thinks entrepreneurially.

And psychology belongs to the latter.

Entrepreneurs are always equated with money.

Above all, however, Mr. Krupp was an incredibly imaginative psychologist.

Are the theaters now even more under pressure to justify themselves?

Even if that is a dangerous sentence: This crisis is too small for real change. Everyone wants to go back to the way it was. But that won't happen. Much will change, also slowly and insidiously. It will take a lot more ingenuity. The fact is that the theater has moved away from the natural sphere of human life in recent months. This means that interests are shifting. And that's a danger. I can see it in myself: I never thought that I could live without sport. It's okay now, but it's not like I'll be right back there. What you should never forget about the theater: the fans, the aficionados, are not an overly large group. They'll come back immediately. But the others ... After all, at the Bavarian State Opera we are not the auteur film,but the Hollywood production.

At the beginning of the management, you said that you felt like the coach at the time, Franz Beckenbauer, after winning the World Cup: lonely on the pitch.

Has it stayed that way?

Yes.

I am someone who is very close to the process.

The singers, the conductors and the directors.

But these are not friendships, this is the job.

What is not possible for me is the catharsis of a performance.

Being able to let go after the performance, partying, holding up the trophy, I knew that as an actor.

As a general manager you are a midwife, and at some point she becomes superfluous.

A certain form of loneliness is inherent in this profession.

In a way, you're the first to view a production.

So I don't think it's good when directors run a theater.

They always look at the stage in their function.

Was there a production in Munich where you were about to say: We won't bring it out?

Never in opera - because there is music there.

I am also always against it when things are split up and people say: “The direction was crap, the music was great.” You can't really separate the causes.

In addition, there are a lot more people involved in opera than in acting, which makes up for a lot.

Not thinking back, being able to close the door behind you - did you have to learn that?

No, that's probably my nature.

Often when I'm in Vienna and walk past the Burgtheater, I think to myself: Oh yes, you were there too.

And my colleague Peymann still talks today as if he were still there.

In the case of Munich, did you think from the start that this would be the end and climax of your artistic director's career - and then nothing more would come?

No.

At first I didn't know how it would work in Munich.

The thought of how long it should take actually started with Kirill.

The Berliner Philharmoniker, where he became chief conductor, got in the way, so we found this solution, and I stayed for 13 instead of 15 years.

We wanted to close a circle together.

Especially when there were representatives from the London Royal Opera House and wanted to interest me in their institute, as well as the Viennese minister for their State Opera, I realized: It should no longer be a big house for me.

Because there is no better way?

I couldn't do anything else than here - only in variations.

And I'm no longer young enough for the Vienna State Opera to renovate everything from the basement to the attic in a figurative sense.

The Salzburg Easter Festival came more by chance.

And then I thought to myself: Oh, act as a source of ideas for a few days a year ... And a lot has been clarified with Christian Thielemann, especially from the moment we started to work.

We are both professionals enough for that.

And what do you do after Isolde's love death on July 31st, after the “Tristan” as your artistic director's last performance?

I'm going to my house in the mountains and I don't want to see anyone for two weeks.

That's all I know now

I'm also moving back to Vienna.

Incidentally, that has changed for me: Originally, I wanted to continue living in Munich.

But it became clear to me that when I handed over a theater, it was always good to be out of town.

That is also better for the successor.

At some point you will see me in the audience again.

The interview was conducted by Markus Thiel.

Source: merkur

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