David Stahl in conversation with TESS CREBBIN
about Bernstein, Mahler and German-language opera
Tess Crebbin: You are music director of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra in South Carolina, and you have conducted more than one hundred orchestras over the last decades, all over the world. Yet you have also chosen a second musical director post that may come as a surprise for many: the Gaertnerplatz Theatre in Munich, Germany. We are intrigued to know how you ended up here, at an opera house that elects to perform all its operas in German?
David Stahl: What they do was of great interest to me right from the start. They subscribe to the notion, as I do to some extent, that the great composers did not just mean to write great music that moves by way of harmony and counterpoint. They wanted to create a drama that was driven by a real story, and they wanted people to understand the story as well as the music. That is why the librettos were in the home audience's language, so that people could understand what they were watching. The idea of taking an opera and transforming the text into the language of the audience before which it is being performed was very appealing to me.
TC: Interesting, but why did you come to Germany? You could have gone to Paris, or London?
DS: I have German roots, and so part of coming here is also to understand my own background. I was born in New York and I live in Charleston, which is where my family is, and the focal point of my life. But in all essence, I am German. My parents were both German-born and so I am a first-generation American.
TC: Your parents were refugees from the Nazis?
DS: Correct, I am Jewish and so are they.
David Stahl, music director of the CSO and Munich Gaertnerplatz Theatre. Photo © 2006 Philip Crebbin
TC: And yet you chose to come to Munich to conduct, which was once the heart of the Nazi movement?
DS: I am aware of this, sometimes very much so, but I also believe that the past needs to be confronted and overcome. I have many German friends here and I find people to be charming and warm. We live in another time now. This is a new generation, and they are totally different: very modern, open, and really wonderful people. The people I work with, the orchestra and the singers, are a delight to have around.
Copyright © 29 March 2006
Tess Crebbin, Germany