Mozart—considered by many to be the greatest composer of all time. What do you love about performing his music?
It is perfection. It not only has extraordinary beauty but, to speak specifically about Così, it’s the craft, the sheer genius of the writing that really leaves me speechless. I think it’s one of the most beautiful operas ever written. And there are these moments of wonderful, bittersweet sadness that start to creep into late Mozart, and Così is full of it.
Così fan tutte has been interpreted as a comedy, a farce, a piece of cynicism, even a tragedy. What’s your take on the story?
Certainly people in Mozart’s day wouldn’t have seen this as something tragic. That’s the 20th and 21st century reading an awful lot of psychology into it. It’s a joyous comedy.
With a bit of a twist…
Very much so. And I think that maybe the 20th century has added to it a new layer or given it a bit more depth. Is there something cynical happening here? I think you can argue the case, yes. But I bask in the sheer beauty of the writing, which is for the most part incredibly uplifting. I think there’s a spirit of sensuality, fun, enjoyment—game playing, certainly… There’s so much.
Coming from a period performance background, what are you most looking forward to in working with the Met orchestra?
I’ve spent a few sleepless nights saying, “Oh my God, are they going to like me?!” This house has a long Mozart tradition, and the orchestra has been together for a very long time and has a very specific sound. They’re fabulous players, just the sheer virtuosity… It’s going to be very interesting to see how one can share ideas. I can’t wait to work with them!
You’ve lived in Europe for 40 years, but you’ve worked in New York a lot, and you also teach at Juilliard. How does it feel to finally be making your Met debut?
I’m kind of breathless about it all [laughs]. I’m a native New Yorker but I was born in Buffalo. Whenever I come to New York it’s just the sensation of coming to one of the great exciting cities in the world—of being in a kind of a cultural paradise. —Philipp Brieler
This interview was first published online and in the Met's Playbill in November 2010.
Read "The Faces of Così" to learn more about the cast.