Lass uns über Klassik reden
The young French tenor Benjamin Bernheim is about to release his first album with Deutsche Grammophon. The singer speaks with the classik radio presenter in the usual relaxed atmosphere.
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A TENOR FOR TODAY
With his mature musicianship, powerful stage presence and engaging, approachable persona, French tenor Benjamin Bernheim stands out from the operatic crowd. In April 2019, he signed a long-term exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon. His debut album for the yellow label, set for release this autumn, showcases the breadth and depth of his exceptional talent in a wide-ranging selection of tenor arias.
“Working in partnership with Deutsche Grammophon, a label with such a long and illustrious history, is both an enormous honour and a huge responsibility,” says Bernheim, for whom the world’s most prestigious opera houses are already homes from home. “It’s given me an even greater incentive to perform at the very highest level.” Born in Paris in 1985, Bernheim studied in Lausanne then became a member of Zurich Opera’s renowned International Opera Studio. Before long he was one of the most sought-after lyric tenors worldwide, and he is now regularly invited to appear at La Scala, Milan, the Berlin Staatsoper, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Vienna Staatsoper and the Salzburg Festival, among many others. Wherever he goes, he captivates audiences with his mesmerising vocal and dramatic interpretations.
Accompanied by the Prague Philharmonia under the baton of Emmanuel Villaume, on his debut DG album Bernheim presents a varied programme drawn from the Italian, Russian and French operatic repertoire. His vocal and expressive versatility can be heard, for example, in Lensky’s aria from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, an opera in which he enjoyed huge success at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, and in Edgardo’s “Tombe degli avi miei” from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. Another of the characters featured here is Puccini’s Rodolfo (La bohème), a role he sees as “steeped in tradition”, and therefore one for which he needed to find his own personal interpretation – “a challenging but hugely rewarding experience”. The music of his birthplace is particularly close to his heart, and is represented on the album by arias such as “En fermant les yeux” from Massenet’s Manon, “L’Amour! Oui, son ardeur” from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette and “Salut! demeure chaste et pure” from the same composer’s Faust. “The French repertoire requires perfect diction and the ability to convey the meaning behind the text as well”, observes Bernheim. “There is so much poetry in these pieces and there are so many details to discover in them. My aim is to bring all of this out in my performances. These are works in which I can give 150% and use every different facet of my voice.”
Still only 34 years old, Benjamin Bernheim is one of the most electrifying singers of his generation, an artist who is expertly forging links between the long tradition of operatic singing and a contemporary presence that extends far beyond the opera house. “Opera has a future,” he states with conviction – a future he himself embodies, with his charismatic, vibrant artistry. “Opera isn’t on its deathbed and we shouldn’t in any way change its essential qualities. But that’s not to say it shouldn’t move with the times.” With this in mind, the approachable Bernheim makes effective use of social media to connect and interact with his audience. His most powerful asset, though is his voice, notable for its warmth and sensuality. “Our voice is like our fingerprint,” he notes. “It’s totally unique and it’s what creates the magic in every performance.” Bernheim employs his instrument with a finely honed technique, displaying notable agility when it comes to changing register, in order to bring out every nuance of the score. He also uses his unerring musical and emotional instinct to invest himself fully in each role he plays. The results are beguiling and revelatory – here is an artist always in search of fresh inspiration. “Standing still isn’t for me,” he says. “I want to keep moving forward, always open to new ideas and discoveries.” This first Deutsche Grammophon album is clearly just the beginning.
TENOR IN DEMAND
Benjamin Bernheim signs exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon
“… the major French lyric tenor the opera world is longing for.” Chicago Tribune
L-R: Clemens Trautmann (President Deutsche Grammophon),Valérie Gross (DG’s A&R Director Vocal & Opera Productions), Benjamin Bernheim
Deutsche Grammophon is pleased to announce that it has signed an exclusive long-term contract with Benjamin Bernheim. The 33-year-old French lyric tenor has already secured his international reputation as one of the leading tenors of the new generation of singers .
Bernheim will launch his relationship with DG with an album of French, Italian and Russian arias. Scheduled for worldwide release in autumn 2019, it will capture his interpretations of the classic young tenor roles, featuring works by many of the composers central to his operatic repertoire, including Gounod, Massenet, Donizetti, Puccini, Verdi and Tchaikovsky.
“Opera has the power to touch people’s souls and enrich their lives, and I’m happy that I’ll be able to reach a broader audience worldwide in partnership with DG,” says Bernheim. “I’m delighted to have recorded my first DG album with the Prague Philharmonia and Emmanuel Villaume, exploring a range of roles that suit my voice so well right now.”
Dr Clemens Trautmann, President Deutsche Grammophon, welcomed Bernheim to the Yellow Label. “Benjamin owns much more than a sublime voice,” he notes. “ He is always searching for those vital elements that lie beneath the music’s surface, demonstrating a combination of intuition and empathy as well as technical mastery. We’re determined to introduce this remarkable young star to a large new audience, and show why he’s in such high demand at the world’s leading opera companies.”
Valérie Gross, DG’s A&R Director Vocal & Opera Productions, added, “He’s got it all: voice, charisma, looks and an uncanny ability to communicate with people – watch out for this exceptional singer!”
Benjamin Bernheim was born in Paris in 1985. After studying in Lausanne, he joined Zurich Opera’s Opera Studio in 2008, returning to the company two years later as a member of its renowned ensemble. He is now in demand in leading roles at the world’s most prestigious opera houses, having sung Rodolfo (La bohème) at Covent Garden, the Opéra de Paris and the Vienna Staatsoper; Alfredo (La traviata) at La Scala, Milan, Berlin Staatsoper and Zurich Opera; Nemorino (L’elisir d’amore) at the Vienna Staatsoper; Lenski (Eugene Onegin) at the Deutsche Oper Berlin; and the title role in Faust at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. He has also appeared in several productions at the Salzburg Whitsun and Summer festivals. He began this season by reprising the role of Rodolfo in Zurich, and then went on to give his first performance of the Verdi Requiem at Covent Garden, conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano. He makes his highly anticipated role debut as Des Grieux in Manon at Opéra national de Bordeaux on 5 April, and debuts the role of Ismaele in Nabucco in Zurich in June. This season has also brought great critical acclaim, including this review for his appearance as Tamino (Die Zauberflöte) at the Vienna Staatsoper: “With his warm, golden-toned tenor and wonderful stage presence he showed … why he is known as one of the most interesting tenors of our day” (Die Presse). In December 2018, he was named a Rolex Testimonee.
In the 2019-20 season Bernheim will return to the Opéra de Paris as Alfredo and Des Grieux in new productions of La traviata and Manon respectively. He will also make his role and house debut as the Duke in Rigoletto at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, with other highlights of the coming season including his appearances in La Bohème in Munich and Paris and La traviata at both the Berlin and the Vienna Staatsoper.