Barbara Hannigan in conversation

Barbara-Hannigan-07750-photocredit-MarcoBorggreveLast evening I attended a session with Barbara Hannigan under the auspices of the IRCPA.  The format was an interview with William Littler followed by audience Q & A.  In many ways it was typical Hannigan.  She came across as smart, incredibly driven, analytical and with quite a wicked sense of humour.  This I have seen before and there wasn’t much about her work methods that added to the information in I’m a Creative Animal.

So what was new?  It was interesting to learn more about her conducting which now takes up about 50% of her performance time.  A couple of things stood out.  She totally controls what she conducts.  She doesn’t take gigs to “come and conduct XYZ”.  She’s also obsessive about detail (again!).  She prepares her own orchestral parts prior to rehearsal and has them sent to the orchestra.  There was also some interesting stuff about her relationship with her voice.  She’s curiously distanced from it; “I’m not attached to my voice”.  It’s an instrument that serves her vision of the music.

There were also some insights into her notion of “collegiality”.  It’s clearly collegiality on her terms.  She chooses who she works with.  She chooses what she works on.  She has no reticence about injecting (or imposing?) her intensity into/onto the creative process and clearly doesn’t have much time for people who don’t share her intensity.  There was a telling comment about opera conductors who “show up two thirds of the way through rehearsal”.  I think it’s a position she’s earned but not a place or a path many people would choose or have the ability to replicate.  I’m not sure she realises just how unusual she is.

In other news she’s bringing her young professionals programme; Equilibrium, to Canada.  The first gig is a Mozart Requiem with Sir Andrew Davis and the TSO in January.  Details here.

2 thoughts on “Barbara Hannigan in conversation

  1. I was so mad I couldn’t make this (was working, couldn’t be downtown before 6PM). Spot-on comment about certain figures who sashay in late in the process and get the credit. I’ve once interviewed a conductor (Northen European, often works with one of our Ontario symphonies) who confidently told me a completely incorrect thing about the text in one of the contemporary pieces he was supposed to be conducting the following day. “This character who’s telling her story in this 15-min section at length and in great detail is _____” whereas the character was not that character, not even close, which told me the man hadn’t studied the piece AT ALL. Ooops.

    Another interesting piece of info. In one of the post-concert Q&As with the TSO somebody explained, in answer to an audience question, that the TSO basically gets to rehearse one day with its soloist(s) before most concerts. Perhaps more than once a day, but only one day is usually alloted. Which made me go, hm.

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