Last 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.