After 145 Years, Bayreuth Festival Has Its First Female Conductor

The Bayreuth Festival in Germany is among the most venerable occasions in classical music. Richard Wagner based it to current his personal operas, and it’s been open most summers since 1876.

But 2021 brings one thing new within the competition’s 145-year historical past: On Sunday, Oksana Lyniv will turn out to be the primary lady to conduct a manufacturing there.

A local of Brody, in western Ukraine, the place she grew up in a household of musicians, Lyniv, 43, has spent the higher a part of the final 20 years in German-speaking Europe. She was an assistant to the influential conductor Kirill Petrenko on the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, and from 2017 to 2020 was chief conductor of the Graz Opera and Graz Philharmonic Orchestra in Austria. She has additionally maintained robust musical ties to Ukraine, and is the founder and creative director of LvivMozArt, a competition in Lviv impressed by that metropolis’s 19th-century ties to Franz Xaver Mozart, the good composer’s son.

“It was always my goal to come to Germany,” she stated in a current interview. “It was unimaginable for me to be a professional conductor without a connection to sources in the German language, which are very important when I prepare for concerts.”

The first books she learn in that language, she added, had been Mozart’s letters.

She spoke on a video name late final month from Bayreuth, the place she was rehearsing for her debut main the brand new manufacturing of “Der Fliegende Holländer.” These are edited excerpts from the dialog.

Eric Cutler, proper, sings Erik within the manufacturing of “Der Fliegende Holländer,” directed by Dmitri Tcherniakov.Credit…Enrico Nawrath/Bayreuther Festspiele

You have been to Bayreuth earlier than, as a member of the viewers and an observer within the uncommon coated orchestra pit. What is exclusive concerning the competition?

Everything is completely different; there’s actually no comparability with wherever else. The place of the orchestra members within the pit, as an illustration, was prescribed by Wagner. First violins sit on the precise, and second violins sit on the left, with the double basses on both aspect of the strings. This all creates a particular sound.

And due to the development of the pit, which is roofed, the sound goes again to the wall then out to the viewers, so there’s a slight delay. As a conductor at Bayreuth, you’re very dependent in your assistants, who’re sitting within the viewers. There are telephones close to the rostrum, and we are able to all talk the entire time about how the orchestra is sounding within the theater. In the pit itself, it’s quite tight, and the sound may be very, very loud — however it’s actually thrilling.

How are you preparing in your debut?

It was vital for me to seek out out what Wagner was considering when he created “Der Fliegende Holländer.” At the time he wrote it, he was in debt and artistically annoyed, however he had nice ambition. He had moved to an condo on the sting of Paris — offended on the entire world, feeling that nobody understood him — and he wrote this opera to show one thing. We hear that battle in Act I, Scene 1, when a storm begins. I used to be in Paris not too long ago, for my debut on the Opéra Bastille, and I went to search for the home the place he composed the opera. This sort of historical past is essential for me.

What do you make of Senta, the opera’s heroine?

Wagner was making a prototype of the fashionable lady in Senta. She doesn’t belong to her household, or to custom. She doesn’t need to get married, or sit with the opposite village girls and spin. And she doesn’t need to do what her father desires her to do; she has her personal concepts. That was very uncommon within the 19th century. In his operas, Wagner went on to create different girls like this, corresponding to Isolde or Brünnhilde, girls who’re progressively being emancipated, who’re performing on their very own.

Dmitri Tcherniakov is directing and designing the manufacturing. Have you labored with him earlier than? What is his interpretation of the piece?

Yes, I bought to know him once I was Kirill Petrenko’s assistant in Munich, and he staged “Lulu.” Tcherniakov likes to discover the psychological background of the characters. I can’t give too many specifics now, however I can say the manufacturing isn’t set in any specific interval. And the main target is on the Dutchman. Tcherniakov likes to level out that different productions are centered on Senta: Why does she dream concerning the Dutchman? Why does she need to save him? Here, Tcherniakov is asking: Why is the Dutchman the way in which he’s? Why was he pushed out, and why can’t he return? What is he on the lookout for?

Lyniv at a rehearsal. She is individually making ready two teams of musicians to have an alternate ensemble prepared in case coronavirus instances are found in a single.Credit…Enrico Nawrath/Bayreuther Festspiele

You’re from western Ukraine, a former cultural crossroads. What was it like whenever you had been rising up? Were you conscious of the area’s vanished traditions?

I used to be born throughout the Soviet interval, when Russian and Soviet tradition had been imposed on us, however I wish to learn, and did my very own analysis. I got here throughout nice names like Joseph Roth, Paul Celan and Stanislaw Lem, the Polish science- fiction author who was born in Lviv.

I additionally found that Leonard Bernstein’s mother and father had been from Rovno, 100 kilometers from Brody, the place I used to be born. Brody was as soon as referred to as “the Jerusalem of Austria,” and there are nonetheless the ruins of a synagogue destroyed within the Second World War, which reminds us of the previous in a really robust method. In 2019, I performed a particular live performance there in reminiscence of Joseph Roth, and we performed Bernstein’s “Kaddish” Symphony.

Do you sing your self?

I began with piano. Then I performed flute, studied violin just a little, after which I studied singing. I’ve a excessive soprano voice, and I actually appreciated singing in a choir. When I used to be younger, I considered being a choir director like my father, however then orchestra conducting prevailed. The sound of an orchestra fascinated me.

What do you do earlier than a efficiency? Do you might have any habits or superstitions?

It is vital for me to have a espresso and one thing candy, however I don’t actually have another wants. The most vital factor for me is inspiration. I depend on discovering out a lot concerning the composers beforehand that I really feel I do know them personally, that they’re virtually my associates.

Do you sense resistance to feminine conductors at the moment?

In the final 15 years, all the things has modified quite a bit. I don’t really feel any hostility; in actual fact, simply the alternative. There is plenty of curiosity and help: from the general public, from orchestras, from managers and from the critics. Next season, I’ve some nice issues deliberate: In November, I’ll have my debut at Covent Garden in London with “Tosca,” and subsequent May I’ll have my first live performance with the Berlin Philharmonic, a Stravinsky program.

How is the pandemic affecting Bayreuth this yr?

During the pandemic, I’ve needed to take care of each sort of scenario. In Frankfurt, we did an entire “I Puritani” with solely 19 musicians within the orchestra pit. Now in Bayreuth, we’re enjoying with a full orchestra, however now we have two groupings; I rehearse with each in case one thing occurs. We have 140 folks within the refrain, and they’re divided. Seventy are in a particular room and their singing is broadcast into the theater, and the opposite 70 are onstage, like extras, however they will’t sing a observe for security causes — although they’re meant to react the entire time as in the event that they’re singing.

Are you vaccinated?

No, I’ve not but been vaccinated, although I plan to. But now we have PCR exams day by day. And I don’t meet anyone or go wherever — besides rehearsal.