27th season

Jonas Kaufmann Tour 2020 Web Special

The tour is over!

Nearly twenty thousand people attended the ten concerts we gave in the most prestigious venues in Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland and Hungary! Thank you to all of you who came, as well as to the musicians and the whole organisational team for the smooth running of the tour! And finally we'd like to release some previously unpublished behind-the-scene snapshots, spiced up with contributions from the players of the PKF. Let´s see how many portraits with the Eiffel Tower in the background can you find in our last photogallery? 

1 February 2020 Festspielhaus Baden-Baden

Our journey turns once again towards the Rhine and southwest Germany, to the state of Baden-Württemberg. Baden-Baden – the last stop of our European tour with Jonas Kaufmann! The history of these famous spas stretches back as far as the first century BC when the Romans controlled this territory. The Roman emperor Caracalla, after whom one of the most famous local spa houses is named, came here to treat his arthritis. Baden-Baden has been linked to numerous distinguished figures – for example, Queen Victoria and Napoleon III promenaded along the famous Lichtentaler Allee. Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s own experiences as a roulette addict and the setting of the local Casino (one of the world’s most beautiful) supposedly provided the material for his novel The Gambler, while one scene from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is set in the Schwarzwald or Black Forest. Mark Twain, the celebrated American writer, described his experiences at Baden-Baden as: “After ten minutes here at the Friedrichbaden you forget time and after twenty minutes the world.” He may also have enjoyed the Friedrichbaden because the men and women walked around the spa complex wearing only “the garments of Adam and Eve!” And for a more current witticism, Bill Clinton made the town famous with his little verse, “Baden-Baden is so nice that you have to name it twice!” Baden-Baden, therefore, is a magical place where history has resonated, or at least was born in the heads of the greatest rulers, scientists and artists during their soothing baths.

The Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, where our close-on three-week pilgrimage across Europe will come to an end, is the largest opera house in Germany with a capacity of 2,500. The building replaced the old railway station which was built in 1845. In addition to its capacity, it also takes first place in a wider European context. It is the first private European opera company in modern times. Today it is 75% self-sufficient, two-thirds of its income comes from ticket sales and its own enterprises – for example, in 2014 the Festspielhaus set up its own travel agency. One third of the budget is covered by sponsors and patrons – the Festspielhaus patrons’ club has almost 2,000 members, which is an incredible number. Public donations account for only one-quarter or 25 million euros a year. Research from 2008 showed that thanks to the Festspielhaus, local businesses earn 46 million euros each year. Paradoxically, after opening in 1998 this temple of opera almost went bankrupt. The key to its success was not only hard work, efficiency, sacrifice and the artistic foresight of the local management, but in particular its extremely attractive programme which offers things no-one else does in Germany. For example, in 2012 the tenor Rolando Villazon had his German debut here; after thirty years the New York City Ballet returned to Germany; and the Berlin Philharmonic moved from the Salzburg Festival to the Festspielhaus in 2013. The famous Baden-Baden Gala has been held here since 2007 that attracts visitors from across the world – something which you can’t miss out on if you are anywhere on the global social ladder.

Therefore, we couldn’t wish for a better place to end our tour. Nevertheless, inspired by the German saying “when I rest I rust”, we are slowly getting ourselves ready for our next Prague concert on 9 February at the Rudolfinum!

Famous people born in Baden-Baden? Louis II the Prince of Monaco, Frederick Lindemann, Anna Zerr, Erich Friedrich Schmidt, Eugene Armbruster, Andreas Heinecke, Frank Moser and others.

30 January 2020 KKL Lucerne

It’s now the penultimate concert of our tour, which finds us in Lucerne and a beautiful venue on the banks of Lake Lucerne. And when I say on the banks of the lake, I mean it literally. Lake Lucerne was an integral part of French architect Jean Nouvel’s design for the construction of the Culture and Congress Centre (KKL). Where the building was unable to meet the lake, Nouvel brought the lake into the building. The three main halls – two auditoria and a conference centre – stretch out from the centre towards the water, divided by so-called water gardens with a system of wooden bridges. The icing on the cake is a roof which stretches out almost twenty metres from the wall of the centre without a single support. And when you look at this technological miracle from below, you will see the reflection of ripples from the surface of Lake Lucerne on its shining surface. The entire complex thus mirrors the belief of its architect that “the architectural solution has to be harmonious, sensible, intelligent, and inclusive.” The KKL’s acoustics were developed by the famous American engineer, Russell Johnson, who also designed the world-famous Esplanade complex in Singapore, which is considered to have the best acoustics in the world. For the KKL, Johnson designed “echo chambers” into which he installed special doors. These can be opened or closed to differing degrees by a computer to very subtly alter the acoustics. The level of noise here only reaches 18 decibels, the limit of imperceptible sound, which means that you can experience real, genuine, absolute silence in the main auditorium of the KKL! “The Lucerne Hall is the descendant of the 40 to 50 predecessors that I've built since 1956. Almost all my work achievements are grouped together in this,” said Johnson.

The KKL is located right in the heart of Lucerne, so the city centre is only a few minutes’ walk over one of the oldest covered wooden bridges in Europe – Chapel Bridge. Lucerne played an interesting role in the history of Switzerland when in 1332 it joined with the cantons of Schwyz, Unterwalden and Uri to form an alliance known as the Swiss Confederation. Between 1529 and 1712 the city was one of the most important Catholic centres in the region and was the only one to reject the Reformation. Therefore, the Protestant victory at the Battle of Villmergen in 1712 was inevitably not in its best interests and it was consigned to a more provincial role within the Swiss Confederation. A new era for the city began in 1790 when the influence of the French Revolution and the occupation of the Confederation by French soldiers ended, allowing Lucerne to follow its own course. Today it is not only a city for tourists, but also one of Europe’s tax havens and the perfect destination for companies looking for tax breaks in Switzerland.

But back to culture for a moment! In Lucerne you will find the famous Bourbaki Panorama, commemorating the flight of 87,000 French soldiers from Prussian regiments in the harsh winter of 1871. The breath-taking painting from 1881 on a canvas 112 x 10 metres reminds us of the time when the new Switzerland was formed on the principles of humanity, tolerance and respect for human rights. Lucerne is also famous for two exceptional music festivals. If you are a fan of classical music, then don’t miss the Lucerne Festival, which is associated with some of the greats such as Arturo Toscanini, Herbert von Karajan, Claudio Abbado and “our” Rafael Kubelík. If you are interested in other genres – soul, blues, funk, jazz, pop or rock – then you’ll definitely need to take the time to visit the famous Blue Balls Festival.

Dieser Anstand, so manierlich,
diese Taïlle, fein und zierlich,
und ein Füßchen,
das mit Küsschen
glühend man bedecken sollt,
wenn sie´s nur erlauben wollt!

Johann Strauss Jr.: Die Fledermaus

Memories of Tonhalle Düsseldorf

Photo (c) Konzert Theater Kontor Heinersdorff

28 January 2020 Tonhalle Düsseldorf

The next city on our tour is one which women in particular will look forward to, as we are heading to the centre of the German fashion industry – Düsseldorf! The name of the city is taken from the words Düssel, which is the name of the local tributary of the Rhine, and Dorf, the German word for village. In translation, then, Düsseldorf means “village on the River Düssel”, and the local population pride themselves on the fact that, in spite of the pulsating, modern character of the city, you feel at home there, and there is a tolerance and friendly atmosphere towards newcomers. Which is perhaps why 20% of the local population comes from abroad, the majority from European countries. Düsseldorf is also home to the largest Japanese community in Europe. Today this city is one of the most important telecommunication centres in Germany. The headquarters of two of the four largest mobile-phone operators are here – D2 Vodaphone and E-Plus. It is also a paradise for advertising agencies, with some 400 companies operating here, including giants like the BBDO Group and the Grey Global Group and Publicis. Almost 30,000 people (around 5% of Düsseldorf’s population) work in banking. It is the headquarters of the largest German film company, Riech-Group, as well as the television stations WDR and QVC. As we mentioned at the start, Düsseldorf is the centre of Germany’s fashion industry. The world-famous model Claudia Schiffer was discovered here in a local club called Checker’s. The most famous German designers work here: Sabine Schumacher, Peter O. Mahler and Renate Harvan. Düsseldorf is also a mecca for bike lovers – in 2007 the city was awarded the title of “Friends of Cyclists City”. You can cycle, for instance, to the nearby Feldhofer cave, where the first ever remains of a Neanderthal man were discovered in 1856. Düsseldorf is also famous in the culinary field, albeit for a slightly bizarre product – mustard. The first manufactory for the production of mustard in Germany was established here in 1726 and Vincent van Gogh contributed to the fame of this local delicacy with his painting of a jar of the local mustard in his Still Life with Bottles and Earthenware. 


The city of Düsseldorf is linked to several artistic icons from the 19th century. One of those is Robert Schumann and his wife Clara. The Schumanns moved to the city in the autumn of 1850 when Robert accepted the post of “city music director”. The first months here were a very happy period for the family, when the popular “Rhine” Symphony in E flat major was written. However, Schumann’s deteriorating health had a significant impact on his work with the local orchestra and chorus. Early in the morning on 27 February 1854 Robert Schumann threw himself from one of Düsseldorf’s bridges into the icy waters of the Rhine. Saved by chance by a fisherman, he was accompanied on his journey home by exuberant crowds from a street carnival… Düsseldorf is also linked to the life of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, who was the music director here from 1833 to 1835. Mendelssohn revived the works of Beethoven and Johann Sebastian Bach, and composed his first oratorio, Paulus. And another interesting fact – did you know that Düsseldorf was the second German town to establish a state orchestra?  

And finally, we can’t forget to mention a few facts about the local Tonhalle! The original building from 1926 by architect Wilhelm Kreis had been designed and functioned as a planetarium, hence its imposing dome. The neoclassical building was famous for its expressionist foyer. Unfortunately it was completely destroyed during the Second World War. The same fate also awaited the building of the local symphony orchestra, the so-called “Old Tonhalle”, and so the newly formed ensemble decided that a new concert hall would be built from the ruins of the old planetarium.  The first concert was performed here in 1948 though it was to take another 25 years before today’s Tonhalle Düsseldorf was finally reconstructed. The architect Helmut Hentrich based his design on the planetarium’s original plans, he restored the original façade and built the green vaults and grand dome to the original height from 1926. In 2005, the concert hall underwent acoustic modifications, making the Tonhalle one of the best concert halls in the world. Today this beautiful building hosts 450 concerts a year.

Who created art, worked or studied in Düsseldorf? Robert and Clara Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Heinrich Heine, Helmut Käutner, Doro Pesch, Bettina Böttinger, Karl von Appen, Hermann Knüfken, Elly Ney and others

Im Prater blühn wieder die Bäume,
es leuchtet ihr duftendes Grün.
Drum küss nur, küss, nicht säume,
denn Frühling ist wieder in Wien!

Robert Stolz: Im Prater blüh´n wieder die Bäume

26 January 2020 Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts

“Enormous and at the same time almost invisible, looking down on the city and at the same time buried underground, broken up and at the same time unified, prestigious and at the same time open to everyone.” This was how the prominent Brussels architect Victor Horta defined his vision for a new temple of art – the Palais des Beaux-Arts (the Palace of Fine Arts), which he had been commissioned to design. When he began work on it in 1919, Brussels could already boast of a number of his beautiful buildings in the Art Deco style; for example, the Maison du Peuple (the headquarters of the Belgian Workers’ Party) and the Magasins Waucquez (originally a department store specializing in textiles, today the Museum of Comics). From 1910, Horta also began working on a project for a new main railway station in Brussels, the construction of which began in 1937 and was completed five years after his death in 1952. The impressive Palais des Beaux-Arts, which consists of three concert halls surrounded by exhibition spaces and other conference rooms, has eight levels in total, most of which are found below ground. The Palais is in fact built on the Mont des Arts and so when you are walking through the building, you are actually going uphill! Naturally, it has been designed in such an inventive way that you are not aware of this. Why didn’t Horta just design a tall building? For the very prosaic reason that he didn’t want to spoil the view from the windows of the Palais Royal – the royal palace sited on the hill behind it… The original building material was supposed to be stone, but in the end Horta changed his plans entirely and used steel. The city provided 8,000 square metres of land for the construction of the building. However, there was one condition – there had to be a series of shops along the main street-level façade. Horta allegedly retorted: “A palace? At the moment all I can see is a CENTRE of art, because I will never be able to call it a palace if its façade is lined by shops!” Construction began in 1923 and the Palais des Beaux-Arts was ceremonially opened in 1928. Its largest auditorium seats 2,100 concertgoers and is named after the Belgian banker Henry Le Boeuf, who financed its construction. It became a sought-after venue for the leading artists of the 20th century: Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Horowitz, Menuhin, Stokowski, Stravinsky and many others. BOZAR connects the two halves of the city and from the outset has presented all forms of art of the highest quality without becoming an elitist institution. Not that this would be possible in Brussels anyway if we take into consideration its revolutionary past or the fact that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote their Communist Manifesto here! And incidentally, did you know what started the famous revolution in 1830, which led to the overthrowal of William I of the Netherlands, the establishment of the National Congress and the declaration of independence by modern-day Belgium? You’ll probably be surprised to hear that it was a performance of Auber’s La muette de Portici at the Théâtre “La Monnaie”! Such is the power of opera!


If we keep away from Belgian chocolates and Belgian beer and stick instead to art and science, then the Palais des Beaux-Arts is obviously not the only institution in Brussels worthy of our attention. You can find here, for example, the largest Art Deco building in the world – the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, or the Stoclet House by the architect Josef Hoffmann, which was decorated by a galaxy of Viennese masters – Koloman Moser, Gustav Klimt, Franz Metzner, Richard Luksch and Michael Powolny, and which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2009. In the world of music, Brussels is most famous for being a jazz town, although classical-music fans will be familiar with the prestigious Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition, which the Czech Lukáš Vondráček is a winner of. And who doesn’t know the popular Ne me quitte pas by Brussels-born Jacques Brel? Or the harmonica of Jean “Toots” Thielemans, or the incredible mixture of jazz and Gypsy music by the legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt? Brussels is also the birthplace of the comics character Tintin (1929) and those blue Smurfs (1958), who went on to enjoy global popularity and today adorn the aforementioned Museum of Comics. And let us not forget our fun facts to finish with. Did you know that the local Museum of Natural Sciences has the largest amount of exhibition space in Europe dedicated to dinosaurs? Or that you can also find here the Museum of Street Lamps and the Underwear Museum, to which numerous international celebrities have donated (or sold) their own items? Or that the local Manneken Pis (the peeing boy) has 800 outfits in his wardrobe, the first of which was made in the 17th century? And so today you can see him dressed as Mozart, a vet, a Formula One racing-driver or a kung-fu fighter… So off now to the capital of the European Union! And let’s make sure that the orchestra didn’t forget to pack a little PKF outfit!

1. Facade of the Palais des Beaux-Arts, 2. Henry Le Boeuf Hall, 3. Rotonde (Palais des Beaux-Arts), 4. Horta Hall (Palais des Beaux-Arts), 5. Victor Horta, 6. Original outline of the Palais des Beaux-Arts, 7. Construction of the Palais des Beaux-Arts, 8. Horta Hall as an exhibition place

Memories of Laeiszhalle Hamburg

Photo (c) ProArte | Sebastian Madej

Johanni van Oostrum

Although she is known mainly for her modernist repertoire in opera from the late 19th century and the 20th century – including works by Richard Strauss, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Leoš Janáček and Benjamin Britten – her concert repertoire also includes baroque, classical and late-romantic music. Johanni van Oostrum is from South Africa. She has worked with many of the world’s leading conductors (Sir Simon Rattle, Ivor Bolton, Massimo Zanetti) and directors (Harry Kupfer, Barrie Kosky, Stephen Lawless). Among her outstanding roles include Princess Marie Therese von Werdenberg in Der Rosenkavalier, which she has sung conducted by Sir Simon Rattle at the Dutch National Opera, the Comic Opera in Berlin, the Royal Swedish Opera, the Bolshoi in Moscow and the Estonian National Opera. This season sees important debuts at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris and the Barbican Centre in London. She is also returning to the Bavarian State Opera in Hamburg and she will perform the soprano part in Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass together with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester under Alan Gilbert.

(c) Chloé Desnoyers

22 January 2020 Hamburg, Laeiszhalle

Hamburg – the second largest city in Germany today – was founded in 825 on the site of Hammaburg Castle. Its location only 65 kilometres from the mouth of the North Sea and beside the might of the River Elbe, into which flow the two tributaries Alster and Bille, clearly predetermined the “raison d’être” of this city: to trade and become one of the most important ports on the European continent. By the 13th century, Hamburg was already the main place of transhipment for goods on their way from Russia to Flanders. The first stock market was founded here in 1558 and in 1619 the city established its own bank. In 1662 the Hamburgers came up with another first – a system of ship convoys which offered merchants not only armed escorts, but also the possibility of insurance! Which is hardly surprising after the experiences of the Thirty Years’ War… With its population of 70,000, Hamburg quickly became the second-largest city in Germany in the 17th century and remains so today behind Berlin. Each year 15,000 ships from 100 countries pass through its port. It is the largest transhipment point for vegetable oils, tea, coffee, oil, tropical fruit and tobacco. From here it exports machines, pharmaceutical products, copper, fuel and much more. The city also boasts a dense railway network and one of the oldest airports in Europe was built here in 1911, while a tunnel was constructed under the River Elbe as part of the so-called Stockholm-Lisbon highway. In addition to trade, Hamburg is also a centre of journalism with several media houses, and it is a city with one of the largest universities in Germany with almost 50,000 students, where you can study practically anything you want.

However, if you feel that this city is only about trade and transport, then you’d be wrong. There are also places here, which you would definitely not expect. For example, one of the largest Japanese gardens in Europe was completed here in 1990 right in the heart of the city. You can admire traditional Hamburg architecture from the 17th to the 19th centuries on the famous Deichstrasse, and in 1907 Carl Hagenbeck founded the first modern zoological garden in the world here. Courageous men (woman are prohibited access!) are traditionally lured by the short Herberstrasse, which has been part of Hamburg’s famous “red light district” since the 19th century. If you are more conservative in nature, we would recommend a visit to the majestic city hall, which supposedly has more rooms than Buckingham Palace. Few people will know that Hamburg is the birthplace of the advent wreath! In the 19th century its “inventor” was the theologian and founder of the local orphanage, Johann Hinrich Wichern. Culture vultures also have much to discover here. What would the locally born Brahms and Mendelssohn say to the fact that the Beatles began their famous career in the renowned clubs around the Reeperbahn? And this wasn’t just at the beginnings – they played 273 concerts here from 1960 to 1962. John Lennon once answered a reporter’s question on what his adolescent years were like in Liverpool with the words, “I didn’t grow up in Liverpool, I grew up in Hamburg.”


But over to the Laeiszhalle building, where today we will continue our tour with Jonas Kaufmann. Firstly it’s important to mention that it is named after the Hamburg shipbuilder and patron of the arts, Carl Heinrich Laeisz and his wife Sophie Christine, who financed the construction of this beautiful neo-baroque building. The gala opening was on 4 June 1908 and it is still one of the most beautiful buildings of its kind in Europe. A twenty-year-old Yehudi Menuhin performed here in 1930 and the Laeiszhalle became a favourite destination for Sergei Prokofiev, Richard Strauss, Paul Hindemith and later the famous Maria Callas. During the Second World War the building was fortunately left entirely untouched because it was the radio centre of the British Forces Network. Today it houses four residential orchestras: the Hamburg Philharmonic, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestre, the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra and Ensemble Resonanz. In 2017 the Laeiszhalle’s long-awaited younger sister was born – the popular Elbphilharmonie. Today both concert halls work in mutual symbiosis under the same management team.

Who was born in Hamburg? Johannes Brahms, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Angela Merkelová, Helmut Schmidt, nositel Nobelovy ceny za chemii Gerhard Herzberg, Carl Reinecke, Fatih Akin, Eva Hesse, Carl von Ossietzky, James Warburg, Gustav Christian Schwabe or Gottfried Semper

Programme note

Written by Thomas Voigt (in Deutsch)

Steht Johann Strauß für die „Goldene Ära“ der Operette, so folgen im zweiten Teil des heutigen Konzertprogramms die herausragenden Komponisten der „Silbernen Ära“: Franz Lehár, Emmerich Kálmán und Robert Stolz. So unterschiedlich die Lebenswege dieser drei auch waren, so sind sie schon dadurch verbunden, dass sie die große Tradition von Johann Strauß fortgesetzt und die Genres „Wiener Operette / Wiener Lied“ international bekannt gemacht haben, zunächst durch Aufführungen, dann durch die Medien Platte, Radio und Tonfilm.

Wie die „Fledermaus“ wurden auch Lehárs „Lustige Witwe“ und Kálmáns „Zirkusprinzessin“ im legendären Theater an der Wien uraufgeführt. Und der junge Robert Stolz war quasi Zeitzeuge beim Generationswechsel: 1899 hatte der 19-jährige Johann Strauß in Wien besucht, sechs Jahre später leitete er die erste Serie der „Lustigen Witwe“ im Theater an der Wien (60 Jahre später nahm er das Stück mit Rudolf Schock für die Platte auf). Mit Emmerich Kálmán verband Stolz nicht zuletzt das Schicksal der emigrierten Künstler, die sich in den Vereinigten Staaten eine neue Existenz aufbauen mussten; während ihrer Jahre im „Exil“ lebten die beiden im gleichen Apartmenthaus in New York und brachten von dort aus Wiener Musik in den amerikanischen Alltag.

Von den drei Komponisten der „Silbernen Ära“ war Robert Stolz der Vielseitigste. Mehr als 2000Lieder, circa 100 Filmmusiken und 60 Operetten stammen aus seiner Feder. Ob Wiener Walzer und Berliner Filmschlager, Tango und Foxtrott, Blues und Beat – Stolz beherrschte die ganze Skala. Manche seiner Stücke sind einem derart geläufig, dass man sie für Volkslieder hält. „Hab gar net gewusst, dass des auch von dir ist!“, meinte Karl Böhm zu Stolz, als er erfuhr, wer „Auf der Heide blüh’n die letzten Rosen“ geschrieben hat. Und auch „Im Prater blüh’n wieder die Bäume“ hatlängst schon Volkslied-Charakter.

Für Rudolf Sieczynski, der nach Abschluss des Jurastudiums in den Dienst der niederösterreichischen Landesregierung eintrat und es dort bis zum Hofrat brachte, war das Komponieren eine schöne Nebenbeschäftigung – in der er es immerhin so weit brachte, dass eines seiner Lieder heute als die Hymne auf Wien gilt: „Wien, du Stadt meiner Träume“ bzw. „Wien, Wien nur du allein“, wie der Refrain lautet. Von Richard Tauber über Fritz Wunderlich bis Plácido Domingo haben alle großen Tenöre dieses Lied gesungen. Und natürlich darf es auch im Wiener Programm von Jonas Kaufmann nicht fehlen.


From the left: Johann Strauss ml., Franz Lehár, Emmerich Kálmán and Robert Stolz

20. January 2020 Paris, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées 

“The history of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées dates back to 1906 when the Parisian impresario and music publisher Gabriel Astruc decided to build a theatre dedicated to music in all its forms; from opera to recital and chamber music…” These are the introductory words to a fascinating online publication which came out to mark the 100th anniversary of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, from which we offer you a brief history of this beautiful, and in its day, ultra-modern Parisian house of art.

As with most grandiose, slightly foolish dreams, this one also had its teething troubles. In 1910 the Paris city councillors rescinded on their commitment to provide land for the new building. The disastrous situation was saved by the financier Gabriel Thomas, who found space for the new cathedral of music on avenue Montaigne and took over the whole project. As a shrewd businessman he correctly guessed that the eastern part of Paris would soon be developed. The new theatre, one of the first ever buildings in the Art Deco style, had three halls – the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées (1,905 seats), the Comédie des Champs-Élysées (601 seats) and the Studio des Champs-Élysées (230 seats, a gallery until 1923, where the first exhibition by the Dadaists and  Amedeo Modigliani were held), and had its gala opening three years later in 1913. On 31 March the concrete façade of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées was illuminated by a light installed on the top of the Eiffel Tower, and for the first time visitors could enter the theatre which was then state-of-the-art with its electrified systems above the stage, allowing for rapid scene changes, its elegantly shaped balconies and the facilities for the artists. However, the theatre was not only attractive due to its original appearance, but also due to its dramaturgy as it was the first theatre to combine opera, symphonic concerts, recitals, ballets and plays. The first season of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées opened up a new artistic world to the Parisians, symbolically crowned by the scandalous premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, which in the subsequent history of the theatre was matched only by the premiere of the composition Déserts by Edgard Varèse in 1954. And it was also the huge financial deficit which finally compelled Gabriel Astruc to resign and withdraw. This difficult period was made even worse by the outbreak of World War One and the theatre went quiet for four years…

One of the most famous periods of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées was from 1920 to 1925, when the management was taken over by Jacques Hébertot, Rolf de Maré and Walther Straram. During this time the theatre was accessible to the most important artists of the period, and not only from France: Jean Cocteau, Paul Claudel, Blaise Cendrars, composer such as Darius Milhaud, Erik Satie and Francis Poulenc, and the painters Fernand Léger and Francis Picabia. The most talented young actors and directors of their day passed through these doors: Louis Jouvet, Gaston Baty, Firmin Gémier and Georges Pitoëff.  The pianist Arthur Rubinstein made his debut here in 1923 and he also chose it as the venue for the last concert of his career in 1976. In 1925 the Paris public was stunned by the American Revue nègre, in which the untamed Josephine Baker shone for the first time on the continent. The journalist Robert de Flers wrote at the time: “Again and again we climb to the summit much more quickly than we are able to descend.” The name of the largest hall was changed from Théâtre des Champs-Élysées to Théâtre Music-Hall. Well, you have to move with the times…

In the 1930s, thanks to Ganna Walska and Walther Straram, the theatre became a progressive platform for classical music. The tradition of eagerly anticipated debuts and prestigious recitals was established, which continues to this day. Musicians who had their Paris premiere here included Vladimir Horowitz and Yves Nat. Concerts have been given here by Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Feodor Chaliapin; Ravel conducted his Bolero here; Richard Strauss and Arthur Honegger presented their compositions here. Famous conductors such as Charles Munch and Manuel Rosenthal began their careers here. In the 1930s the theatre was the home of the Paris Opera for a time, after which it enjoyed a successful period during the world exhibition in 1937 and from 1941 to 1944 when the Paris Orchestre Radio-Symphonique broadcast 310 concerts from here. The Théâtre des Champs-Elysées gradually became one of the most sought-after and important recording spaces in Paris.

The 1950s belonged to contemporary music and jazz. The French premiere of Berg’s Wozzeck was performed here and the season highlights included Leonard Bernstein, Georg Solti, a young Daniel Barenboim and Lorin Maazel and the magicians of jazz Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson. There was no let-up in the 1960s either, with performances by Maria Callas and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, and conducting by Karajan, Heiting and Zubin Mehta. 1967 saw the formation of a permanent new orchestra called the Orchestre de Paris, founded by Charles Munch, and whose history is linked to the names Georg Solti, Daniel Barenboim and Serge Baudo. Even during this period the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées remained true to its traditions, hosting international stars outside of the world of classical music, such as the chanteurs Jacques Brel and Maurice Chevalier.

The tradition of large concerts began in the 1970s, with acts such as Elton John, Claude Nougaro and Francis Cabrel, as well as two legendary concerts by Pink Floyd and the Who. Then at the end of the 20th century things turned full circle with the beginning of a new golden era of music from the baroque period. This was a truly inspired strategy and in a global context the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées has contributed substantially to the renaissance of baroque opera.

Even today this attractive and architecturally legendary theatre on avenue Montaigne is a place whose credo remains high quality and invention across genres. In any case, with the stiff competition in the coming seasons in Paris, there is no other way to do it. Artists continue to come here with great humility and respect to be on a stage which changed the musical history of Europe in the 20th century. “Donc, bonne chance, mes amis!”

Photos: 1-4 Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, 5 Joséphine Baker, 6 Louis Armstrong, 7 La Revue negre – poster, 8 Igor Stravinsky and Jean Cocteau, 9 The Rite of Spring – original costumes, 10 Maria Callas, 11 Darius Milhaud, 12 Gabriel Astruc

Entschuldigen Sie sich, bitte, nicht;
Sie wurden Mann von Welt,
ich hoffe, das ist kein Gerücht,
weil das mir so gefällt.

Johann Strauss ml.: Wiener Blut

The concert in Nuernberg has been canceled!

18 January 2020 Nuremberg, Meistersingerhalle

Bavaria’s second largest city – Nuremberg – has a rich history, which even the Father of the Czech Nation, Charles IV, played his part in. The history of the city stretches back to 1050 and is immediately connected to the history of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, to quote its full title. In 1356, Charles IV incorporated into a Golden Bull the statement, that each new emperor of the Holy Roman Empire had to hold his first Imperial Diet in Nuremberg. However, Nuremberg paid a high price in the 20th century for its historical prestige and fame. Adolf Hitler declared it “the most German of all German cities” and made it an important centre for the Nazi Party. It was here that two infamous constitutional laws from the Reichstag came into existence, known as the Nuremberg Laws, enacted on 15 September 1935: the Reich Citizenship Law and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour. This was another reason why the city was practically razed to the ground in 1943 and later chosen as the place where the International Military Tribunal sat in the former Palace of Justice from 1945 to 1949 to condemn the main representatives of Nazi Germany for their crimes.

However, let us leave the city’s grim past and turn our attention to its rich artistic traditions. Nuremberg has given the world numerous world-famous figures such as Albrecht Dürer, Conrad Celtes and the famous Meistersinger Hans Sachs, the inspiration for Wagner’s opera Die Meistersinger von Nurenberg. The Pegnesische Blumenorden literary society was established here in 1644, whose goal was to clarify and develop the German language. And it was not just any old society! At its centre were some of the most important writers of the period and one of its members was the famous German baroque composer and organist, Johann Pachelbel. The first academy of art in all of Germany was founded in Nuremberg in 1622. Today it is a city of tourism, culture, trade fairs and exhibitions, with three thousand being held each year. If you are a child at heart, then you shouldn’t miss the popular toy trade fair, the largest of its kind in the world. And if you enjoy the Christmas atmosphere, then you should know that the Nuremberg Christmas markets are amongst the most famous in Europe.

Nuremberg’s Meistersingerhalle was opened in 1963 – approximately at the same time as the Berlin Philharmonie. The objective of the architects Harald Loebermann and Wunibald Puchner was to create a work of art that would not overwhelm the music being played inside it, but would instead enhance it. On a 26,740 square-metre area of land near Luitpoldhain park, they constructed a cubist building which strives for as much harmony as possible with the surrounding environment. The glass windows in the foyer, through which visitors can admire the surrounding park, are certainly testament to this idea and create a beautiful composition. The building is home to three choirs and two symphony orchestras – the Nuremberg State Philharmonic and the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra. It was declared a national cultural monument in 2007.

Who created art, worked or studied in Nuremberg? Sigismund, Albrecht Dürer, Hans Sachs, Johann Pachelbel, Herman Zapf or Max Grundig

Schaut euch um in Wien, wie rings die Blumen blühn,
wie die junhen Leut´stehn unterm Flieder,
sagen: „Nicht wahr, Schatz, wir sehn uns wieder?“
Geht und summen frohe Lieder…

Robert Stolz: „Wien wird schön erst bei Nacht“

Who is Who

Jochen Rieder

The German conductor regularly works with many of today’s leading singers including Renée Fleming, Nina Stemme, Thomas Hampson, Matthias Goerne and José van Dam. He has had a long artistic friendship with Jonas Kaufmann and they have performed together in some of the most prestigious halls in the world: Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, the Royal Festival Hall in London, Berlin Philharmonic, the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, the Sydney Opera House, Carnegie Hall in New York, Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Movistat Arena in Santiago de Chile and Waldbühne in Berlin. Together they have also released several successful CDs with Sony Music. In addition, he is regularly invited to conduct Europe’s leading orchestras: the Royal Philharmonic in London, Bruckner Orchester Linz, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich. He also works with many prestigious opera houses, mainly in Europe.


15 January 2020 Berlin, Philharmonie

Berlin, "die Hauptstadt" — the capital — of Germany. The city is well known, so today we would like to focus more on the Philharmonie, a concert hall that is much more than a meeting place for the best artists in the world ...

The hall of the Berlin Philharmonic on Bernburger Strasse was also the victim of an air raid in January 1944. The orchestra then moved for a long period to the Titania Palace cinema in the Steglitz quarter in southwest Berlin. The chief conductor at the time, Wilhelm Furtwängler, dreamt of constructing a new concert hall and acquired a powerful ally to this end in the shape of Erik Reger, the founder of the Tagesspiegel newspaper. On 25 September 1949 Reger published an appeal to establish a Society of Friends of the Berlin Philharmonic, which began with the sentence: “As a cultural institution of outstanding quality and international importance, the Berlin Philharmonic is not merely of huge significance for Berlin but for the whole of Germany.” He not only roused the general public but also political powers, as can be seen in the names of the society’s first members – Konrad Adenauer and Theodor Heuß. Amongst the founding members of the Society of Friends also figured the name of Richard Strauss, who, however, died shortly before it was officially established. Ernst Reuter pledged to ask for public and sponsorship money only when the Society had earned its first million marks. Inspiration for cultural initiatives today? The first lottery was launched in 1950, but it took five years before they managed to raise the promised amount. A number of important artists of the period were involved in benefit events for the construction of a new hall for the Berlin Philharmonic: Pierre Fournier, Benjamino Gigli, Harald Kreutzberg and Paul Hindemith. At the end of 1956 an architecture competition for the Philharmonic building was won by the German architect Hans Scharoun, and four years later the foundation stone was laid by Herbert von Karajan. On it were written these prophetic words, which had to wait 30 years to be realized: “Hopefully this building will be a place for all Berliners and a focal point for everyday political life in a reunited Germany here in Berlin, the capital city, which is no longer divided.” Amazing, isn’t it? The hall was ceremonially opened on 14 October 1963 with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony conducted by Herbert von Karajan. The overall cost of the building came to 17.5 million marks, which in comparison with other similar buildings is an almost scandalously low price. It just goes to show what you can do if you want something badly enough! Hans Scharoun was a pioneer with this architectural gem as he placed the podium in the centre of the concert hall so that it could be surrounded on all sides by the audience of 3,620, while there is seating for 2,440 in the Great Hall and 1,180 in the Chamber Hall, which was built later, opening in 1980. Today the Philharmonic is part of a complex called the Kulturforum, not far from Potsdamer Platz. Until 1989 the notorious Berlin Wall was only a few dozen metres from its gates – another reason why this place is particularly symbolic and which is sensed by everyone who comes here. A breath-taking space which deserves a visit!

Lippen schweigen,
's flüstern Geigen:
Hab mich lieb!
All die Schritte
sagen: Bitte,
hab mich lieb!

Franz Lehár: Die lustige Witwe

12 January 2020 Liederhalle Stuttgart

We are travelling to Stuttgart – the capital of Baden-Württemberg – situated in hilly ground on the River Neckar. Germany’s sixth largest city was founded in 950 and its name is derived from the word “Stutengarten” (loosely translated as stud farm). Inevitably its emblem includes a horse, which was also adapted in a smaller form by the famous Porsche car manufacturer. Yes, Stuttgart is the heart of the automobile industry and if you’ve ever visited the fascinating Mercedes-Benz museum, then you’ll understand why! As you’ll have already guessed, two pioneers of the petrol engine were from here – Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz. However, apart from cars, Stuttgart is also proud of other firsts – the first television tower in the world was erected here, it’s the only German city which has its own vineyards, it is sited on land which has the second richest source of mineral water in Europe (beaten only by Budapest) and was voted the most cultural city in Germany in 2016! However, if you’re in bad physical shape, then Stuttgart might not be for you as it’s located on several hills and has a network of 20km of stairs. And one last fun fact, if you were to visit here and ask yourself how come it’s so clean, it might be because the tradition of cleaning the pavements goes back to the 16th century. Pity we don’t have something similar in the Czech Republic!

The first concert hall in the heart of Stuttgart was built by choral societies back in 1864, four years before the foundation stone was laid for Prague’s National Theatre. Hence the poetic name of “Liederhalle”. The original building was enlarged in 1910 but was razed to the ground during an air raid in 1943. The music-loving citizens of Stuttgart built a new concert hall on the same site thirteen years later in 1956 and called it – wait for it – the Liederhalle. For more than 50 years this place has been one of the most important cultural centres in Germany. Who wouldn’t want to play in halls with such inspirational names as Beethoven-Saal, Mozart-Saal, Schiller-Saal, Hegel-Saal or Silcher-Saal?

Who created art, worked or studied in Stuttgart? Gerda Taro, Richard Holm, Helmuth Rilling, Helmut Lachenmann, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, Berthold Schenk – Graf von Stauffenberg, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Fritz Leonhardt, Friedrich Schiller or Gottlieb Daimler 

Liederhalle Stuttgart (in Deutsch)

Who is Who

Rachel Willis-Sørensen

The American soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen is a regular guest on all of the world’s opera stages. The range of her repertoire stretches from Mozart to Verdi and Wagner. Some of her outstanding roles include Princess Marie Therese von Werdenberg from Der Rosenkavalier and Donna Anna in Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, which she has sung on nearly all of the world’s most prestigious stages: at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Covent Garden Royal Opera House in London, the Vienna State Opera, the Houston Grand Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Semperoper in Dresden, where she is engaged in her third year. In addition to opera she also performs at concerts. For example, she sang Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs at the birthday celebrations of Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace. She also loves Czech music. She made her very successful debut as Rusalka at the San Francisco Opera and one of her favourite composition’s is Dvořák’s Stabat Mater. Rachel Willis-Sørensen won the Operalia 2014 and the Belvedere-Gesangswettbewerbs 2011 in Vienna.


10 January 2020 Müpa Budapest

From Munich we head 650km east to Budapest – “the Queen of the Danube”.  Today one-fifth of Hungarians live in the city whose waterfront, together with Andrássy Avenue and the palace complex of Buda, were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. After the First World War it was the second largest city in Europe after Berlin. The origin of the most-visited city in Europe in 2013 was with the connection of three settlements – Obuda, Buda and Pest. It will interest musicians that the famous music academy was established in 1875 by the illustrious Franz Liszt, or Ferencz Liszt in Hungarian. Today Budapest is still an important European cultural centre and paradise for students. They have played an important role in its history and many of them paid with their lives.

The oldest underground railway in continental Europe runs under Budapest. The inventor of the Rubik’s cube, the sculptor and professor of architecture, Ernő Rubik, was born here, as was the journalist László Bíró, thanks to whom we can all write with a ballpoint pen. It is not surprising, as what journalist wouldn’t be constantly bothered by ink always blotting! Also of interest is that after New York, Budapest is home to the largest synagogue in the world, which is also not surprising as almost one-quarter of the city’s population were Jewish before the Second World War. Today bronze shoes at the bank of the Danube commemorate their tragic fate during World War II. For those members of the orchestra who want to stay as thin as a rake, we have included in their itinerary a visit to St Stephen’s Basilica. They say that if you rub the belly of the statue of the nice policeman from the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, then you’ll never put on any weight again! Those who enjoy the good life can look forward to the famous “ruin bars” – abandoned buildings decorated with things picked up from the streets and transformed into incredible spaces that have become the location for wild evenings and concerts. We decided not to include them in the orchestra members’ itinerary…

But now to the Müpa Cultural Centre. The Müvészetek Palotája, or Palace of Art, is a unique architectural and acoustic building which has been ranked among the five best concert halls in the world and in 2006 was awarded the “Oscar for architecture” – the FIABCI Prix d´Excellence – by the International Real Estate Federation. The baritone Thomas Hampson commented: “This concert hall is fantastic, inconceivably good; it has excellent acoustics. I was testing it all afternoon, enjoying its capacity; congratulations!” The whole complex was built over ten thousand square metres and brings together the Museum of Modern Art (Ludwig Museum), the Festival Theatre, the Béla Bartók National Concert Hall and four other smaller but equally breath-taking chamber halls. The Béla Bartók National Concert Hall, where we are playing, has a capacity of 1,656 and is lined by 50 mobile panels weighing between 4 and 8 tonnes. The walls and floors are covered by a special material which also helps to improve the acoustics of the space. It’ll be quite an experience!

Who created art, worked or studied in Budapest? George Soros, Harry Houdini, Robert Capa, Dennis Gabor, John Harsanyi, Ernö Rubik, Georg Solti, Paul Lukas, László Bíró, George Pólya, Judith Leiber, George Szell, Ferenc Molnár nebo Fritz Reiner 

Learn Hungarian with us!

Memories of Munich

 Michael Bastian Weiß, Abendzeitung, 9 January 2020

Größere Rücksicht nimmt das Orchester „PKF – Prague Philharmonia“ unter Jochen Rieder, das generell mit angenehm trockenem Understatement vorgeht und Kaufmann in seiner freien Gestaltungskunst zumeist aufmerksam folgt. Diese Kunstfertigkeit darf man über all den kritischen Anmerkungen nicht vergessen. mehr lesen

Memories of Munich. Violin solo Jan Fišer, PKF concert master
(c) PKF – Prague Philharmonia | Václav Hodina

Wieder hinaus ins strahlende Licht,
wieder hinaus mit frohem Gesicht!
Grell wie ein Clown das weiße Antlitz bemalt!
Zeig deine Kunst, denn du wirst ja bezahlt!

Emmerich Kálmán: Lied des Mister X aus der Operette "Die Zirkusprinzessin"
The construction of a new concert hall in Munich should begin this year. This is what it should look like.

7 January 2020   Gasteig Munich

Gasteig – a part of Munich located on the right bank of the River Isar. From the 13th to the 18th century it was a notorious place where the sick were treated who had been expelled from the city gates, while in the 19th century it was transformed into a beer-drinker’s paradise. Given the right to brew, a complex of renowned beer cellars began to develop. One fun fact – until 1812 traditional food was not allowed to be served with beer, only bread. Although there is now no limit to what you can eat, the tradition remains that you can take your own snack to a “Bier-(Keller)garten” or “beer-cellar garden”! The city brewery was established here in 1880 with a capacity of up to 10,000 people, and ten years later came the legendary “Münchner-Kindl-Keller” restaurant. In its day this all-electric, ultra-modern complex offered seating for 6,000 people over 1,600 square metres. Our Bavarian neighbours have never been ones to skimp! Unfortunately, the building was a victim of the bombing during World War II and today we can only imagine what it was like. Nevertheless, Munich has remained a beer paradise with its network of beer gardens and the Oktoberfest. Too bad that we aren’t touring here in October!

The Gasteig Munich Cultural Centre, where today, January 7, we kick off our European tour with Jonas Kaufmann, was built on the grounds of the former city brewery. The area is linked to dramatic events from 1939 when the German worker Georg Elser tried to blow up Hitler. His heroic act is today commemorated in one the cultural centre’s displays. The foundation stone for this building was laid in 1978 and the budget climbed to an eyewatering 372 million marks. The ambitious complex was opened in 1985, providing space for the Munich Philharmonic, the City Library, the Münchner Volkshochschule and the Richard Strauss Conservatory, which was integrated into the Academy of Music and Performing Arts in 2008. The building has four concert halls: Philharmonie (2,387 seats), Carl-Orff-Saal (528-598 seats), Black Box (120-225 seats) and the Small Hall (191 seats). Each year it stages 1,800 events, welcoming 6,000 visitors a day. Fascinated by these numbers? Well, just imagine that in a few years this cultural mecca will be facing competition from the construction of a new concert hall in the Sendling quarter with a budget of 450 million euros, which should start this year. And how will the good old Gasteig react to this? Hopefully not in the words of Leonard Bernstein. When asked for his opinion of this cultural centre he replied, “Burn it”.

Who created art, worked or studied in Munich? Richard Strauss, Richard Wagner, Max Reger, Carl Orff, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Rainer Maria Rilke, Thomas Mann, Lion Feuchtwanger, Albert Einstein, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, Rudolf Diesel, Alois Alzheimer nebo Theodor Hänsch 

6 January 2020

Tomorrow we begin our three-week European tour with the world-famous tenor Jonas Kaufmann. Where will you be able to hear us?

07.01.   Munich, Gasteig (Rachel Willis-Sorensen)
10.01.   Budapest, Müpa (Rachel Willis-Sorensen)
12.01.   Stuttgart, Liederhalle (Rachel Willis-Sorensen)
15.01.   Berlin, Philharmonie (Rachel Willis-Sorensen)
18.01.   Nürnberg, Meistersingerhalle (Johanni van Oostrum)
20.01.   Paris, Théatre des Champs-Élysées (Rachel Willis-Sorensen)
22.01.   Hamburg, Laeiszhalle (Johanni van Oostrum)
26.01.   Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts (Rachel Willis-Sorensen)
28.01.   Düsseldorf, Tonhalle (Johanni van Oostrum)
30.01.   Luzern, Kultur- und Kongresszentrum (Johanni van Oostrum)
01.02.   Baden Baden, Festspielhaus (Rachel Willis-Sorensen)

Tickets now available only for Stuttgart, Berlin, Nuremberg, Dusseldorf and Lucerne!

Rachel Willis-Sorensen and Jochen Rieder invite you to the tomorrow's concert in Munich
Jonas Kaufmann LIVE with the PKF – Prague Philharmonia from Vienna (Konzerthaus on 14 October 2019)
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