A Conversation with Simon Rattle

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Many great orchestras pass through New York every year, but the Berlin Philharmonic always seems to create a special buzz. That’s in no small part because of the orchestra’s conductor, Sir Simon Rattle. Since his arrival in 2002, he has taken the orchestra on global tours, expanded outreach activities, and made numerous recordings for EMI.

Sir Simon is currently in New York for another reason: to make his Metropolitan Opera debut in a revival of Debussy's opera Pelléas et Mélisande (Dec. 17-Jan. 1). He recently stopped by WQXR to tell Jeff Spurgeon about his Met debut, his work in Berlin, and why he finds Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker "dark, sexy and smoldering."

A Belated Metropolitan Opera debut, conducting Debussy

Pelléas et Mélisande is something of a specialty for Rattle, an elusive work that he finds nonetheless mesmerizing. "It's full of shadows, it's full of insinuations. It doesn't hit you head on," he says. "It's also one of the most affecting and most emotional operas." Playing the role of Mélisande in the Met's production is Rattle's wife, the mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozena.

German Reengineering with the Berlin Philharmonic

"I sometimes think to myself 'yes, it’s the best job in the world, but it’s very far from being the easiest job in the world,’" Rattle says of the BPO, which recently renewed his contract through 2018. "I knew they were big personalities. And so when everybody is going in the same direction it’s an extraordinary thing. When it doesn’t work, it’s like trying to herd cats."

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love The Nutcracker

For many years, Rattle resisted Tchaikovsky. But lately he's come around to the composer's charms. He recently recorded the composer's most overly familiar yet underappreciated work: The Nutcracker. "Of course, we know the big tunes but the big tunes are 20 minutes out of a 100," he says. "What a deal of strange, erotic, shadowy stuff there is... The piece is about growing up and desperate melancholia and nostalgia for childhood."

Hosted by:

Jeff Spurgeon

Produced by:

Brian Wise


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Comments [5]

Mário Nestrovsky from Santos,SP, Brazil

Listening Debussy's "Pélleas..." via internet , here in Santos, Brazil, was an extraordinary experience. Sir Simon Rattle and his soloists, Met's orchestra etc, deserve all the applause!

Jan. 10 2011 12:57 PM


The City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. IT NEVER WENT ANYWHERE

You said keep it civil. You said nothing about corniness!

Jan. 01 2011 09:56 AM
Kenneth Bennett Lane

Congratulations to Maestro Simon Rattle AND the Met Opera for his joining the roster.
We need his acumen and youth to add new life to a great company that's forever improving its outreach.

Dec. 19 2010 04:34 PM

I liked his comment about herding cats. After a few years, it seems apparent the BPO and Rattle are a good fit. However, for my taste, I find the Berlin Philharmonic's music making a little too polished - a little too refined. I would hate to take them with me into a battlefield.

Dec. 17 2010 10:54 PM
Richard Heyman from Calgary, AB, Canada

I sang the role of Jake the fisherman with Simon Rattle conducting the Chelsea Opera in two concert performances of Porgy and Bess in London in 1976 with Willard White as the Porgy. Simon was great to work with and I learned much from him. It's wonderful to see how Simon's career has gone on from there.

Dec. 15 2010 05:37 PM

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