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Friday, 29 November, 2002, 08:31 GMT
Rattle ready for novel opera
Sir Simon Rattle
Sir Simon Rattle has traded the Berlin Philharmonic for London, temporarily
Conductor Sir Simon Rattle has told BBC Radio 4's Front Row how excited he is to be conducting the world première of the opera version of Sophie's Choice.

Sir Simon, who took over at the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra in September, is in the UK to conduct the new piece, which premières next Saturday at the Royal Opera House starring soprano Angelika Kirchschlager.


When I read the book I thought 'how do you make an opera about a young man complaining that he can't get sex?'

Sir Simon Rattle
He was asked to take part in the project by Nicholas Maw, who wrote the opera based on the best-selling 1979 book by William Styron after he was commissioned by BBC Radio 3.

The book tells the story of a Polish Holocaust survivor involved in a love triangle. It was made into a film in 1982 starring Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline.

Sir Simon told Front Row: "I always wondered how do you make an opera out of this, who do you find to do the libretto, and he seems to have done a wonderful job himself.

"What Nick has done is concentrate on the desperate effects of it on people, and how the disaster for the two of them seems to reflect the central tragedy.

"I have to say when I read the book I thought 'how do you make an opera about a young man complaining that he can't get sex anywhere.' Nick has managed to excise all that and just go for the central facts."

He said he and the orchestra had had five weeks so far to work on the score, but that new music was appearing every day.

Sir Simon Rattle
Sir Simon: Contract with Berlin orchestra for 10 years
"The idea of the ink still being wet on the page, like you used to get with Mozart operas, seems to be true here as well."

Young orchestra

Sir Simon also talked about his recent move to Berlin, after leaving the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra which he had conducted since 1980.

Asked about comparison between the two orchestras, he said: "In Birmingham I was working with a Sauvignon Blanc and now I'm working with a wonderful Bordeaux, they're both wonderful wines.

"In Berlin I'm working with a very international, very young orchestra, much younger than the Birmingham orchestra. I think the average age is 31.

"There's simply more technical and musical gifts than almost any of us know what to do with. The amount of skill is almost frightening."

Sir Simon has a contract with the Berlin Philharmonic for the next 10 years but joked: "I have been reminded that my predecessor Claudio Abbado was the first conductor who wasn't carried out in a box.

"It has tended to be something where people have stayed. I would hope 10 years is only a beginning."

See also:

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