September 22th 2021
[Interview] Dame Felicity Lott, a great name in classical music, will take part in the day of tribute to Pauline Viardot, organised by the Centre Européen de Musique at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, on Wednesday 6 October. A few days before this major event commemorating the bicentenary of the birth of this great composer and singer, we went to interview Dame Felicity Lott.
Dame Felicity Lott will conduct a master class dedicated to Pauline Viardot, at the Opéra-Comique, on Wednesday 6 October (Photo Trevor leighton).
What will your contribution be on Wednesday 6 October?
I will be giving a three-hour master class on the afternoon of 6 October. I don't like this term because I am not a master of Pauline Viardot's melodies at all, but with young singers we will discover and work on several of her melodies. I have always said that I won't perform at the concert, because three hours of classes in public is very tiring, but I see that I am announced.... If I can, I will sing a melody.
You are going back to France for this tribute to Pauline Viardot, as part of the commemorations of the bicentenary of her birth. What does this tribute mean to you? How important was it for you to participate?
Pauline Viardot is such an important figure in the history of French and European music. She knew all the composers, many writers and artists of her time. Several operas and melodies are dedicated to her. Gounod, Chopin, Liszt, Berlioz, Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Bizet, Schumann, Brahms and Tourgueniev were her friends. She owned the manuscript of Mozart's Don Giovanni which she bought while singing in London. She then gave it to the Paris Conservatoire... She deserves to be celebrated and better known.
In your career, you have paid tribute to and performed Pauline Viardot, what were your most memorable moments?
I have given several concerts dedicated to the memory of Pauline Viardot: with Graham Johnson at the Musée d'Orsay, and with Jacqueline Bourgès-Maunoury and Lambert Wilson in several festivals in France. I have also sung several melodies written by Pauline Viardot: Lamento and Haï luli. I had more pleasure in evoking the woman than in singing the music associated with her name, which was not exactly my repertoire: Gluck's Orphée, Gounod's Sapho and the operas of Meyerbeer. But the character, her life and her career fascinated me.
Pauline Viardot was a symbol of the Europe of arts and culture. What would it mean to build a European Music Centre in Bougival on the very spot where Pauline Viardot gathered the most notable artists and personalities of the 19th century?
When I visited Pauline Viardot's Villa, located next to Tugeniev's Dacha and very close to Georges Bizet's house, I was deeply moved. I think that the creation of the European Music Centre in this resonant place in Bougival would continue what Pauline had achieved during her lifetime. She brought together artists from many countries to celebrate music, poetry, painting and ideas, on a daily basis and without borders. I am very proud to be somehow associated with this project, in the country that has always welcomed me so warmly and for which I have so much love and gratitude.
To join Dame Felicity Lott's free masterclass at the Opéra-Comique on Wednesday 6 October, please register here.