Feature Interview

We are happy to interview Benjamin Bernheim, a young French tenor, already well-established in the international lyric scene. Only in the last year he has collected a series of great successes, from the Bohème in Zurich, Paris and London to the Traviata in Berlin, from the Elisir d’amore in Vienna to the Faust at the Lyric Opera in Chicago. We are meeting him while he is again at the Vienna State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper) before playing the role of Tamino in Die Zauberflöte. In February, he returns to Teatro alla Scala to perform the role of Alfredo in La Traviata.

  1. Let’s begin from the driving force that started your career: how was born your love for the Opera? When did you understand that this would become your job?

I grew up in a family where classical music and opera in particular was very present. I played violin and piano and then at the age of 10 years old I began singing at the maitrise du conservatoire of Geneva. It wasn’t love at first sight to be honest, but the magic happened when we sang in a Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci production at the Grand-Théâtre in Geneva. There I really felt that being on stage and actively being part of a show for the audience was something I loved. I didn’t know at the time that a few years later I would want to pursue a professional career, I just knew that it is a special and lucky life to be surrounded by music.

  1. Tell us about your debut: feelings, emotions, …

When I was on the stage of the Grand-Théâtre in Geneva I was just kid but this vibrant moment of the orchestra tuning up before the performance was really incredible, like singing a national anthem and feeling proud. I really had the feeling to be in a special place.

  1. What is your favorite Opera? Is there a role in which you identify yourself more than others?

Today I identify myself more as a Rodolfo in La Bohème. It is clearly today the role that allows me to show the largest palette of colors that my voice has to offer.

  1. One of the secrets of your profession: how do you keep your voice in shape to always have the best performance?

I try to be aware of many different parameters. The weather, the role, how many performances I will have. But one of the important things is the silence and the calm the day before a performance.

  1. Is there a theater in which you would absolutely like to perform?

Many !!! And I hope my career will lead me to sing in most of them…

  1. What is an artist for you?

For me an artist is a craftsman or an artisan. We repeat and repeat gestures, music, vocal exercises and scenes over and over again until our vocal and musical gesture becomes a habit. An artist understands his need to work and never to be satisfied. Progress is always in motion so whenever we reach a ”level” we must never be simply satisfied but go on working.

  1. What do you usually do before singing at a performance?

I like to go early to the opera house and walk on stage and backstage get a feeling for the theater get ready for the performance. I try to become as calm as possible and get into the mood of the opera and the role I am going to sing. Imagination has a big part in it.

  1. Next year you will sing Traviata alla Scala in Milan. How do you feel about it?

It is a big responsibility to sing this important repertoire on the stage of major houses, but to be honest, singing la Traviata on the stage of La Scala is something very special. It is exciting and also a special moment in a career, as not many tenors have the chance to sing Alfredo on this legendary stage during their career. Therefore, I am very thankful.

  1. A topic that is very close to our heart: young people and theater. What message would you give to those guys who are approaching the Opera world? Why should they come to the theater?

I believe that wherever one lives in the world, and in whatever period in the past or today, being curious is very important. Today we are lucky enough to have many different forms of art at our disposal. In my field, you can go to the Vienna State Opera and watch Zeffirelli’s staging of La Boheme or go to the Opera National de Paris and see Claus Guth’s staging of the same piece in a space ship. I did both and it is a great luck to be able to share my voice in such different stagings. You can watch these on the web or in cinemas as many opera houses do broadcast some of their performances. What is important and for everyone is not to be afraid of changes or the unknown but be open to try new things. We artists are at the service of the audience with our different voices and colors. Our job is to feed the audience’s imagination and as we know imagination is endless…

  1. What are your next projects?

My next projects are two productions of la Traviata in January and February 2019 at the Royal Opera House in London and La Scala of Milan, then a Messa di Gloria by Puccini in London, my first Chevalier Des Grieux in Massenet’s Manon at the Opera National de Bordeaux in spring. And to finish the season, a concert recital in Oviedo with Ermonela Jaho, and a new production of Nabucco at the Zurich Opera House.

We sincerely thank Benjamin Bernheim for his availability.

Toi toi toi for your next projects!

Alessandro Bugno