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Festival gift for Wagner fans in China

Updated: 2015-10-12 07:58:30

( China Daily )

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Gustav Kuhn, the Austrian conductor. Provided to China Daily

Kuhn adds that this is the only festival in the world presenting Wagner the way the German master had envisioned it - by having the orchestra on stage and the singers acting in front of it.

"For the audiences, the easy way to understand the mysteries of Wagner's incredible works is to listen more," says Kuhn, who staged Wagner's 10 greatest operas at the same festival in 2012.

"He is just a genius. He is a man who had to struggle a lot with his social and political environment, but a real genius. That's it.

"Every time I conduct Wagner's pieces, I feel like I am having a conversation with him. If I could have a real talk with him, I think I would ask many detailed technique questions about his works," says Kuhn.

"Music is the voice of the composer. I think that Wagner and I share some similarities. For example, we go through similar inner struggles about making music, the tears and the laughter. It takes years to finish a work and because sometimes the idea goes left or right, we always have to stay focused."

Kuhn came to China in 1996 for the first time and he was invited by Chinese conductor Yu Long to conduct Wagner's last opera, Parsifal, during the Beijing Music Festival two years ago with the China Philharmonic. He was impressed by the Chinese musicians, noting that music is a bridge that bonds two cultures together.

"Twenty years ago when I was in China, I could never imagine the country would develop so fast and have so many great musicians today," he says. "I think opera will become an important part of a new Chinese culture."

A native of Salzburg, Kuhn began his musical career by studying the violin and piano. He says that he was a born music producer but "people told me that conducting is my best talent".

With teachers such as Hans Swarowsky and Bruno Maderna, Kuhn studied at universities in Salzburg and Vienna, earning degrees in composition and conducting. He was awarded a doctorate in philosophy and psychopathology in 1970.

Besides Wagner, one of Kuhn's biggest obsessions is riding his motorcycle: He bought his first Harley 45 years ago and now owns four of them. "I enjoy the speed and the freedom. The sound of the motorcycle, for me, is as great as Wagner's music."

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