- Reading time
- 6 min.
After his interpretation of the title role in Handel’s Orlando in 2012, countertenor Bejun Mehta returns to La Monnaie for an original recital centred on the different forms that love can take. We asked the world-renowned countertenor to answer the following questionnaire briefly and boldly.
If you were in a room with all the composers that you have selected for your recital at La Monnaie, what would be your first question?
I’d want them to discuss their process with each other. Does the music just appear in their heads and then get written down that way, or does a substantial part of the creation occur in the act of getting it on paper? Once they got started speaking with each other, it would be incredible all you could learn.
What would be the first three adjectives you would use to describe the music of your programme for this particular recital?
Genuine, heartfelt, energetic.
When you sing, is there a specific gesture that you frequently do?
I really try not to have specific gestures, no “tenor arm for the high note”, things like that. If a movement happens organically in relation to the content of the work, that’s fine, but otherwise stillness is good, especially in recital.
If you could relive one moment of your professional career as a singer, what would it be?
There are so many! I loved recording Ombra Cara, my first disc for Harmonia Mundi. There was a great freedom there.
According to your family, your coworkers or your friends, what is your main personality trait?
Among my family and friends, warmth and goofiness. Among my coworkers, probably perfectionism and seriousness. We all contain multitudes!
What was the first piece of music that made you cry?
The second movement of the Bach Double Concerto.
What would you bring back from a travel in the past?
My father’s parents. They lived in India, didn’t like to travel, and died when I was very young, so I never knew them.
What subject would you like to know more about?
I always want to know more about anything to do with food and wine.
To what singers from the past or present do you listen to for inspiration?
Arleen Auger, Fritz Wunderlich, Christa Ludwig, Janet Baker.
What was the last piece of music you listened to?
Richard Strauss’ “Presentation of the Rose” from Der Rosenkavalier (I was giving a lesson).
What is the first thing you do when you start working on a new recital?
Read the texts. Over and over. And then start speaking them out loud.
What quality sets a recital apart from other vocal performances?
The concentration and the focus being always on you. You feel more a vessel for the composer in recital because of those two things.
Would you rather end your career prematurely with the perfect recital or go on singing professionally for a very long time but without achieving the same perfection? And why?
First, no such thing as perfect anything in art. Second, the goal of singing (all art, really) is to be disciplined enough to manage one’s resources such that you maintain its health for as long as possible and are always improving. For me, whenever the age of my body no longer allows me to deliver musically what I have in my head, then I’ll stop.
What was the first recital that you attended?
Leontyne Price, New York.
Other than the one you currently work with, what pianist from the history of music would you like to be accompanied by during a recital?
Who are your favourite heroes from fiction? Who are your favourite heroes from real life?
Any of the central characters from anything Alice Munro wrote. Her characters are astonishingly real. From real life, I’d say currently Stacey Abrams, the American political operative who helped switch Georgia blue, helping get Joe Biden elected and then flipping the state to give him a Democratic majority in the Senate to get things done.