He is regarded as one of the greatest composers of our time. For 2010, Hans Werner Henze has dedicated a large piece to the Ruhr, one of Europe's Capitals of Culture this year. Deusche Welle met the composer in Essen.
Henze's opera "Gisela" premieres in September 2010
Deutshe Welle: Mr Henze, the Ruhr has been named Cultural Capital 2010. Your work is a part of that. How do you feel?
Hans Werner Henze: I'm overjoyed and pleased at the solidarity which has expressed itself through the efforts of nearly every artistic organization and artist here that I work with, who know of me or my music, and also those who just consider my music ufeful for educational or other purposes, like for entertainment..
Is the opera "Gisela," which you are composing for the Ruhr Triennale 2010, also a part of this project?
Absolutely. There is an opera designed for children that I have written, "Pollicino," which works very well and must be performed by children. It is most beautiful to use scenery painted and decorated by children. It has become a tool for learning in music schools throughout Germany and also abroad. The Ruhr Festival would like to see a "Pollicino" for adults and I'll try to create something in that mold. I've been thinking for the past year how to involve the various art schools in the Ruhr - from Dusseldorf to Bochum - in an opera production. That's why we've included pantomine, singing, instrumental music, and dance so that there's something for everyone in "Gisela."
Henze's new opera is part of a whole year of cultural projects in the Ruhr region
Your music is regarded as a seismograph upon which the smallest social and political unrest registers. What sort of unrest triggered the making of "Gisela"?
This job catapulted me into an area of expertise which I wasn't yet familiar with. There is simply a feeling, an interest present from all sides for this project. Now, I am working on this opera and am far from finished.
What inspired you to write another work for young people? How easy or difficult is it?
The easiest is also the most difficult: not to be banal or old-fashioned. I work very hard on this task.
This year, works from throughout your career will be performed. What are your feelings about this?
I always learn something. When writing, one must peel the past that is no longer needed back like a curtain. And today these early works are ever-present. There is agitation in them and, for an old person such as myself, that is particularly appealing.
Interview: Klaus Gehrke (as)
Editor: Kate Bowen