How hot stage lights

“Making theater means telling stories to an interested audience”

An interview with Alexander Franzen

How did you come to want to become a musical actor?

My father was an internationally sought-after opera singer. So I'm a theater child, FIDELIO and ROSENKAVALIER at the age of 2 live in the opera and all that history. I also lived in San Francisco for 2 years and there I experienced and felt the importance of the musical for the Americans. The fact that I was also allowed to play the Sky Masterson in GUYS AND DOLLS in a high school production made me feel very impressed when it later came down to which university I would like to apply for which artistic degree .

What significance does the musical have in America compared to Germany?

Overall, the musical in America is probably much more linked to the country's cultural self-perception. Like painting (less literature !!), opera is something elitist. The musical, on the other hand, connects all layers (everyone knows the big films and plays!). From a social point of view, musical is therefore something extremely “American”: namely something “connecting”. In Europe, the mockery of this genre is still undisguised. I am always a little embarrassed when people from the theater express themselves in this way. Because they operate an inappropriate exclusion. “Doing theater” means wanting to tell stories to an interested audience. That succeeds with Kleist, Mozart or Wildhorn or it fails with the same. If I don't want to play Wildhorn, I better leave it. In this respect, musicals in Germany have virtually no social relevance, as they themselves have to fight for artistic recognition. Since it does not need that in America, it is accordingly part of the cultural diversity there and is of course both an artistic mirror of society, as well as entertainment and business.

What is the special attraction of the musical actor for you?

For me personally and my talent, this is the language-theatrical area, which is otherwise not given much attention in opera, for example. But I also find it breathtaking what, for example, dance skills some of the colleagues with whom I am allowed to stand on stage have.

There are a lot of auditions, is it easy for you to motivate yourself and go to auditions every time?

No not at all. When the goal is clear, the motivation comes naturally.

Is there a special balance that you have found with your musical life on stage or is music also a private concern for you?

I am fortunate that I was able to turn my hobby into a job. Otherwise family, house, garden are enough for me. But of course music and theater are an essential part of my life and not just a hobby.

Who will advise you on your role selection?

In Matthias Gentzen, I have an excellent agent, with whom I particularly harmonize very well personally, so that we can make arrangements down to the last detail on offers. I also consult with my family and selected colleagues.

The job of a musical performer also means some physical effort, how do you keep yourself fit for the stage?

Gymnastics. Light weight training. By practicing (singing), as that is actually an enormous physical exertion. Gardening.

You got to know both sides of productions (long-run and city theater). Which of the two do you think is the better way to present musicals to the audience?

I am and have always been in favor of variety and repertoire diversity. Very early on I was lucky enough to be able to play at least two pieces at the same time. Even when I played the main role in an ensuite production, as in FALCO MEETS AMADEUS, there was also a WEST SIDE STORY and COMEDIAN HARMONISTS. Role profiles influence each other and help to expand the color of a role, repective singing part. To act too long in one function often blinds us to our other possibilities. Emotionally and technically speaking, this is almost inevitable. I understand that, but it's too sensitive for me personally. As I said, I was thankfully not too often tempted or brought into the situation by other professional circumstances.

With “Addressee Unknown” by Kressmann Taylor you published a letter novel about the end of a German-American friendship during the Nazi era as a solo piece. What made you do it?

On the one hand, the director Thomas Winter and I had been looking for a monologue for a long time. On the other hand, it is actually the case that I come from a family that has a great political awareness that has left its mark on me. Theater as an opportunity not only to entertain, but also to motivate social discourse, I consider to be very desirable. The arguments for and against that such a sentence can trigger are of course known to me. In this respect, we were very happy from many, even more, when the short letter novel fell into our hands. The result of the implementation in a one-man drama evening and above all the audience response in the evening prove the idea to be right. It is a huge success, of course in a modest way, since it is a chamber piece.

Anyone who has seen this piece may feel the need to discuss it with you as the performer. Is there an opportunity to do so after the performance?

Anytime and always. I like that anyway. I like controversial debates.

What is the reaction of the audience?

I hope you will believe my humble joy when I say that it is a huge success. People go home thoughtful and enthusiastic.

What is perfect happiness for you?

This is a difficult question to answer, and the longer I ponder an answer, the more I feel that the answer is going to be too private. But I am grateful and happy that my loved ones are doing well, that they are healthy, just like myself. And I am grateful for all the happiness that has happened to me so incessantly in my life so far.

What would you change as Federal Chancellor immediately?

I would have many idealistic ideas about social justice, peace and freedom. However, I am lacking a thirst for power and without that you will not become Federal Chancellor. That's why I tend to try to help and change in my private life. My own outlook on life is also constantly checked.

Are there still roles that you absolutely want to play?

Sweeny Todd, Tevje, Don Quixote, roles that I haven't been allowed to play yet. Higgins, please, once again or twice, please. IN the opera there would be a few more roles….

Which parts in the opera would you like to play?

I still feel very at home in the opera (and, by the way, I also like to sing various parts in my practice room!) - but actually only German (Wagner, Strauss, etc.). This has to do with the “heaviness” of the voice, but also with my willingness to work with texts and articulation. The BECKMESSER in Richard Wagner's Meistersinger von Nürnberg would be a great challenge. And again all three Schubert song cycles “Schöne Müllerin”, “Winterreise” and “Schwanengesang”.

What can we expect from you in the future?

This spring season also brings the premiere of Molecule / MOLEKÜL at Theater Bielefeld. After STARRYMESSENGER (2004) and BIRDS (2010) the 3rd world premiere of a William Murta musical in which I am / was given a leading role. That fills me with great pride, joy and humility, because I really appreciate Murta in his functions as a musician, conductor, pianistic accompanist and composer and he is also a wonderful person.

Before that there is another production at the Cologne Opera in winter: CANDIDE, where I will be driving the piece again as Pangloss, Voltaire etc.

Negotiations are already underway with St. Gallen and Augsburg for 2017/2018.

We thank Alexander Franzen for the interview and wish him all the best for the future!


From Michaela