By ICHIRO SHIMIZU, Rafu Staff Writer
I had a chance to chat with Hirokazu Myochin, who did such a wonderful baritone performance at the Aratani Theatre for the annual New Year’s Daiku (Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony) concert, just before he left to go back to Japan.
Asked what his motivation was to become a soloist, he replied that there was no specific reason for it.
“I wanted to be a conductor of classical music when I reached 9th grade. I just loved it and had listened to it before,” he said. “But then I realized I hadn’t learned piano, violin or any other musical instrument, so I did have a handicap. So I chose singing as a result. … I loved singing during high school, taking lessons and watching opera singers on videos.”
Myochin got an offer to sing with L.A. Daiku at the group’s concert last year in Naruto.
“I was asked by the president of L.A. Daiku, who happened to be there,” he recalled. “I couldn’t figure out what sort of offer it was, and later I found out from e-mailing. I didn’t guess it was for a performance in Los Angeles! I’ve never imagined such a thing exists in Los Angeles.”
Reflecting on the L.A. performance, he said, “I was impressed by the open, warm and welcome feeling, which almost never felt in Europe. I sang three old Japanese songs before Daiku, and I wanted to know how people felt about those songs. Several people talked to me when I was out in the lobby of the theater. ‘It was wonderful to listen to those nice, nostalgic songs I used to listen to.’
“It rarely happens in Japan, people talking to the performers. It’s different here in United States and really nice to hear what the audience felt listening to what I sang.”
Myochin is moving to Berlin this fall for a big challenge.
“It’ll be more flexible to learn not only operas but also other songs,” he explained. “Another reason is all music schools are free in Germany! I confirmed that both Roman Trekel, the star baritone singer I adore at the Berlin national opera theater, and Wolfram Reiger, one of the best piano accompanists for singers last time I visited, will teach me. I will stay at least three years and maybe longer!”
“I like Richard Strauss and Richard Wagner,” he replied when asked about his favorite composers. “Although Wagner was a typical German old man who was usually in a difficult mood and stubborn, I am very impressed by what Wagner did for his music as he directed operas he wrote, both the songs and the play, choosing soloists, musicians as well as conducting, even it was during wartime. As we all know, his music itself is wonderful. And to me it’s like the orchestra part is a marbling of orange, pink and red ice cream mixed together and then the singing is floating on top of it.
“Richard Strauss has some heritage from Wagner’s essence, not really directly from it but he made it more organized and the way Strauss wrote tunes, he use both old style and new style during the same period intentionally. Listen to ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ and ‘Elektra.’ You’ll see that one is the old-fashioned way and the other one is sort of avant garde, and they were composed not far apart.” He gets really excited and involved when he talks about music, just like a little kid playing with his Legos.
I was little surprised to his answer when I asked about his hopes and dreams.
“It’s been little more than a hundred years since we got classical music in Japan. And I think we’ve reached a pretty high level, but it seems like we are going toward the end, especially in opera and the singing part of classical music in Japan. I would like to be a savior and help to stop that.
“I need to be recognized and achieve something big in today’s music scene to contribute. I worry about how the situation will be by the time my generation leads the way for new ones to come. I really love classical music and want to let it live forever for generations to come.”
Looking at not only his future but also that of the younger generations, he cares deeply about the classical music world, and I believe he is on the right track to the next big step.