• Germany's news in English

Leading opera singer turns to comedy

The Local · 26 Sep 2013, 14:43

Published: 26 Sep 2013 14:43 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Quasthoff's career in music had a challenging beginning. His physical disabilities, caused by his mother's exposure to the drug thalidomide, prevented him from playing the piano and he was thus denied admission to study at Hanover's academy of music.

Instead he studied privately and in 1988 he won first prize at the ARD international musical competition in Munich - the first of many international honours and awards he was to receive.

His music has earned him an impressive trophy cabinet. Quasthoff has won three Grammies. He was awarded Germany's Order of Merit in 2005, the Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society in 2009, and the Gold Medal of London's Wigmore Hall in 2011.

Alongside his performances, Quasthoff has taught music since 1996, initially at the College of Music in Detmold, and since 2004 at the Hans Eisler School of Music in Berlin.

But in January 2012, Quasthoff announced his withdrawal from concert life. "My health no longer allows me to live up to the high standard that I have always set,” he said.

He thanked his colleagues in the singing world, which he called "this wonderful profession", and his audience, for their "loyalty". "I am looking forward to the new challenges that will now enter my life", he said.

One of those challenges was his series of Nachtgespräche [Night talks], in which he interviewed many prominent musical, cultural and political guests on stage at the Berlin Konzerthaus.

Last Monday, though, Quasthoff launched his next, somewhat different, project - a comedy variety show called Keine Kunst [Not Art] featuring himself and seasoned variety performer Michael Frowin at the Wühlmäuse cabaret theatre in Berlin's West End.

Quasthoff was keen to underline that the show was not a political satire, but rather dealt with art and culture. The material makes fun of amusing "foyer chats", actors' odd habits, bizarre art critics and college entrance exams, the Berliner Morgenpost reported.

Despite mocking the habits of fellow performers, overstatement was off the agenda for the new cabaret: "I'm obviously not going to get up on stage and just wag my finger", said Quasthoff. "I'd rather just neatly point to something using care and subtlety".

The aim, he said, was to provide a "relaxed, sophisticated evening", without coming off as "two intellectuals on stage, reveling in their own education".

The 53-year-old was quick to distance Keine Kunst from mainstream comedy, seeing cabaret as a vehicle for something cleverer. “It's better, I find, to make satire with a few choice words, and good acting, expertly combined," he said. "In a show like this, you can do so much with tones of voice and different characters.”

But communicating subtle concepts to an audience can be a challenge. "You really have to think a lot about how to make sure what you want to say comes across to the audience in the right way,” he said in the Berliner Morgenpost.

Story continues below…

It seems his efforts have not been in vain. The men's lifestyle magazine GQ, which selected Quasthoff as its "Man of the Year" for 2012 in the culture category, credits him with an "incomparable sense of humour and a brilliant talent for voice impressions".

He modestly told GQ: “Whether you're good or not depends if you're on form and on the tastes of the people watching”, said Quasthoff. By all accounts he must be on form.

Alex Evans

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German town, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd