Since Good Friday 2020, the name of the young Icelandic tenor Benedikt Kristjánsson has been going around the world as one of the best contemporary Bach singers. Corona also slowed him down. But on Bach’s birthday on March 21st, he comes to Köthen for a very personal concert, which is streamed on the YouTube channel of the Köthen Bach Festival. We reached him beforehand by video call on Iceland’s coast. FAZ
A year ago you shook tens of thousands of people with the live broadcast of the St. John Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach from the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, where you were the only vocal soloist to sing all the roles alone. Normally one would have said: That was the breakthrough to a great career. Then came Corona. How have you been since then?
Just like everyone else. There were rejections, rejections, rejections. And then no inquiries. Because nobody knew how to proceed. Life like in the freezer.
Was that a lost year for you?
No. In fact, that was a wonderful year. I was able to make ends meet with my savings. There was hardly any income, but hardly any expenditure either. You bought the essentials for daily life – and that’s it. I spent a lot of time with my family – we have three children. That was wonderful. Because of the children, we all went from Berlin to Iceland. There is no corona here; the children can go outside, we do homeschooling at home. And maybe I’m the only evangelist in the whole world who was able to perform the St. John Passion at all, twice in a church in Reykjavík. With listeners!
Was there anything in the past year that you regret?
Yes of course. I should have sung the solo St. John Passion in the Elbphilharmonie. That was pretty bitter when the day came and I wasn’t there. In Los Angeles there should have been a St. Matthew Passion with Martin Haselböck, in Moscow there should have been Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem”, Beethoven’s Ninth with Jordi Savall. All pretty sad that nothing came of it. I don’t think about it much. It’s no use.
Is it more difficult for a singer to lose a year than for an instrumentalist?
I dont know. It’s difficult for the singers, who earn a lot but also have very high fixed costs: an apartment in Paris and a Berlin, plus a room in Munich. They live from month to month, have a production facility somewhere, stay there for three months, receive a bunch of wages that they can pay for anything. But suddenly there is nothing more and the costs are still there. This is a huge disaster. I know singers who gave up and now work as school teachers. If it no longer works, you have to find other solutions in life.
How did you spend the last year artistically?
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