It’s not often that musicians get to perform with their spouse. It’s even more rare when the partners spend much of the year thousands of kilometres apart.
Maestro Christian Kluxen, music director for the Victoria Symphony, and his wife, opera soprano Kari Postma, are relishing the opportunity.
Kluxen leads the orchestra in their season finale this Saturday and Sunday, performances that feature the epic and triumphant third act of Richard Wagner’s renowned opera Lohengrin in the second half. Postma will sing the witch’s part in the late stages of Act III.
“It’s not just nice to be able to work together, it’s that normally when we work we are apart,” Kluxen said over coffee. “I travel on average three weeks per month, so we see each other maybe one week a month, so it’s very nice to be able to just work together sometimes.”
Postma, whose professional work is done largely in Europe – the couple’s permanent home is in Copenhagen – was relishing the fact her part was small, as it has allowed her more time to relax here. She feels very welcomed when she comes to Victoria, this being her fourth visit.
“It kind of feels like home, people are so nice,” she said. “I came here two years ago and immediately felt welcome, almost like it was a family.”
As for the concert menu, the shows will open with the Prelude from Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde followed by the glorious and uplifting Symphony No. 7 by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.
The stage at the Royal will get busy after intermission, when members of the Victoria Choral Society join the orchestra, along with acclaimed soloists Aviva Fortunato (soprano), Cooper Nolan (tenor), Robert Pomakov (bass) and Postma.
Among other passages, Lohengrin (Act III) features the chorus played countless times as brides walk up the aisle. “If they knew, people would think twice about choosing this for their wedding march, because it’s not a love story that ends very well,” joked Kluxen.
The power of the movements, helped by the voices of the chorus, will leave listeners in awe, he added.
“(Lohengrin) … is basically an operatic version of Game of Thrones,” Kluxen said, noting that Wagner was partial to writing on themes of Nordic mythology. “It’s about princesses and princes, knights and witches and power games – and people kill each other … cancel your subscription to HBO and come to this instead.”
The maestro also pointed out that listeners will hear subtle musical references to Lohengrin’s character, a la Star Wars, using a technique Wagner invented called leitmotif, meaning a “short, constantly recurring musical phrase.”
“Every time you hear something about Lohengrin you hear a special theme … the audience is kind of pulled into this world where they start to recognize, without knowing it, Leia’s theme or Luke’s theme,” he said.
Tickets to the Saturday night (8 p.m.) and Sunday afternoon (2:30 p.m.) shows run $33 to $86 and are available at rmts.bc.ca, by phone at 250-386-6121 or at the Royal Theatre box office. Symphony bass trombonist Bob Fraser will host a pre-concert talk in the west lobby of the Royal one hour before the concerts.