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Siobhan Stagg has been asked to step in at short notice to sing the lead in Brahms’ Requiem with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. The Australian soprano, who has been making a name for herself in Germany since she joined the Deutsche Oper Berlin as a young artist in 2013, has been asked by Staatskapelle Dresden supremo Christian Thielemann to sing in performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week.
No-one was more surprised, apparently, than Stagg herself. “Yesterday morning I was standing at a boarding gate at Berlin's Tegel airport about to fly to Zürich,” she told Limelight. “Out of the blue I received a call from my European agent who told me the Berlin Philharmonic were without a soprano for three performances of the Brahms Requiem with Christian Thielemann this weekend, and they wanted to know if I would be available. I could hardly believe what I was hearing!”
Thielemann is one of the hottest conducting talents on the planet, and tipped as a significant contender for most of the top jobs whenever they come up. “It's the phone call one dreams of receiving,” Stagg says. “It would mean cancelling my trip to Zürich; that could be rescheduled. So I gathered my things, told the flight attendants I would not be boarding, and went to find a score of Brahms Requiem. A few hours later I found myself at the Philharmonie, shaking hands with Christian Thielemann and rehearsing with one of the world's great orchestras. It was a strange and wonderful day – one which I'll never forget.”
The good news for Australian audiences is that Saturday's concert will be streamed live on the Berlin Philharmonic's Digital Concert Hall, and will then become available in their archive a few days later. So how is she feeling now? “The intensity of the day's events hit home when I opened the door to my apartment that evening to find my packed suitcase for Zürich waiting in the hallway, exactly where I had left it in the rush between airport and rehearsal earlier that day,” Stagg says. “Apparently the original soprano Sybilla Rubens withdrew due to illness on Monday evening and I was subsequently shortlisted as a potential replacement, but the final choice was Thielemann's. I'm not exactly sure how my name came to be on the list but it's incredibly flattering to know that one's work is being recognised at such a high level.”
And is she looking forward to Thursday night in Berlin? “I adore the Brahms Requiem and fortunately have performed it a couple of times before,” she says. “Rehearsing it with the Berlin Philharmonic has been a profoundly moving experience – awe inspiring, thrilling and humbling at the same time. Maestro Thielemann and members of the orchestra have made me feel very welcome and at ease by their side.”
The Berlin Philharmonic perform Brahms’ Requiem Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the Berlin Philharmonie. Saturday's concert will be streamed live on the Berlin Philharmonic's Digital Concert Hall, and will become available in their archive a few days later.