Adventskalender im Foyer: Das 4. Fensterchen
African American Spirituals
with Christian Simmons and John Parr
5.00 p.m. / Rang-Foyer right
Duration: approx. 25 minutes / admission free
In Germany, it is still little known today that, parallel to the development of the European song, the spiritual in the USA looks back on a tradition that goes back to the 17th century. Created during the oppression of slavery as songs of labour, freedom, play, lamentation, celebration or lullabies, African-American spirituals form the starting point for gospel, blues and ultimately also for jazz, R&B and African-American music in general. Spirituals are characterised by their rhythmic finesse, which includes counter-rhythms, polyrhythms and syncopation. The tonality is characterised by microtonality, pentatonic scales and the varied use of the singing voice. All these elements suggest that the influences of African music, as brought to America by slaves, have survived over the centuries, mostly passed down orally, to this day.
The bass-baritone Christian Simmons, originally from Washington D.C., was a member of the Cafritz Young Artists of the Washington National Opera in the 2022/23 season and joined the ensemble of the Deutsche Oper Berlin as a scholarship holder of the Opera Foundation New York in the 2023/24 season. Over the course of the season, he will appear in roles such as Lord Rochefort / ANNA BOLENA, 2nd Harnischter / DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE, Pinellino / GIANNI SCHICCHI, Brabantischer Edler / LOHENGRIN, Oberpriester des Baal / NABUCCO and Sciarrone / TOSCA. Simmons is the district winner of the Metropolitan Opera's 2022/23 Eric and Dominique Laffont Competition, winner of the 2017 Harlem Opera Theater Vocal Competition, winner of the 2016 National Association of Teaching Singing (NATS) Regional Competition, and an Honorary Life Member of the Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts (CAAPA). A graduate of Morgan State University and the Maryland Opera Studio, Simmons is a member of the nation's first and largest music fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity of America.
John Parr was born in Birmingham in 1955 and studied at Manchester University and at the Royal Northern College of Music with Sulamita Aronovsky. He won prizes as a solo pianist at international competitions in Barcelona and Vercelli and was a member of Yehudi Menuhin's "Live Music Now". From 1985 to 1988 he was a guest repetiteur at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and worked for the Scottish Opera in Glasgow from 1989 to 1991. He came to Germany in 1991 and was Head of Studies and Musical Assistant to the General Music Director in Hanover. In 2000, Pamela Rosenberg and Donald Runnicles brought him to San Francisco Opera as Head of Music Staff. From 2002 to 2005, he was musical assistant at the Bayreuth Festival. From 2011 to 2014, he was casting director and assistant to the general music director at the Staatstheater Karlsruhe. Since August 2014, John Parr has been working at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, initially as Head of Studies and since 2018 as Head Coach.