What is the most difficult art form

At the age of six, Andreas Sczygiol knew that he could only become one thing: neither a fireman nor a pope, but solely a musician. He started with classical guitar. His mother used to play folk music on it, her instrument was hanging in his children's room, but there were only two classic records in the whole house, "just like you have 'Faust' on a shelf because it looks good". At twelve, he found that the guitar was too limited. "In complete ignorance" he hit upon the idea of ​​writing a symphony. As the conductor of the work, which was never finished, only he himself, the composer, came into question. Even then, Sczygiol tended towards pragmatism.

At 13 he took piano lessons. At the age of 16 he attended master courses for conductors and went to the Hamburg University of Music as a young student. When he was 19, the native of Tölz, who grew up in Geretsried and Munich and now lives in Herrsching, led a choir for the first time; at 21 he had his first orchestra. And now, at the age of 35, the former family therapist is doing the "Bajazzo" in Starnberg.

Difficult art form

Opera in the small town, the most elaborate and difficult of all art forms, can that go well? And what's more in the Schlossberghalle, which is suitable for everything and not really ideal for anything? Of course. In 2014, the man who is looking for a great challenge and has already worked as a guest conductor with the New Philharmonic Munich or the Moravian Philharmonic Olomouc started the experiment. Both performances of Henry Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas" in the premiere year were sold out.

Which certainly has to do with the fact that Sczygiol builds on the irresistible charm of amateur theater on the one hand and on hand-made productions, and on the other hand occupies the key positions with professionals. At that time, for example, the members of his 45-strong vocal ensemble Fünfseenland had screwed together the set in a garage. This year, Hugo Wieg, the in-house director of the Bad Hersfeld Opera Festival, is taking over in his barn, albeit very professionally. With Ruggero Leoncavallo's "Bajazzo" too, "people will be on stage who have never been to the opera in their lives," says Sczygiol.

The choristers, reinforced by Ickinger and Münchner singers, still look for their costumes from the wardrobe or from friends and take care of the catering during the break. The dancers are students from the Starnberg Ballet Center. The soloists are "handpicked professionals". And the Prague Philharmonic, the orchestra, have the best, not the cheapest, line-up. Because the director of the Starnberg Opera makes it important "that everyone gets an appreciation of their work".

Free opera production - that has its special charm because it doesn't fit into this money-ruled world at all. "Opera never pays off anywhere in the world," says Sczygiol. He thinks it is "a wonderful invitation to ponder whether there are things that have value beyond profitability." The two performances in mid-June cost almost 60,000 euros. Raising that much money is only possible through sponsorships, donations and public funding.

Scores are memorized

As far as the choice of works is concerned, it is hardly possible to increase: the veristic "Bajazzo" is considered one of the most delicate works of all, its construction rather illogical, because Leoncavallo did not hesitate to consider symmetry and structure. "You go crazy learning," says Sczygiol, who basically learns scores by heart. The balance between singers and a large orchestra is also very problematic because the musicians are practically always too loud.

An unusual arrangement was therefore chosen for the Schlossberghalle: the musicians sit on the stage, there is a ramp for the vocal soloists, and the choir, the village audience, mingles with the audience. "You can't play against the hall," says Sczygiol, "you can't turn it into a Cuvilliés theater".

His teacher and sponsor, the conductor Georg Christoph Sandmann from the Dresden University of Music, gave him the idea of ​​the ramp and the inclined rows of listeners. As luck would have it, his second mentor, Christian Thielemann, conducted the "Bajazzo" at the Salzburg Easter Festival. "A great inspiration," says the Thielemann student, who regularly accompanies the master during rehearsals and talks to him.

Teachers, those have always been idols for the 35-year-old, who doesn't speak a word of Polish and who inherited his last name from "my stepfather's Upper Silesian stepfather". That was the case with Jiri Jangl from Prague, who always insisted that little Andreas play the guitar with expression. That is probably also the case with Sandmann, who encouraged him to pursue his career as a conductor. Because a "very banal" climbing accident in the early summer of 2001 had thrown Sczygiol off course. During a Scharnitz tour he climbed in the rock and fell on his right arm from a height of three meters. A nerve was injured, after two operations he could only conduct with painkillers. A torture.

Sczygiol broke completely with classical music, "that was a blessing, as hard as it was," the former "Philistine" began to listen to Johnny Cash and Queen. As a career changer, he finally completed a three-year psychotherapeutic training course and worked as a family therapist from 2006 to the end of 2013. He rented a room in Seefeld Castle for meetings with couples and parents. A lordly seat with a view of the Pilsen and Ammersee lakes, which the conductor, who has since recovered, now serves as a study. Actually unreasonable and total luxury.

But it's almost like the opera.

Opera in Starnberg: "Der Bajazzo", June 17th and 18th in the Schlossberghalle, each beginning at 7.30pm. In the preliminary program: an orchestral suite from the Leoncavallo opera "I Medici" in German premiere. Tickets for 30 euros (reduced 15 euros) by calling 08151/772136 or 08151/90600.