5 minutes with… John Mark Ainsley

Tenor John Mark Ainsley has performed with leading orchestras and conductors across the globe, and is currently recording the role of Alessandro in Il re pastore with Classical Opera, before joining us again for Mozart’s Requiem in October:

You’ve just begun working on Il re pastore, part of Classical Opera’s complete Mozart Opera Cycle. What is it like to work with Ian on such an ambitious project?

Well it’s very exciting, of course it is. The idea of a complete survey of anything in the hands of one creative centre-point is bound to be, at the very least, interesting. I did notice while we were rehearsing Il re pastore that we talked a lot about how the piece fits in with some of the later pieces… the germ that lives in this piece comes to full mature fruition in other operas. There’s a lot of psychological material which lives in Il re pastore and reaches perfection in La clemenza di Tito

How do you find the experience of recording?
The way I tend to look at it, having done it for a few decades now, is as an interesting document of musical thought, rather than a gradual inching towards something technically acceptable. The only way to survive is to commit yourself to the idea that it is a document of your physical state, musical thought and the reach you’ve decided on with your colleagues on that particular day. My shelves are full of recordings where I think ‘Gosh if I’d had another go I’d probably have done it differently’, and I’m quite glad about that.

What can you tell us about the forthcoming Mozart Requiem?
It is such an iconic and robust piece of music even though it is of course fragmentary… but great works of art really support all sorts of different interpretations. I don’t know quite what Ian has in mind for it but I can guarantee it will be a thoroughly thought-through, intellectually digested and instinctively delivered musical piece, which I am very much looking forward to.

There is no character to embody in most Requiems. How do you embrace that as a performer?
You are a figure at the service of the vision of the composer. The idea that we don’t know what lies beyond, that we have human frailty, that we want to be saved… the drama of the Day of Judgement. All of those elements add up to material that is ripe for musical expression and is likely to speak very directly to people who witness it.