The esteemed English baritone and exponent of art song, Stephen Varcoe is one of the guest artists at this year’s Melbourne International Festival of Lieder and Art Song, where he will perform with pianist Graham Johnson. Here he tells us why getting together to hear some lieder is a great thing, why communication is at the heart of this repertoire, and which lessons he’d impart to a young singer.

Stephen Varcoe, Melbourne, Lieder Stephen Varcoe

An art song festival is a wonderful thing. What do you think audiences gain from this particular atmosphere?

Many music-lovers find the song recital rather a daunting prospect. There is something intensely personal about a singer facing you and expressing deeply emotional things, and this may be something the listener would rather not engage with. I would like to feel that we can overcome that reluctance by explaining some of the processes behind the performance and by introducing the extraordinary diversity and richness of the repertoire. We can also emphasise the responsibility of the performers to help the listener to enter the world they are describing, and to involve the imagination at all times.

Schubert, Mahler and English art...