Karsten Januschke, one of Europe's fast-rising young conductors, believes a world of colliding nations could learn something from the world of music: how to listen, not just to Bizet and Beethoven, but to each other. In an age of texting and Twitter, it is a vanishing art.
"It makes me sad many people find it difficult to really listen anymore," says the conductor of the prestigious Frankfurt Opera. "Sometimes they can't look each other in the eye when they speak."
The art of listening shaped Mr. Januschke early on. At age 6, when fiddling with the small radio at his parents' home, he heard Mozart's Requiem for the first time. "I couldn't believe how multilayered it was," says Januschke. "That's the moment I knew I wanted to be involved with music, to make music part of my life."
Neither his parents nor his friends had any interest in music. But he reveled in any CD he could find – rock, pop, classical. At age 13, he heard Richard Strauss's "Salome" opera in Hamburg, sealing his passion for the art. At 17, despite his parents' opposition, he went away to school. By 24, he was hired by the Vienna State Opera. The conducting job in Frankfurt came four years later.
"You have to discover your passion – and you have to distinguish the real passion from the ego," he says. "You have to listen; only if you listen do you have a chance."
True enough for politicians as well as musicians – and even today's youth.
"It's important that children sing, that they get connected to their own voices, their own bodies," he says. And it doesn't have to be opera. "When they do hip-hop and express themselves, it's an outlet for their emotions."
– Isabelle de Pommereau, Frankfurt
Next: Alisa Weilerstein: The children's muse