How did you meet Bill Murray?
I played a concert in Berlin and was flying home to New York. I arrived at the airport, and at security, I saw this man who looked very familiar. He talked to me and asked, “Where are you going to put this big box on the plane?” Of course, he was talking about my cello. I said, “Well, it has an extra seat.” He seemed very surprised. I got to the plane, and the big coincidence was that we were sitting next to each other. I watched one of his films while he was sitting next to me, which was fun. We talked about many things; he was very kind and very inspiring. At the end of the flight, he gave me his phone number and told me to call him when I was coming back to Germany in a few weeks to meet up. He’s attended some of my performances, and we always hung out a bit. He would invite me to his film premieres, or we would go to the gym together. Three years later, he invited me to a poetry walk where he recited a poem by Walt Whitman. It was really fascinating. I remember going to see The Jungle Book with my kids around the same time, and he played the voice of Baloo the bear and was singing with this big deep voice. I thought he could sing and recite, and I could play the cello. I sent him a text and suggested that we do a show together and tour the world. He loved the idea, and we created the show, toured it for more than two years and had an amazing time!
Tell me about Bill’s part and the text he reads. What is it about?
My father had a great library and had all kinds of recordings with a great variety of music, from jazz and french chanson to opera, symphonic and chamber music. He also had lots of books, all the German, Russian, French and American classics. I grew up reading these books and hearing the music. When I met Bill, we discussed the artistic collision between Europe and America. I selected the music first and made a list of works he loved. Later we picked the literature and built a real show out of the material. There was some Bach and Whitman, Schubert and Cooper, and there was Bernstein and Gershwin, Hemingway, Ravel and Shostakovich. It became an amazing dialogue between America and Europe. When Bill came to visit in NYC, he met my wife Mira [Wang], and she joined us playing the violin; all we needed now was a pianist, and I chose Vanessa Perez, a New York-based pianist from Venezuela. Not only does Bill sing, but he did a lot of stand-up comedy early in his career. He’s very quick on stage. At some point in the show, he would dance a tango with Mira. We really tried to catch the audience with something between theatre and concert and named the show New Worlds. We performed sixty-five shows from Carnegie Hall to Sydney Opera House, to London and Berlin, Chicago, and Dallas. It is a finished project, and it’s something we cannot touch anymore. It has come full circle; the documentary of the show — filmed by Andrew Muscato in Athens — was recently shown at the Cannes Film Festival.
[External link: New Worlds]