In a world without a pandemic, he would now be conducting Carmen at The Metropolitan Opera in New York. But, like so many artists, future chief conductor Lorenzo Viotti found himself with some big gaps in his schedule. He used it as an opportunity to create Voices out of Silence, an exceptional project with 'his' future chorus.
Officially, the young Swiss conducting talent only starts as chief conductor of Dutch National Opera and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra in September 2021. But ever since he signed his contract, Amsterdam has a special place in Lorenzo Viotti's heart. In September 2019, due to a cancellation by a colleague, he made his debut with Dutch National Opera ahead of schedule with the verismo-double bill of Pagliacci and Cavalleria rusticana. A tremendous success.
At that time, it took a lot of logistical puzzle-solving to provide the maestro, who also had other commitments, with as much rehearsal time as possible with the orchestra and individual singers. He went from the airport to the rehearsal room, and back again to the airport.
VOICES OUT OF SILENCE
Now the situation is completely different. Viotti: "I had two weeks off in November and wanted to spend them in Amsterdam anyway, to get to know the city better and to learn the language". He called Sophie de Lint. "She told me that the chorus would be free. To make a corona-proof version of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, the chorus had been cut out of the opera. I saw my chance to get to know the chorus better, in an intensive way that would otherwise never have been possible".
‘‘this is universal music of hope’’
Viotti put together a programme with a fair amount of religious music. Presenting a religious programme was, however, never his intention. "I have selected musical pieces in which there is plenty of room for sorrow, joy, but above all hope. These specific pieces have no strict or forceful religious message. Rather, they create an open space for human connection. For the beauty and strength of the human voice."
'TEST-DRIVING' THE CHORUS
In addition, the programme unites different time periods, languages and composers. "This was a unique opportunity for me to get to know the chorus in different styles. A kind of test-drive to see what they can do technically and artistically. In music from the Renaissance, but also in songs by Brahms and Schumann and choral works by Poulenc and Britten".
‘‘We can create something extraordinary here’’
Voices out of Silence has grown into much more than a concert. "Initially the plan was to give three concerts for live audiences. Unfortunately, this was not possible due to the second lockdown. So we started looking for an alternative way to present the programme online in a unique and exciting way. We are in an exceptionally well-equipped theatre, with costumes, make-up, light and in-house directors, after all. We can create something extraordinary. Let's take the risk".
A video director was hired to come on board. "With him and the rest of the artistic team, I explored how we could visualise this programme in a meaningful and engaging way. How could we make the painful absence of our audience visible? And how could we convey how important it is for the members of our chorus to sing and perform together? We wanted to make the hope and human connection that music can bring tangible".
THE LAST TO RETURN TO THE STAGE
An important reason for Lorenzo Viotti to work with the chorus, is the realisation that the chorus will be among the last to return to the stage. "Our sector continues to create and present opera and music theatre in whichever way it can, but large choral operas are definitely off the table for the time being. And in operas with a less central role for the chorus, such as Le nozze di Figaro, the decision is quickly made to cut the chorus altogether. That's a logical decision considering the circumstances, but it's also why I thought it was so important to do something with the chorus in particular. As a collective, these choristers are capable of magic. And that's what I wanted to capture with this project".
Voices out of Silence is available for online streaming from 20 December 19:00 until 17 January 23:59.
© Marco Borggreve