Director Sophie de Lint presents the new opera season.
For Sophie de Lint, the new season feels very much like a rebirth: starting up again after a strange period in which there were so few opportunities to perform in front of a live audience. “The motto of this new season is ‘new beginnings’. This shows that we are focusing our energies on making a fresh start, in terms of both the themes we explore and the composition of the programme. We’re also welcoming a new chief conductor and a new, eclectic group of artists we are looking forward to introducing to the public. Their creativity and artistic vision inspire us to make and present opera in different ways.”
The programming of Dutch National Opera looks to the future – without losing sight of the past. “In a way, we’re going back to the roots of the artform: on the one hand, we’re looking back to the origins and rich history of opera, while on the other, we are looking forward. Between these two poles, we’re seeking to achieve balance and diversity. Our programme includes both thought-provoking interpretations of the standard repertoire and experiments to open up the repertoire.”
New chief conductor
The arrival of 31-year-old chief conductor Lorenzo Viotti is obviously an important moment: “In Lorenzo we’re welcoming an artist of exceptional ability to this company. He’s an accomplished, charismatic and visionary musician who brings boundless enthusiasm to artistic encounters and experiments.” These qualities are very much in evidence in the two
productions with which he will be opening the season in September, leading ‘his’ Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra. “The season will open with Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg, a genuine masterpiece by one of the most brilliant composers of the early 20th century. It’s an impressive work that succeeds in marrying the power of opera to an urgent, deeply human theme: how do we treat others? The production will be directed by
the Dutch film and theatre director Nanouk Leopold, who is making her first foray into opera.” That same month Haydn’s Missa in tempore belli is also on the programme. This will not be a regular concert performance of the mass, but rather a production that unites various artistic disciplines. ‘It was Lorenzo’s dream to bring together the Chorus of Dutch National Opera, one of the artistic pillars of our company, and the dancers of Dutch National Ballet. In close collaboration with the choreographer Juanjo Arqués and the electronic composer Janiv Oron, the young director Barbora Horáková brings Haydn's composition into
dialogue with contemporary artistic disciplines.” Maestro Viotti will return later in the season to conduct a new production of Tosca. “Lorenzo has a particular love of Puccini and regards himself as an advocate for his operas. His aim is to accentuate the intense dramatic power that lies within these works, in contrast to traditional performance practices, which tend to emphasize easy sentimentality. In pursuit of this vision
he has found himself a wonderful partner in the person of director Barrie Kosky. Kosky is a born storyteller, a director who knows the score backwards and forwards and takes his guidance from the music in bringing the work to the stage. With his gripping directorial style, he
won’t shy away from showing the dark side of Tosca. To him, the opera is anything but a saccharine melodrama; he sees the work as a kind of ‘opéra noir’.” Tosca will be the first of several productions with Viotti
and Kosky at the helm: two other Puccini productions will follow over the next seasons, climaxing in the Puccini year of 2024.
Dutch National Opera is also collaborating with Dutch National Ballet on another production this season. “I’m delighted that we’re co-producing the world premiere of How Anansi Freed the Stories of the World. This is a new family-oriented show which is being put together by a team comprising composer Neo Muyanga, librettist Maarten van Hinte, director Kenza Koutchoukali and choreographer Shailesh Bahoran. They introduce us to the wily spider Anasi, a funny and friendly character who is always one step ahead of everyone else. The original stories featuring Anansi took a long voyage from Africa to the Americas, eventually finding their way to the Netherlands, through our colonial past. This will be the first time we’re presenting the work of a (South) African composer: Neo Muyanga. This is a real milestone for our company, since the genres of opera and ballet are traditionally rooted in a Western European tradition. In our changing world, we can enrich that tradition by being open to new stories and compositions from other cultures. The Anansi stories are a true example of cultural cross-pollination.”
Een groot aantal artiesten uit Nederland
A large array of Dutch artists The programme for the 2021/22 season includes an unusually large number of artists from the Netherlands.
“The pandemic period gave us opportunities to strengthen our local ties. And we are now reaping the fruits of this outreach. Live audiences will finally get to experience the operas by the Dutch composers Michel
van der Aa (Upload), Leonard Evers (Goud!) and Mathilde Wantenaar (Een lied voor de maan). Besides Nanouk Leopold, who directs the season opener, Jetske Mijnssen, internationally celebrated for her
psychologically penetrating directorial style, will give her interpretation of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, a work that kicks off a three-year cycle of the composer’s ‘Queen Trilogy’. In addition to established names like
Ivo van Hove (revival of Salome) – and Pierre Audi (world premiere of Eurydice – die Liebenden, blind), we are also thrilled to work with a new generation of artists, including Manoj Kamps, Lisenka Heijboer
Castañón, Kenza Koutchoukali and Robin Coops.
Werken als collectief
‘During the past season, when we had to put together programmes at very short notice, we discovered that there’s actually great value in keeping the exact nature of a project open for longer than usual. This way we can better respond to current events and present the stories the artists want to tell.” A good example of this kind of project was FAUST [working title] by Manoj Kamps and Lisenka Heijboer Castañón. “In a short time, operating as a collective with other members of the artistic team, they managed to create an inspiring music theatre production focusing on present-day social issues.” This style of collaboration also had an impact on the development of projects like How Anansi Freed the Stories of the World, Missa in tempore belli and Manoj and Lisenka’s new project [Collective Works], which will be presented in the 2022 edition of the Opera Forward Festival.”
One of the leitmotifs of the season is the figure of the outcast and mechanisms of exclusion. “Manoj and Lisenka are exploring this theme for their new production, but this figure can also be found elsewhere. In
Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg, for example, in which a little person is treated as a figure of ridicule, a plot point that director Nanouk Leopold uses as an opportunity to explore the question of respect for differences.
But even in a familiar work like La Traviata (‘The fallen
woman’, or more literally: ‘she who has strayed’), we have a protagonist, Violetta Valéry, who is being crushed by society. Director Tatjana Gürbaca lays bare this conflict in her focused and unsparing staging. The character of Max, from Der Freischütz, is also subjected
to social pressure, and due to mechanisms of exclusion he becomes susceptible to the temptation of demonic forces. The acclaimed Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov has devised a special interpretation of this work in which the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, under the baton of Riccardo Minasi, will have a prominent place.
Orpheus and the Renaissance
‘New beginnings’ also refers to the fascinating early days of opera as an artform. The myth of the singerlover Orpheus is one of the foundational narratives of the genre and a central element of three projects. “In
Le lacrime di Eros the conductor Raphaël Pichon and the director Romeo Castellucci seek out the daring innovation and inspiration of Renaissance opera makers. Their creation weaves together the various strands of love: its power, its energy, but also its tragedy and suffering.
Pichon and Castellucci seek to foster a dialogue between various artists, in this case between the music of composers like Caccini, Peri and Monteverdi and electronic compositions by Scott Gibbons. Personally, this is a project I’m particularly enthusiastic about because it so perfectly exemplifies the “back-to-theroots” spirit that’s also present in the other projects.” The figure of Orpheus will return in two other productions during the 2022 Opera Forward Festival. “The festival will open with the world première of Manfred Trojahn’s opera Eurydice – Die Liebenden, blind, under the direction of Pierre Audi. In addition, the young Dutch director Robin Coops, working with VR pioneer Avinash Changa, will explore modern love from various perspectives in his project Orphée | L’Amour | Eurydice, inspired by Gluck’s opera Orphée et Eurydice. This work is a collaboration with the Nederlandse Reisopera and Opera Zuid and will later be presented in venues
around the country.”
A special focus of this year’s programming is on younger audiences. “Children should absolutely be given the opportunity to experience the magic of opera and music theatre by top-flight artists. This is why we’re presenting no fewer than four titles for a young audience this season: Kriebel and Goud! by Leonard Evers, A song from the moon by Mathilde Wantenaar, and on the main stage How Anansi Freed the Stories of the World. Dutch National Opera Studio Young talent is being cultivated by Dutch National Opera Studio, which is entering its fourth season, under Rosemary Joshua’s inspired leadership. “These carefully scouted young artists will get the chance to sing alongside established global stars in a number of productions, including Der Zwerg, La Traviata and
Salome. And every season they have their own production as well. For this season that’s Denis & Katya, a chamber opera composed by Philip Venables and directed by Ted Huffman, which is based on the story of two teenagers who livestream their suicides on social media. It’s a powerful production that has won the prestigious FEDORA prize, and it is tailored to the younger generation.
Besides live performances on stage, Dutch National Opera will also be presenting a number of films. “I’m very happy that we’ve been able to make Christof Loy’s dream come true: to create his first film, Springtime in Amsterdam, for which he drew particular inspiration from the romance and melancholy of operetta, as well as from the work of Jacques Demy, a master of French cinema. I’m also looking forward to the documentary
film Crazy Days by Sanne Rovers. She shot this film, focusing on the lives of young international opera stars, during the tumultuous production process of Le nozze di Figaro in October 2020, which was dominated by changing covid-measures. Last but not least, I recommend the special film version of Michel van der Aa’s
new opera Upload, which forms a great addition to the live experience.”
The fact that DNO regards opera as a gathering place for different generations and art forms can also be seen in the poster designs for this season: “A group of young, recent arts graduates in the Netherlands were selected under the guidance of Bart Hess and assigned opera titles from our upcoming programme. They were given carte blanche to do what they like, and they responded by putting their own contemporary spin on the works. In keeping with this season’s motto, they are also presenting their new, refreshing perspectives on