Laurent Pelly's La Cenerentola (detail) View full image

What did we discover in 2020?

As we come to the end of 2020, members of the Maestro Arts team look back at the year to share some of their highlights and discoveries

Christian White

What have been your cultural highlights/discoveries of the year?

Barbara Wysocka’s production of Quartett at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden was a production of such power that it’ll stay with me forever. The boundaries of artistic disciplines were so blurred that one couldn’t tell whether it was an opera, theatre piece, performance art or an installation. Months later, I find myself thinking about the production and asking myself, ‘what does it signify’?

What is the most important thing you’ve learnt?

This creative pause has forced artists to consider how they can present and create art in new, diverse ways. Working within constraints has traditionally helped artists to find inspiration – whether through commissions or just to stay alive. Has today’s artistic freedom hampered our creativity? Are we finding that when we’re constrained, true inspiration appears? There are many artists who are finding a true voice through this ‘new’ way of working, of not being in a comfort zone of infinite possibility, and it will be interesting to see how the industry evolves. Do we only covet what we once knew or are we emboldened to embrace the unknown?

Sally Donegani

What have been your cultural highlights/discoveries of the year?

At the start of Lockdown I took out a subscription to Netflix and I have devoured all the series of The Crown. Having heard about it for so long from others I was pleased finally to watch it, as well as other things I have never had time for previously.

On the other side of the coin, seeing the Laurent Pelly production of La Cenerentola make it through the rehearsal period and enjoy a full run in Geneva in September and in Valencia in December was also a highlight. With so little going on and so many productions cancelled and postponed at the eleventh hour, it was pure joy to see this make it to the finishing line.

What is the most important thing you’ve learnt?

I have learnt that it is essential to my being to make live music with others. The sense of loss I felt when rehearsals had to be stopped in their tracks was enormous, as was the joy when they were finally allowed to resume again. I play clarinet in a concert band and the sheer pleasure at being in a rehearsal room (Covid safe with appropriate protocol in place) and making music with others is immeasurable. I have also taken up the saxophone during this period and enjoyed the challenge of learning something new, applying my brain to make progress and master a new skill. I am still a novice, but improving slowly!

Eric Denut

What have been your cultural highlights/discoveries of the year?

This year I have watched thousands of hours of great storytelling on Netflix and other streaming services, amazing performances from the Met and Paris Philharmonie and bold personal initiatives by many artists. A friend showed me this Earthrise by American poetess Amanda Gorman, from 2018. It’s difficult to predict what kind of new artistic forms will emerge, but I’m sure that this kind of profound and charismatic authenticity, supported by mature artistic forms, will secure art (and culture in general) a strong relevance.

What is the most important thing you've learnt?

Living almost exclusively in France for the last nine months, I have learnt to write exit permits! I haven't learned not to find it profoundly sad to have a democratic government that is unable to trust its citizens to behave properly for their own survival.

Bethan Davies

What has been your favourite online musical event and why?

I absolutely loved Elena Urioste’s YouTube #UriPosteJukeBox. It was so imaginative and different.

What is the most important thing you’ve learnt?

I’ve learnt to not be too hard on myself or others. Everyone has to do what feels right for them. Just getting up, dressed and getting anything done is an achievement! It’s been important to stay positive and appreciate how lucky I am – things could be an awful lot worse.

Rachel van Walsum

What have been your cultural highlights/discoveries of the year?

I discovered the Hepworth Museum in Wakefield and Jupiter Artland in Edinburgh – both inspiring visual arts venues. It was a highlight to see the Ralf Pleger, Alexander Polzin and Fernando Melo production of Tristan und Isolde come together on a different stage in Bologna. The Elias Quartet’s concert of Purcell and Beethoven Op.127 at the end of September in Snape Maltings Concert Hall was their first concert with an audience since the start of the Pandemic and was an extremely emotional one for both them and the audience.

What has been your favourite online musical experience?

World HeartBeat Music Academy’s online concert in November was an hour-long concert of jazz, classical music given by the students. It was an all-student affair, with students even behind the cameras – an impressive first online concert that served as an example for us all.

What is the most important thing you have learnt?

We’ve all learnt the importance of resilience, the ability to stay focussed and calm, and above all not to get stuck in the moment. We’ve also had to be flexible and open minded. We will get through this and come out stronger and tougher. Colleagues in every direction – staff and promoters – have repeatedly shown how brilliant they are.

What cultural event are you looking forward to next year?

Anything where I can be a member of the audience – I’m feeling starved of live music! I'm looking forward specifically to Kazushi Ono’s Die Meistersinger and Super Angels (children’s virtual reality opera) at New National Theatre Tokyo, all taking place during around the time of the Tokyo Olympics; Ilan Volkov conducting a new creation in Aix – L’Apocalypse Arabe by Samir Odeh-Tamimis and directed by Pierre Audi; and travelling to Tasmania to hear Eivind Aadland work with his new orchestra, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

Ariane Todes

What has been your favourite online musical experience?

One of the few good things to come out of this crisis is that my favourite band, Bellowhead, reformed for a one-off online concert. Apart from the joy of seeing them together again, it was brilliantly filmed and edited. I was quite happy to pay £22 for a 30-day pass to the concert, which offers some hope that others will also pay for online experiences that they care about.

I was also so impressed by Elena Urioste’s amazing feat of creativity and discipline with her 88 daily #UriPosteJukebox videos with Tom Poster, and Lawrence Power’s Lockdown Commissions, which broke new ground both musically and visually.

What is the most important thing you’ve learnt?

During Lockdown I’ve enjoyed long walks in nature, listening to symphonies – especially Sibelius, Brahms and Elgar – which has added two whole new sensory layers to my experience of music.