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Wise words from 2021

Over the year, our artists have shared views about life, music and art for our feature section. Here are some of their words of wisdom

James Bonas
‘Really good collaborations don’t just reinforce, they surprise. You learn from other people and working together is revelatory rather than confirmatory. You challenge each other instead of just saying nice things. This might feel bad, but you get over yourself, because if you trust each other, you quickly realise that the other person was right. Communication, trust and respect are vital.’

Irina Brook
‘Doing plays or operas that attempt to teach or enlighten visibly doesn’t work. One has to be clever and look for new ways of passing messages. This is the difficulty – what should organisations do? I believe that people who run theatres and opera houses need a sense of responsibility, some awareness of the world outside their doors.’

Christophe Coppens
‘Many productions keep alive the idea of reenactment, and that’s a pity. We can enjoy DVDs of old performances, but for me, opera is only relevant if it touches on urgent topics. This is a delicate exercise, though. I also hate it when a contemporary idea or topic is glued on top of an opera. Ideas must be thought through, and everything should come from the music.’

Marc-André Hamelin
‘As a youngster, I was attracted more to the physical side of piano playing, but in time, I’ve become much more of a searching musician. At the beginning, I was perhaps doing it for myself. Now, I always think of the audience, first and foremost. The most important thing is what the audience comes away with. A concert is an offering. It’s a wonderful opportunity to share and to celebrate music and the miracle of human creativity.’

Topi Lehtipuu
‘Artists should open their minds to all the disciplines in surprising places, in order to achieve their dramaturgical or narrative goal. By that I mean can the singer dance, or the dancer speak, or the actor play an instrument? It’s important for everyone to look at the possibilities beyond their comfort zones.’

Paul Lewis
‘The way you move, and certain gestures you make, can underline the different characters of the music – and not only the humour. To draw different sounds and colours from the instrument, you use different kinds of articulation and speeds of attack, combined with different ways of pedalling. The physicality of this communicates to the audience. They can see the difference in how you’re playing, which underlines the characters of the music. But it must be subtle: you don’t want the audience to think you’re acting, or lecturing them. Less is more, but it has to be there, and you have to think about it.’

Kazushi Ono
‘My goal as a conductor is to liberate the musicians and let them make music. That is very important, because a conductor doesn’t make a single sound on their own. As a conductor, if musicians feel that you are concentrating on a conversation with the composer, it gives them the incentive to make music in a profound way. When I’m at the piano at home, I search for the source of the composers’ ideas and how they should be delivered, and my rehearsals are based on these conversations between me and the composers.’

Grégoire Pont
‘I love working with different people. It’s fascinating to discover the combination of my universe and theirs. When I do my live drawing concerts, I’m on my own and there is no one to tell me to change things. It feels very comfortable, but you learn more when you collaborate with someone else. Sometimes they have to convince you, or what they say means you have to do more work, but in the end it’s more enriching.’

Aleksey Semenenko
‘I enjoy chamber music because performances never turn out as you imagine in your practice room. You have to be open to other people, interpretations, imaginations, personalities. It’s teamwork, and something different always happens. It teaches you how to collaborate with people, how to feel a whole bouquet of sounds, rather than it just being you.’

Dominique Vleeshouwers
‘It’s important to enjoy playing and researching, but also to have fun. Joy is especially important: it’s the basis of performing and sharing enjoyment with people – showing them that they can be happy.’

Ilan Volkov
‘As musicians, we offer an opportunity for people to go deep inside themselves, which most of us don’t do on a regular basis in daily life. We need to be very positive, believe in what we do and have faith in the players and the audience. That creates the positive space for listening. This sounds a bit metaphysical, but in the end, it’s practical. We have to try to allow it to happen and if even a small percentage of the audience achieve this Nirvana, it’s enough.’

Barbara Wysocka
‘Diseases such as cancer and mental illness will be a big problem in the next years in inconsequence of pandemic, and particularly for children. We are still in this moment, but we can discuss it together through theatre and opera work. We can appreciate that we have kept our health and our lives, and have been able to get back to this point despite being in a pandemic. The world will change forever but I think we have learnt a lot during the last year.’

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