the essential The Orchester de l’Opéra national de Paris will give a concert at the Halle aux grains on Friday 19 November as part of the Grands Interpreters. The director general of the Paris Opera, Alexander Neef, talks about the event.
How would you define the qualities of the Orchester de l’Opéra de Paris?
It brings together musicians who are brilliant on an individual level but even more in the collective. They express a very strong desire to make music together, which requires exceptional mutual listening. And not just on set under the direction of a chef.
Gustavo Dudamel is the brand new musical director of your orchestra. What do you like about him?
His coming to conduct “La Bohème” in 2017 created the first link with the musicians and the company, which allowed me to offer him the position of musical director. We were then able to have a very precise perception of its qualities. He is an extraordinarily gifted musician but he also has a very collegial way of looking at work. And this from the very careful reading of the score during rehearsals. This implementation is so thorough that it reaped the rewards during concerts.
Did his image as a great teacher also play a role in his appointment?
This aspect of his personality is essential. From our first exchanges, we talked about the future of opera; how to think outside the box, show that it belongs to everyone, that it is intended for the greatest number… without compromising on the offer. Our house is wide open. Gustavo Dudamel and we too believe that beauty is an essential thing to share.
The program given at the Halle aux grains brings together Ravel, Mozart and Berlioz. Why this choice ?
The idea is to bring together two French composers and a foreigner who came to Paris to gain public recognition. I have great admiration for Mozart’s “Symphony No. 31”. She is very ambitious, very virtuoso. Incredibly demanding, it is very difficult to play. Personally, I have a great weakness for Ravel’s work. And how can we not like this great classic that is Berlioz’s “Fantastic Symphony”?
How is your start of the season going?
We are very happy to be able to welcome the public again after what we have seen and experienced. Audience who responds rather present even if the lack of foreign spectators, especially from Asia and North America, made us lose 20% of attendance. There are therefore fewer people but each show meets an extremely warm welcome. We feel the happiness of the people to find the rooms, to renew the link with the artists.
In Paris, you program “Rigoletto”, “Turandot” and the lesser known “Alcina”. What is a good opera?
An opera for which we have managed to create a team that works in the same direction and with the same conviction. This gives strength to the show, beyond the taste that we may or may not have for such and such a work.
Do you know Toulouse?
I last came about fifteen years ago and saw the Halle aux grains and the Théâtre du Capitole, a hall that has always been familiar to me. In Toulouse, I particularly appreciate Christophe Ghristi (artistic director of the Théâtre du Capitole, Editor’s note) and Thierry d’Argoubet (general delegate of the Orchester du Capitole). Their work is of very high quality. As for Tugan Sokhiev (musical director of the Capitol), he has led an extremely brilliant career since his arrival in Toulouse and then in Moscow.