- Title: 'Baroque rebel' takes on classical Haydn, slamming avant garde
- Date: 7th October 2016
- Summary: MUSICIAN CLAPPING SIGISWALD KUIJKEN AND MARIE KUIJKEN SALUTING SINGERS SALUTING
- Embargoed: 22nd October 2016 18:15
- Keywords: Belgium Classical Concert Opera Baroque Haydn Petite Bande Leuven Flanders Kuijken Orchestra Music Premiere
- Location: LEUVEN, BELGIUM
- City: LEUVEN, BELGIUM
- Country: Belgium
- Reuters ID: LVA009530CBBT
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Veteran Belgian conductor and early music pioneer Sigiswald Kuijken rehearsed Joseph Haydn's opera L'Isola Disabitata on Friday (October 7) with a staging approach he called 'revolutionary.'
It may have been his solo, choral and orchestral interpretations of Johann-Sebastian Bach's music that gained him notoriety and the nickname of 'Baroque rebel,' but Kuijken said he has always had a passion for Haydn's music, a close friend and influence of the younger Mozart.
For the premiere of this new opera staging in Leuven, Kuijken will be accompanied by 'La Petite Bande,' an orchestra the 72-year old violinist and violist formed to perform historically informed music on period instruments in 1973.
Rejecting any 'avant-garde' or 'modernist' approach, Kuijken - alongside the stage director, his daughter Marie - said he drew his inspiration from period staging descriptions.
"The modernists who stay (for) 25 years the same, they are conservatives, now. And what we are doing now is revolutionary. Nobody will accept, no opera director, opera administration is keen on this kind of thing because they sick to the modernist actualization and that is not new at all anymore so I consider that what we do here is much more progressive than what is being done with the most crazy new staging," Kuijken said.
First performed in Hungary in 1779 for the Esterhazy court, Haydn's 10th opera tells the story of two sisters, Costanza and Silvia, who live on a desert island, where they were abandoned by Costanza's husband, Gernando.
Silvia was still a toddler when she reached the island, so, unlike her sister, she developed the candidness of someone who grew up away from the city's high society, something Kuijken believes to be an influence on Rousseau's moral novels 'Emile' and 'The New Heloise'.
Gernando ends up in pirate captivity, but years later returns to the island in search of his wife. Silvia, who had never seen a man, soon feels attracted to her brother-in-law's friend Enrico, who assisted Gernando in his search.
Marie Kuijken, who also plays the role of Costanza, said one of the piece's most significant features is the use of the orchestral 'recitativo accompagnato form,' in which the music accompanies all the text and describes the action, just like a modern film score.
"The whole opera is very beautiful because all the recitatives are accompanied with the orchestra, so there is no secco recitativo (mono-instrumental accompaniment as opposed to instrumental accompaniment) and that makes some very special atmosphere in the opera. And, from the beginning until the end, the orchestra is there," she said.
Rejecting the idea that classical music belongs to the past and does not appeal to younger generations, Kuijken said that 'beauty is beauty.'
"Why should it be outdated? Quality is quality. If you see a painting from the Italian Renaissance or from the Greek Antiquity or from Impressionists, who thinks how long ago it has been made? Beauty is beauty. We don't have to adapt it. We don't have to put a moustache on a Mona Lisa, which was done once. It's a good joke for once but we don't have to actualize art. It's a stupid idea," the Fleming said.
While the opera comes to a happy end with Enrico proposing to Silvia, the future could be bleak for 'La Petite Bande,' whose name is derived from Sun King court composer Jean-Baptiste Lully's orchestra, La Petite Bande des Violons du Roi.
Kuijken said he has to look for new ways to keep his orchestra's finances afloat after the local Flemish government's budget for culture underwent a series of cuts since 2009.
Kuijken said him and his team are currently studying other founding options, such as crowdfunding and sponsorship.
A charity concert for the benefit of the orchestra will be performed in Paris in December 2016.
La Petite Bande will then go on tour to New Zealand and Japan.
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