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Maestro's Insights

Maestro Jordan de Souza brought terrific energy and enthusiasm to the podium conducting Florencia en el Amazonas. He sat down with some of our newsletter team, Neil Kimel, Marie Tachouet and Melissa Trier Kirk before a performance last month to discuss our work together.

What follows is a distillation of our conversation edited for clarity.

On our orchestra:

"The working atmosphere here is great! There’s an openness, but also a seriousness about work. I spoke to a few friends who’d done Florencia en el Amazonas before and they all said the same thing, nice music, but impossible to balance. Here is a composer full of imagination who loves the orchestra, everybody’s got something to do and nobody gets bored! But the way he orchestrates it makes it really hard for the text to come through. It’s a good challenge. Together we were able to find a kind of depth and balance. That’s the great thing about a virtuosic orchestra like yours. There is a quick responsiveness and a feeling of teamwork, the kinds of things you dream of as a conductor. I was impressed with how quickly everyone responded in rehearsals. You guys have institutional knowledge here."

Opera Orchestra versus Symphony Orchestra:

"Neil was saying that opera soft is different from symphony soft and that’s totally true. When you hear an orchestra like the Vienna Philharmonic, or the Gewandhaus Orchestra, symphonies that are also opera orchestras, they are so sensitive. I remember hearing a Mahler performance in Leipzig, a quiet that was so unbelievably beautiful. I think they can do that because when you play opera there’s a whole basement of sound that we rarely tap into unless we have to. It’s something really special."

The way the Maestro likes to work:

"One of the attractions for me about doing Florencia here was that the orchestra hadn’t played it before, we have no idea how this is going to go and we have to discover it together. I used to take parts and mark them, “This is the way we’re doing it”. Then I started to say to myself, “That’s a dangerous thing”. It depends on the people sitting in front of you. Now I try to cultivate an ability to constantly change. That’s something theater teaches you. I learned that from my boss in Berlin who was a stage director. He would come into the first rehearsal, he knew all the problems and he had zero answers. He would trust the actors and try things. He wasn’t trying to turn it into his thing, he wanted a give-and-take. Music doesn’t exist without musicians to play it, so we’re actually creating this piece together for the first time."

What’s next:

"Next year I’ll do my first Flying Dutchman and Tristan. I’d like to do more Strauss and there’s a lot of wonderful French repertoire, well-written theater pieces that are just not done as often. And there’s nothing like Janacek, so unique. I haven’t really found anything yet that I haven’t gotten to love."

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