Stéphane Lissner on Guiding Italy’s Oldest Opera Home By means of a Pandemic and Past
NAPLES, Italy — Six years in the past, Stéphane Lissner left Milan after a decade managing Italy’s most well-known opera home, the Teatro alla Scala, to run the Paris Opera.
After a turbulent time period, he left his Parisian publish in March, 9 months early, pissed off by widespread social unrest in France, strikes over an unpopular nationwide pension reform plan and unproductive talks with the theater’s highly effective unions. The pandemic was the proverbial final straw.
Now the German impresario Alexander Neef has taken over in Paris, and Mr. Lissner is again in Italy, main the Teatro di San Carlo, opened in 1737 and the nation’s oldest opera home — and certainly one of its most stunning.
The pandemic, in fact, upended the season in Naples, too, although this summer time Mr. Lissner managed to stage “Tosca” and “Aida” in live performance, in addition to Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony” within the majestic Piazza del Plebiscito, subsequent to the theater.
In an interview in his ethereal workplace on the theater, Mr. Lissner stated his 10 years at La Scala had been “essentially the most attention-grabbing of my life.” However after only some months, he added, Naples felt like residence.
He stated he was significantly impressed by the robust attachment town’s residents felt to their opera home: 80 p.c of the San Carlo’s season ticket holders had renewed their subscriptions for the 2020-21 season, though it typically regarded like it might by no means happen.
After two aborted makes an attempt, that season is about to lastly open with Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana,” starring Elina Garanca and Jonas Kaufmann. The efficiency, recorded on Monday in an empty home due to coronavirus restrictions, can be broadcast over Fb till Monday for about one euro. (It would then be obtainable for per week via the theater’s web site.)
The partnership with that social media big is a part of Mr. Lissner’s imaginative and prescient for his tenure right here: He desires to create a “social and digital theater,” broadening the San Carlo’s enchantment to a probably limitless viewers.
Within the interview, he mentioned his on-line ambitions, whether or not vaccination for operagoers ought to be obligatory and what went unsuitable in Paris. Listed here are edited excerpts from the dialog.
Do you assume that the pandemic may have a long-term influence on the Teatro di San Carlo?
The long run can be very completely different, and I’m satisfied that it’s going to not be potential for a theater to be passive, ready for the general public, even with an incredible program. So sooner or later I see two elements that aren’t contradictory however really complementary: Reside performances, because the mission of a public theater; and, alongside this, there’s the digital half.
Beginning in March or April we may have our personal manufacturing studio contained in the theater. We are going to create our personal productions, but in addition be open to artists, philosophers, authors, architects and photographers, giving them the likelihood to create content material about Naples, the San Carlo, historical past, music, town.
We wish to attain and dialogue with individuals who don’t usually come to the theater, who don’t reside in Naples. That is the longer term. The world is altering.
However it will by no means exchange reside performances. They’ll proceed, as they’ve for the reason that time of Greek theater.
You left Paris earlier than you had been purported to, and started working full time in Naples as quickly because the pandemic restrictions allowed journey. Did that influence your first months right here?
The 2020-21 season was already set, though productions needed to be canceled, so 2021-22 can be my first actual season.
Everybody tells me, “Lissner, you may take some dangers” — this metropolis has proven it’s open to immediately’s artists. For my first season, I’ve invited the administrators Damián Szifron, Dmitri Tcherniakov and Barrie Kosky.
I believe we’ll begin performing in entrance of a reside viewers once more in Could, June or July. Maybe your entire theater received’t be stuffed. What scares me is that I learn that 60 p.c of French folks don’t wish to be vaccinated.
Many Italians are skeptical of the vaccine, too.
If that’s true, then it is going to be very difficult. Will individuals who haven’t been vaccinated be capable to enter the theater? To reassure folks, one must say no. In any other case folks received’t come. It’s an issue.
Why did you allow Paris early?
Beginning with the Yellow Vest protests, the theater was destroyed. Socially, it was chaos; I couldn’t work. Then the pension reform and a three-month strike, after which Covid arrived. So within the final interval, I wasn’t capable of work. The state of affairs was actually too tough.
After which there was the political turnover and, let’s say, we had differing concepts. So it was higher that I left early. My concepts for the theater are what they’re. However the director is chosen by the President of the Republic, and sometimes, when one other arrives. …
It labored out for the most effective, as a result of my successor might come instantly and do issues he wished to. We’re in a second of nice problem. It’s a second wherein choices need to be made, and these are taken with political counterparts, so it’s important to get alongside.
After which the San Carlo proposal got here alongside, which I favored very a lot. Maybe with out Covid, with out all these questions, issues would have been completely different, and I might have remained to the tip of my contract.
Why did issues get so unhealthy with the unions?
The union on the Paris Opera has by no means signed an accord, even optimistic accords. It didn’t even signal the accord on parity between women and men. It by no means indicators something.
This union has actually harmed the Paris Opera. It cares much less and fewer about defending the employees. It has turn out to be extra political, ideological. And if the union is barely ideological, then the boss is all the time unhealthy, and the union is all the time good. Nevertheless it’s not like this.
When you take an ideological, contrarian place on every thing, in opposition to administration, the theater doesn’t transfer ahead.
Do you’ve gotten any recommendation for Alexander Neef, your successor?
I believe that reform is critical, that’s for positive. Each from the perspective of governance, which I believe doesn’t perform any extra, and from the perspective of the group of labor. As a result of you may’t handle a theater immediately the way in which you probably did 30 years in the past.
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