Alongside Pierre Audi, some of the 2020 edition’s orchestra conductors such as Sir Simon Rattle, Susanna Mälkki, and Thomas Hengelbrock discuss the challenges this recent period posed, which prevented the Festival from taking place in its traditional format this year. They also have the opportunity to question the meaning and mission of the Festival following this unprecedented situation. The conversation is led by John Allison, Chief Editor at Opera and music critic for the Daily Telegraph.
Born in the Lebanon, Pierre Audi grew up in Beirut and Paris, before moving to England to study at the University of Oxford. In 1979, he founded the Almeida Theatre, as well as a contemporary music festival in London. From 1988 to 2018, he was Artistic Director of the Dutch National Opera, of the Holland Festival from 2004 to 2014, and of the Park Avenue Armory in New York since 2015. He took up his role of Director General of the Festival d'Aix in September 2018. He is a highly sought after Stage Director in cities all over the world including New York, Paris, Milan, Amsterdam, Salzburg, Brussels, Vienna, Sydney, Los Angeles, and Munich, and his productions cover a vast repertoire of contemporary creations. He has received many awards for his work as a stage director including the Leslie Boosey Award, the Prijs van de Kritiek (prize awarded by Dutch theatre critics), the Prins Bernhard prize for culture, the Johannes Vermeer Award, and the Gold Medal for Arts and Science from the Royal Dutch House of Orange Nassau.
Simon Rattle spent his early career with the City of Birmingham’s Symphony Orchestra. Between 1980 and 1998, he was Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor before becoming Music Director in 1990. In 2002, he was appointed Principal Conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, and has been Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra since 2017. He conducted Fidelio, Così fan tutte, Peter Grimes, Pelléas et Mélisande, Salomé and Carmen at the Salzburg Easter Festival. He has directed Der Ring des Nibelungen in Aix-en-Provence, Salzburg, Berlin, and Vienna, Tristan and Isolde at the New York Metropolitan Opera, Pelléas et Mélisande and Dialogues des carmélites in Covent Garden in London , Hippolyte et Aricie, From the House of the Dead, La Damnation de Faust and Katja Kabanova at the Berlin Deutsche Oper as well as Manon Lescaut at the Berlin Staatsoper. He is Principal Guest Conductor for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. His widely acclaimed discography under the label Warner Classics includes over 70 titles and he has recorded La Damnation de Faust, Woven Space, Pelléas et Mélisande and Rememberings with the label LSO Live. He was made a Knight Bachelor in 1994 and appointed Member of the British Order of Merit in 2014.
Susanna Mälkki was a cellist with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra from 1995 to 1998. She was musical director of the Ensemble intercontemporain between 2006 and 2013 and until 2017 was Principal Guest Conductor for the Gulbenkian Foundation. In 2011, she conducted the Luca Francesconi Quartet in La Scala in Milan. She made her debut at the New York Metropolitan Opera in 2016 conducting Kaija Saariaho’s L’Amour de loin (Love from Afar). Today, she is one of the most sought after conductors and has conducted Der Rosenkavalier and The Marriage of Figaro in Helsinki, Jenůfa in Hamburg, Danton's Death in Vienna as well as Rusalka, Yvonne, princesse de Bourgogne and Trompe-la-Mort in Paris, The Planets by Holst, The Lemminkäinen Legends by Sibelius and a new creation by Kaija Saariaho. Susanna Mälkki directs the Helsinki Philharmonic and has conducted performances of compositions by Kaija Saariaho, Lotta Wennäkoski and Felipe Lara. In her role of Principal Guest Conductor for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, she has paid tribute to the composer Oliver Knussen. She has recorded Belà Bartók’s three opera for BIS Records. A member of the Royal Swedish Academy, she was also elected member of the Royal Academy of Music in London in 2010, and received the Pro Finlandia medal from the Order of the Lion of Finland in 2011 and became a Knight of the Legion of Honor in 2016. That same year, the magazine, Musical America named her Conductor of the Year and in 2017 she received the Nordic Council Music Prize.
The German conductor Thomas Hengelbrock founded the Balthasar Neumann Choir and Ensemble. He heads the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Philharmonic Orchestras in Vienna and Munich, the Paris Orchestra, the French National Orchestra, and the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zürich. In 2017 he conducted the world première of Wolfgang Rihm’s Reminiszenz, and in 2018, the oratorio Maria by Jan Müller-Wieland. He has collaborated with composers such as Jörg Widmann, Simon Wills, Lotta Wennäkoski, Qigang Chen and Erkki-Sven Tüür and has been invited to conduct at the Paris National Opera, the Teatro Real in Madrid, Covent Garden in London, the Berlin Staatsoper, and at the Salzburg and Baden-Baden festivals. He has also collaborated with actors including Klaus Maria Brandauer, Johanna Wokalek and Graham Valentine, and created his own version of Peer Gynt (Grieg) and the oratorio Scenes from Goethe's Faust. In 2005, he worked with the choreographer Pina Bausch for the presentation of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice at the Paris National Opera. Hengelbrock enjoys sharing his passion for music and supports young artists with the Balthasar Neumann Academy and the Cuban-European Youth Academy (CuE) program. In 2016, he was awarded the Herbert von Karajan prize for his work promoting musical education.
Chief Editor at Opera and music critic for the Daily Telegraph