“There are incredible cultural cuts in England”

Recently extended as musical director at the Opéra de Rouen Normandie, Ben Glassberg found in this city an ideal in between to satisfy his Francophilia and his native England: “It is a Norman orchestra. There is something between France and Great Britain: a warmth in sound that is truly French, but a spirit of work, an efficiency, an attention to rhythm that is very English.“He spends three months a year in Rouen from 2020 and thus can deepen his work with an orchestra accustomed to the classical repertoire: “It is an orchestra of only forty permanent members, who play a lot of classical music, especially Mozart.

For his first orchestral recording, Ben Gassberg logically chose a Mozartian opera. But far from eternal Don Giovanni where Marriage of Figarothe conductor favored a less popular opera: The Clemency of Titus. “For me it is a masterpiece. It is one of my favorite operas, ahead of The Magic Flute. It is remarkably complex, perhaps for the reason that it is not played much. But musically, it’s incredibly deep, with beautiful melodies. There is everything in this opera, I am disappointed that it is not performed more often.” This work gave rise to a recent production at the Opéra de Rouen – Normandie and a

box set published on November 11 by Alpha Classics.

Different directories

Far from comforting himself with the standard repertoire of the Norman orchestra, Ben Glassberg wanted to bring variety to his productions: “Like all music directors, I like to work with a repertoire that is as varied as possible. In the coming years, I will approach the French repertoire, which we have not studied together. We will also discuss this Wagnerian story of Rouen, called “Bayreuth-sur-Seine”: many Wagnerian operas had their French premiere in Rouen!

In this dynamic of expanding the repertoire, the conductor brings part of his culture to the Opéra de Rouen – Normandie with A Midsummer Night’s Dream of Britten, in the work of Robert Carsen: “This presentation gives a timeless dimension to the work. There is magic and poetry there, that is universal.” But the interest in music is not neglected, with such precision in writing that the interpretation becomes almost natural: “Britten makes my job so easy! He interprets the text in enough detail to follow the score. For singers, it is very clear in the rhythm, in all the articulations.“Despite this transparency in the notation, the essence of the music is in the subtext: “What is most English about Britten is that he hides his emotions. Beautiful French music speaks to the heart, it is full of emotion. With Britten, it is less on the surface. But at the same time the text directs the music, there is a clarity between the two.“Performances will happen

from January 27 to 31 at the Rouen Opera – Normandy.

The series of conductors

Recently, more and more young conductors have been appointed to conduct French orchestras, especially Klaus Mäkelä at the Orchester de Paris or Tarmo Peltokoski at the Orchester du Capitole de Toulouse. A revival that, according to Ben Glassberg, truly serves orchestras: “We don’t bring experience, but maybe energy and freshness. Nowadays, work is changing a lot, we have to deconstruct the instruments of power. The generation starting now can be more open to that.”

The turning point in Ben Glassberg’s career took place at the age of 23, when in 2017 he won all the prizes for the 55th time.

Besançon International Competition for Young Conductors. Not yet seen : “It changed everything in an instant. I was lucky to have the jury on my side during this edition. The career picked up quickly after that, I had many invitations.“He conducts prestigious ensembles such as the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra.

But France became the first country of its activity, despite the complexity of relations with the United Kingdom since Brexit: “For musicians starting out in Britain today, it’s very difficult. There are incredible cultural cuts in England today. It is unthinkable that the subsidies of the English National Opera, the second largest opera organization in the country, will be cut by 100%. It feels good to be here in France.”

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Benjamin Britten, under his direction and performed by Robert Carsen, from January 27 to 31 at the Opéra de Rouen – Normandie

  • Box

    Mozart: The Clemency of Titus with Orchester de l’Opéra de Rouen – Normandie, released on November 11, 2022 by Alpha Classics

  • Box

    Britten: The turn of the nut with Chamber Orchestra of La Monnaie, released on May 20, 2022 by Alpha Classics

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