The director Antoine Gindt gives us his impressions the day after the French premiere of Eurydice, a chamber opera for soprano, piano and electronics by the Russian composer Dmitri Kourliandski, and presents his International Academy of Musical Theatre Directing, the first edition of which will take place in Nîmes from 2 to 13 May.
Antoine Gindt, how did you experience this second performance?
I was already less tense than at the first and more able to judge the details. Even better than on the first evening, there was the quality of the time that the performance demands and the ease with which the singer Jeanne Crousaud conducts the stage movement, with that dimension of interiority that characterises the role. I was also very touched by the reception of the audience and their enthusiastic feedback during the meeting after the performance.
Had you worked with Jeanne Crousaud before?
No, this was the first time we were on the same stage. We met in Aix en Provence a few years ago and I had heard her on stage. Eurydice was the right occasion to start this collaboration. Even if the voice that Dmitri Kourliandski had in mind probably did not have the lyrical scope of Jeanne's voice, which, I must say, has now found a different colour and scope.
The choice of a 72 year old Orpheus, played by the dancer Dominique Mercy, is surprising...
Two things reinforced my choice: first of all, the idea that Eurydice and Orpheus are not in the same time frame. Eurydice, having returned to the land of the dead, has not aged and enjoys eternal youth. Orpheus, on the other hand, has been abused by the Maenads and has suffered many ills that have marked him and made him old. Next, in the gallery of my staged characters, I will mention the household of Justine and the Marquis de Sade, two characters with the same age difference in Bussotti's The Passion According to Sade. I am not far from thinking that the Eurydice-Orpheus association is the calmed epilogue of this sulphurous relationship between the Marquis and his young protégée.
We expected a more sustained choreographic part...
I'm not a choreographer and it would have been foolishly pretentious to measure myself against the great Pina Bausch; then, there was no question of me imposing an actor's behaviour on someone who is so used to the stage. Moreover, working with the Tanztheater Wuppertal very often called for improvisation and I let Dominique Mercy appropriate the space as he saw fit.
As far as directing is concerned, you remain faithful to your collaborators, Daniel Levy, Fanny Brouste and Elise Capdenat.
We have been together since Ring Saga in 2011. It is important for me to work in a climate of trust with people I know well and to whom I give the greatest possible autonomy. In the development of a production, I rely on the collective and the complicity that allows us to go further and further in our objectives.
Composers, at least young ones, sometimes have painful experiences with their directors. How did your collaboration with Dmitri Kourliandski go?
Wonderfully well, even if the conditions imposed by the pandemic did not always make it easier to work. I must say that I have immense respect for all those composers who have enabled me to do my job, I am thinking of Georges Aperghis and Pascal Dusapin with whom I have worked a lot.
The staging always requires adjustments, or even cuts, which are sometimes resented by the composer.
On the contrary, I asked Dmitri to expand his score, which lasted only thirty-five minutes. The writing was very compact, superimposing the three layers, vocal, electroacoustic and instrumental. I made certain proposals to him, looking for other spaces within his writing, which he accepted. The dialogue between us was very fruitful and whenever it was necessary to change things slightly, we discussed it and the decisions were always taken together. Opera can only be conceived in a collective exchange.
On May 2, with the conductor Léo Warynski, you are launching an International Academy of Musical Theatre Direction in the city of Nîmes, an initiative that has never been done before in France...
It is an important project that I am very keen on; we have been working for a year on this first edition. It is an ambitious proposal that we want to perpetuate in the city of Nîmes and which associates many partners, not only the Theatre where we have been in residence for some time but also the Ecole supérieure des Beaux-arts, the Conservatoire, the two great museums of Nîmes, Carré d'Art and Musée de la Romanité, the art cinema Le Sémaphore, the Maison du Protestantisme and the Centre social Simone Veil. We have the support of the Fondation d'entreprise "AG2R LA MONDIALE pour la vitalité artistique" which has very generously contributed to the financing of this first edition.
Such an initiative is still unheard of in France...
There is no directing school in France, in fact, and few opportunities for young people interested in directing musical theatre. Our idea, Léo Warynski and myself, is to make our personal experience bear fruit; I have taken on many trainees for my shows and I have been able to measure the extent to which these young theatre people are deprived of the music; they know very little about the repertoire and have no practical knowledge of how to approach the singers, the conductor and the score in relation to the stage work. This academy aims to give them this culture and the tools to approach musical dramaturgy and staging. I do not know of any equivalent experience in France. We were very well received in Nîmes and I would like to thank Sophie Roulle, deputy delegate for culture in the city of Nîmes, who follows and supports us.
How were the academics recruited?
There is a first level of recruitment that concerns the directing teams; we chose three of them from a dozen proposals. They will be in charge, respectively, of Histoire du Soldat by Igor Stravinsky, El Cimarrón by Hans Werner Henze and Récitationsby Aperghis; but we are not only recruiting directors; there are also young conductors and representatives of all the professions of the performing arts: composers, playwrights, authors, scenographers and mediators; all these people will have master classes, they will be able to follow the rehearsals and of course to exchange ideas with their colleagues. As for the performers, they are all professionals, instrumentalists (the Multilateral Ensemble), singers (Raquel Camarinha, Iván Garcia) and actors(Richard Dubelski, Eric Houzelot, Mathieu Loiseau), to best convey the work of the young directors.
On what criteria were the works chosen?
We thought about it in the perspective of the coming editions. We will select three works per year that require three rehearsal halls where the performances will be given: the small hall of the Nîmes theatre, the Simone Veil Social Centre and the Petit Temple de Nîmes: we will stick to the same framework from one edition to the next: one work from the repertoire and two strong works from the end of the XXᵉ century that deserve to be revived. The 2023 works will be announced during the academy and applications will be opened in the wake of it, from 15 June.
I suppose that some work was done with the candidates beforehand...
We brought them together in February at the Paris Opera, directors and young conductors selected, to discuss the programme, to immerse themselves in the scores, to think about the scenic and dramaturgical issues. They have had a month to put their project together and will therefore come to Nîmes with a very precise idea of what they want to achieve. Léo Warynski and I are keen to bring the conductor and the director closer together. We also want to introduce this generation to works that they don't know at all because they are never on the bill, I'm thinking in particular of the many operas by Berio.
What's on the menu for the twelve days of the academy?
The first week is reserved for academics only. The second week takes the form of a mini-festival with four public master classes (broadcast on different channels) with invited personalities who will come to share their experience: Laurent Bayle, who started out in musical theatre before taking over the direction of the many institutions we know; Sarah Barbedette, director of dramaturgy, publishing and communication at the Opéra national de Paris; Marie-Louise Bischofberger, co-author of Philippe Boesmans' libretti with Luc Bondy; and Philippe Béziat, who will explain to us how video fits into the staging or how it extends it.
Could the idea of teaching directing on a year-round basis in France, where it does not really exist, be envisaged?
The Nîmes initiative may indeed give rise to ideas but I don't want to be dispossessed of my teaching at the academy, because I want, with Léo Warynski, to approach this training according to our own conception of the profession. Let's see if this first edition can serve as a start-up, but this obviously implies providing an institution and more powerful means to found a school.
Interview by Michèle Tosi