AdOpera! in Amsterdam and Brussels

After the ’high’ of Cunning Little Vixen and the flurry of visitors and journalists, the come-down had little time to hit before AdOpera!´s trip to Amsterdam and Brussels. AdOpera! comprises the professional opera companies outside of Oslo, and concentrates particularly on developing national competence, and also new work.

The airlines, however, were not on our side: delayed in Bergen, missed connection in Copenhagen (good airport for cake, shopping and foreign newspapers, however) and then straight to a dinner meeting about future plans before a fine performance of Prokoviev´s Love of Three Oranges at Het Muziektheater, beautifully conducted by Tomas Netopil. Huge monochrome playing cards fill the stage, swivelling and bending, while a surreal parade of characters weave, posture and plot. A moping dysfunctional prince refuses to laugh, the king needs succession for his ream, the court schemes and all is thwarted by the grotesque Fata Morgana, whose curse commands the prince to fall in love with three oranges. Wonderful Laurent Pelly production, stupendous music, and a great night out.

On, then, to Brussels and a day of talk about future productions, specialist academies, budgets and opera the length and breadth of Norway. It is wonderful to talk to Peter de Caluwe, La Monnaie´s brilliant intendant, before the evening´s show, and to listen to his resoundingly positive, adventurous and uncompromising views on programming despite threatened budget cuts and postponed building renovation. We see Benoit Mernier´s La Dispute (a quirky tangle of dislocated relationships) and repair to the hotel bar to argue about the stage director´s choices, the conductor, the voices (mostly terrific), the costumes – and why there was a refrigerator build into a leafy sidewall.

Next day, we all attend La Monnaie´s Press Conference to announce their 13/14 season: opera, dance, recitals and education. It´s extremely strong and highly diverse, as one might expect. Peter talks fiercely about how we must say no to complacency, no to those who constrain us, no to those who demean us, no to those who push us into boxes…. His season brochure, in its opening pages, quotes Albert Camus ”La conscience vient au jour avec la revolte” – with rebellion awareness is born. I want to shout with joy!

Yes to great opera. But also yes to new experiences, yes to curiosity, yes to daring to step outside the comfortable music and theatre we know, to risk new feelings and fresh ideas. And no to programming led cynically only by box office sales.

We travel to the airport, buoyed by animated discussion. The planes are, of course, delayed, and we sit in Copenhagen surfeiting on unnecessary cake, listening to the clatter of closing shutters and swish of floor-cleaning. I wake at three a.m. from strange dreams of exploding oranges, airline security and comedia del arte sorcerers. No worries, its only opera.

Mary Miller

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