Pierre Audi on 25 years in Amsterdam
Pierre Audi was appointed Artistic Director of Netherlands Opera in 1988. In celebration of his silver jubilee, Opera Europa asked him to look back on his remarkable tenure and forward to the future.
25 years ago I was called up in the middle of rehearsals for a production I was staging for the Almeida in London, and asked to fly to Amsterdam to talk to the Board of the Netherlands Opera about the vacant post of artistic director. I was hired on the spot to the amazement of many, including myself. What followed has been, and still is, the most thrilling mission anyone passionate about Opera could dream of undertaking.Those 25 years were marked by an exceptional partnership between me and Truze Lodder. Truze, who retired last year, was a remarkable administrator who understood why I was hired and succeeded in inspiring me to give my all to this job.
The unique stagione system in Amsterdam made it possible to build up very high musical standards. The openness of the audience and the lack of tradition enabled us to take countless risks with modern repertoire. All factors that generated a great momentum and contributed to make the Netherlands Opera the Company it is appreciated to be.
Working with my fourth Chief Conductor Marc Albrecht, I am aware of time flying by and am still thrilled by the challenges and obstacles our beloved art form is being confronted with. How is that possible after such a long time? While currently reviving my productions of Wagner’s Ring (the first ever Dutch production of The Ring - and what a scary responsibility that was back in 1997!), with Hartmut Haenchen, the Chief Conductor with whom I collaborated for the first 13 years, I am reminded of the risks we took together which are still paying off superbly 15 years later.
The large stage of the Amsterdam Muziektheater was from the beginning a huge challenge. Taking the bull by the horns involved mounting regularly the large scale works in the repertoire which this stage could serve well.
The first new production in my programming, Klaus Michael Gruber’s vision of Parsifal with the now legendary 27-metre table, set the tone. Since then, many memorable productions followed. To name but a few favourite milestones: Moses und Aron (Pierre Boulez and Peter Stein); Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (Maris Jansons and Martin Kušej); The Trojans (which I directed and Edo de Waart conducted); Henze’s The Bassarids (Ingo Metzmacher and Peter Stein); and more recently The Invisible City of Kitezh (Marc Albrecht and Dmitri Tcherniakov). Not to mention many new operas by a huge spectrum of composers from all over the world.
In 2004, I was invited to become artistic director of the Holland Festival, in addition to my work for the Opera. Combining the two responsibilities has been a tremendously enriching task and a great privilege. I took this opportunity to create a true synergy between the two institutions and reinforce through the programming my two deep beliefs: international vision, and interaction between all art forms in the Performing Arts. Amsterdam was the only city I could imagine such a dialogue working as well as it does.
What next? On 1 January 2013, the Netherlands Opera and Het National Ballet, the two companies whose home is Het Muzietheater, were finally fused. The new entity born from this fusion joins a line-up of great institutions of its kind in the UK, in Germany, France, Italy, Scandinavia and Russia.
The work both companies consistently produced, the bonds forged with the funding bodies, audiences and our international partners, give this fusion a new meaning and invite us to build as well as renew. To realise what it took so many people, working as one team, to achieve this, is truly humbling.
Next to expanding our exposure, broadening talent development and nurturing quality and inventiveness on all levels, there is a lot to look forward to. The Dutch National Opera celebrates its 50th Anniversary in 2015. I can’t believe I’ve been serving in the driving seat for half that time. Whether I am there to blow some of those candles or not, this Company is still flying high: a cause to be proud of so many artists and so many colleagues, all architects of its success. I take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to all of them: Thank you for your contributions to those fabulous 25 years!
Artistic Director of Netherlands Opera