In the week when a very special season for Metropolitana starts – the one that will lead the institution to the 30th anniversary celebration – the artistic director explains how he built the concert season that will run until July. Conductor Pedro Neves wants an Orchestra more present and with the ability of helping to reflect, through music, on the problems of the society in which we live.
Season 21/22 starts earlier, on September 10th, with the Inaugural Concert and two old friends, Pedro Burmester and Mário Laginha. Why this choice to open the season?
Choosing the program and this concert to kick off our season has a very special meaning because we are going to have with us two great musicians and two great friends of Orquestra Metropolitana de Lisboa, who have accompanied the Orchestra in these 30 years of existence. Basically, they are also part of Metropolitana’s history. This program will present a new version of Mário Laginha’s piano concerto, now for two pianos. So, it will be kind of a premiere of a piece that already exists, but now under a new look. But we don’t stop there. We are going to present a symphony that has a special meaning for the history of music: Beethoven’s Eroica.
This season links September 10th to July 10th, Metropolitana’s Day, and is divided into five cycles. What criteria followed this structure?
Yes, it’s a new way of presenting the season, and one that reflects our view of the world, when we celebrate 30 years of life. In fact, we are going to have a very important cycle. It is the 30 Years Cycle: somehow, it is our examination of conscience, our perception of the path that has been taken so far. The role of Metropolitana in its relationship with society and its causes is the motto for Causas em Família, in which we will reflect with music this world in which we live. But Metropolitana is not isolated, we want to understand our position in relation to the music that is made in the world, through our own music. This will be the Ecos do Mundo Cycle. The season will also have a cycle more dedicated to the specific repertoire of the orchestra and which embraces two great composers, Bach and Schubert, although there is always a work in between that provokes and surprises the public. As usual, we will have our dialogue between the Orquestra Académica Metropolitana, composed of students, and the Orquestra Metropolitana de Lisboa, fully professional. These dialogues make up the Páginas Sinfónicas Cycle.
In addition to these large cycles, we will also have several Fora de Ciclo concerts, such as Christmas, New Year, Carnival and Easter concerts, and chamber music programs, which are already a classic in the planning of Metropolitana’s seasons.
It’s a season that shows a Metropolitana more oriented to the world, more attentive to what is happening in its surroundings. In the year of the thirtieth anniversary, was it essential to have a Metropolitan committed to its time? The Causas em Família Cycle has this concern…
It’s really our goal and I think it’s a goal that music should have today: getting closer to society, its audience and looking for new paths. This Cycle Causas em Família seemed to us to be a very interesting way to, on the one hand, address the problems that plague us as a society and, on the other, through music, words, actors, and with the presence of Catarina Furtado and the staging by João Reis, to create a united movement that helps us to reflect and seek solutions to problems. This cycle, I admit, is a big bet for us, with the objective of getting closer to the public and creating new windows of connection to people, of calling them to classical music.
I know that you don’t like labels and believe that music shouldn’t be stigmatized. But in such a rich season, classics such as Bach and Schubert could not be missing…
Yes, you’re right, I don’t like labels. I think music is too big and deep to fit into labels. Anyway, in a season as rich as this one, and that looks so much at our path, it is very normal that the orchestra may have a cycle dedicated to composers we have played so many times and who were a milestone in the history of music and orchestral repertoire, the likes of Bach and Schubert.
What is the best gift that Metropolitana could receive this season when it celebrates its 30th anniversary?
It’s a very simple gift: to get Metropolitana even more involved with its audience and see our audience increasingly present in our lives. Over these 30 years we were able to create bonds. And I believe it is possible to strengthen these bonds even further. We want to continue reaching more and more people’s hearts.
This is the first season programmed from scratch by you, after six months as artistic director…
It is true. As you know, I arrived in the middle of last season, when part of it was already programmed by my predecessor, conductor Pedro Amaral. And therefore, it was, in some way, putting into practice what he had envisioned. Then we had a new confinement in January, when we returned home. With the return, we managed to structure the original season without making major changes and only with minor surgical cancellations with artists who were far away.
How do you rate these first eight months on the job?
It has been a very enriching experience, in the sense that I can now see things from a different angle. I had already directed these musicians in specific moments, but it is one thing to be the conductor of an orchestra on occasion, another thing is to be its principal conductor. And, above all, it is necessary to have a certain balance between the artistic area and the earthly aspects that I am obliged to, as an artistic director. It is necessary to compartmentalize things and not mix them in the same bag, which is the natural tendency. When we are dealing with issues of organization and planning, we have to follow one line and when we are in the more artistic component, we have to take another.
As an artist, is this organizational side appealing or at least useful?
I have no doubts that it is very important for a creative, as he is a musician, to go through this organizational work. Our profession always takes us to the artistic side and moves us away from a more administrative, more organizational area. These months that I have already spent as an artistic director have helped me to develop this maturity. This balance is critical.
As you said, you had already directed these musicians, but your assessment of their work is now necessarily more complete. What is your analysis of Metropolitana’s growth?
Orquestra Metropolitana de Lisboa has a very high level and a very high potential growth margin. Our step towards the future is in this strategy of, as a group, collectively, we can overcome obstacles. It is a completely different orchestra from other standard orchestras. OML has immense flexibility, has an associated pedagogical project, which makes it completely different. The fact that he sometimes has to play in different rooms also gives him the maturity I was talking about.
In other words, the lack of a room of its own is more of an advantage than an Achilles’ heel?
It’s true that we don’t have our own concert hall. It’s a reality, and I’m not going to be a hypocrite and say it wouldn’t matter. Of course it would. But I’ll also tell you something: we manage to do our work without a concert hall, as we’ve already shown. There will be a day when someone will decide that we really have to have it. But for now we are not at that moment. Our goal is to work with what we have and elevate the artistic side of the orchestra even more. That is our strength. That’s why everyone recognizes, from our Friends to the critic, that OML has grown tremendously in recent years..
And can it grow more?
Yes, of course it can. It can as an Orchestra and it can in the capacity to attract a bigger audience. We have to get out of our bubble and understand how to win more audiences and different audiences. There are so many people in this country that have never heard a live orchestra! We have to be able to win over that audience and show them what we do. We have to provoke sensations in that audience, explain to them how music is part of us and how important it is in our lives.
And what is the way to reach this goal?
I still believe that a complete musician is one who can make various types of music. And I still believe that a complete audience is one that can listen to various types of music, as long as it is quality music. If we can show people the versatility of our music, and if they understand that, that’s great. Of course there are people who will prefer one style of music and others will like another one more, but sometimes prejudice is in our minds. Our obligation is to show people good music, be it great classics or contemporary music, and people also have to be open-hearted to listen. I’ve already told you that I don’t like labels at all. Sometimes the contemporary music label has this downside. Therefore, we must not stigmatize music. Sometimes it’s good to present this to the audience in an honest way. Just music. And I even believe it can be an advantage to mix different eras and different types of music.
More than ever, the message may well be… “Bring a Friend Too”.
Yes, yes [laughs]. That’s right, We need this follow-up from the public, we need to share our message with someone. That’s why the Amigos da Metropolitana idea is very good and I’d just like to increase it. In other words, if we have more and more Friends, it means that we have more and more people accompanying us on this trip. Attending a concert regularly once a week is a habit that is created and that we must nurture. I am aware that we will never reach a mass audience, because that is not the objective of an orchestra, but I would be happier if there were more Portuguese people to realize that this music is accessible and that it is not necessary to have a PhD to go to an OML concert. You have to go. There is no need to be afraid.