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The Regisseur Route: Interview with André Heller-Lopes

The premiere on July 16th of La Finta Giardiniera, the new production of the Silesian Opera (Poland) and the Academy of Music of Katowice, is the new challenge of the young stage director

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André Heller-Lopes, is one of the most active opera registers in Latin America. He has directed productions in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Portugal, Austria, United Kingdom, Malaysia and the United States. He was trained in the prestigious San Francisco Merola Opera program and in the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme of Covent Garden. In 2013 he received Britten100Award and his production of the Midsummer Night’s Dream was a finalist in the category of best opera at the 2014 Opera Awards. Distinguished in 2012 by Epoca magazine as one of the 100 most influential personalities in Brazil, André Heller-Lopes has been the winner three consecutive years of the “Carlos Gomes Prize” as best opera scene director in Brazil and the distinction of the Argentine Association of Music Critics for the best production of the year 2015.

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The repertoire of André Heller-Lopes includes a wide variety of operas from classical works (Medée, Le Nozze di Figaro, Idomeneo, Die Zauberlföte, Renaud) to the main romantic operas (Tristan und Isolde, Carmen, Nabucco, Rigoletto, Lucia di Lammermoor , Samson et Dalila, Eugene Onegin, Werther) and Verismo (Andrea Chenier, Adriana Lecouvreur, Tosca, Manon Lescaut) to modern masterpieces (Salome, Ariadne auf Naxos, Der Rosenkavalier, Der Zwerg, Savitri, Jenufa) – all the way until Roger Water’s rock-opera Ça Ira. The most acclaimed production of an André Heller-Lopes was Der Ring des Nibelungen by Wagner.

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His recent and future engagement projects include Faust in Festival Amazona de Manaus, La Finta Giardineira in Poland, the Brazilian premiere of Katya Kabanova by Janácek, Turandot, Trouble in Tahiti and Aida in Germany.

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You have directed in countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, Argentina, Portugal and Brazil, what brings you to Poland?
Poland in 2018 and once again in 2019 (and Germany also in 2019) is a consequence of years of study and work, of maturation of the way I like to stage the scene – a style perhaps – but above all the result of a decision to returned to Latin America in 2011. At that time I was living in Lisbon, a city I adore, working at Sao Carlos Theatre coordinating their Young Artists programme, but it was clear to me that in order to raise higher scenic flights and help the opera I had to return to Brazil.

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You are considered one of the most active stage directors in Latin America, what do you think is the responsibility you have after this consideration?
The responsibility of doing something original and not copying videos and staging Europe and America (as wonderful as they are); to investigate the Latin American way of doing opera and propose something in that sense. I believe that I am the first generation of regisseurs specialized in opera in Brazil and for that reason I have the responsibility to be a prepared professional, who knows the repertoire, who is a musician, who speaks the languages ​​of the operas and who never stops studying! Above all, knowing that the budgets for opera in Latin America are precious and that you have to create something good and lasting, that respects the passionate public of the opera and also serves to attract new audiences. The responsibility to be responsible!

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You have stood out for your great permeability of directing different styles of operas, what is your favorite style, are you a romantic, more classical or do you like new productions?
I am passionate about opera, and voices. That leads me to love a very vast repertoire. Over the years I think I learned which are the titles that come out better or easier. Surely the works of the late nineteenth or early twentieth century are what most attract me: Janácek, Puccini, Strauss, the veristas … and, of course, Wagner – Tristan and the ring in Brazil are key moments of my career. Thanks to my training in London, it is clear to me that operas that demand a lot of technical knowledge and more operatic staging (those with great choirs and many people on stage) became my specialty. I am very happy to be able to premiere for the first time in Brazil an intimate and magical title like Katya Kabanova of Janáček, or to work with a great chorus of artists that I adore and many soloists in a title like Puccini’s Turandot, I am too honored by the theatre of Sao Paulo for inviting me to participate in those titles.

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Interestingly, I do very few comedies but when I did them they worked out very well, like that enormous success I had just had with La Finta.

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In your opinion, what is the value that Latin American artists can bring to the development of lyric in the world? What advice would you give them?
Well, I am an optimist and enthusiast of Latin American talent! My advice would be to study a lot, prepare more than the others, but not copy, be original, have a “signature”, an artistic personality. I think that this may be “our moment” and I see great interest from Europeans for the way we do opera – as Carmen Miranda sang, a “south american way”, and also for opera!

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Your Next Production

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La Finta Giardiniera” is Mozart’s comic opera that has rarely been staged. The composer wrote the work in Munich, when he was only 18 years old. Although the opera is almost 250 years old, it will appeal to the contemporary audience; says André Heller-Lopez. The characters are involved in situations that are universal and timeless and, therefore, can serve as a mirror for us, the contemporary public. Language and social hierarchy have changed, however, human nature is the same. Above all, Mozart’s music is delicious.

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The performance is directed by André Heller-Lopes. Bassem Akiki is the musical director of the production. He is one of the most talented young directors, who collaborates with the main stages of opera in Europe and is currently the artistic director of the Silesian opera. The production team has the following members: Renato Theobaldo – Set design, Dagmara Walkowicz-Goleśny – Costumes and Dariusz Albrycht – Lights.

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La Feta Giardiniera is a co-production with the Academy of Music of Katowice. The aim of the project is to allow students, young singers, to participate in the professional production of opera.

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