The talk show I always wanted to organize

When the Russian impressario Sergei Diaghilev (1872 – 1929) staged a performance with his Ballet Russes, he sometimes asked Coco Chanel for the costumes. Jean Cocteau wrote the scenario. Pablo Picasso painted the decor. Igor Stravinksy composed the music. Vaslav Nijinsky danced and George Balanchine choreographed.

Just picture that for a moment. All these giants working for the same ballet company. I’d love to organize an evening about the Ballet Russes. Not just to celebrate how ballet can bring all these art forms together. But also to use the company’s big names to attract a new crowd: young people who may have never visited the ballet, but who’d give it a shot when they heard about these unique collaborations from the 1920’s.

That’s why I joined the Steering Committee of the Dutch National Opera & Ballet’s Young Patrons Circle. I know, it’s a mouthful, but our mission is simple: getting people between 21 and 40 interested in opera and ballet. We’ll do this by organizing events around the performances and trips to other companies all over the world.

The Young Patrons Circle of the Dutch National Opera and Ballet

I feel like this is a logical next step for me after organizing Literaturfest, a Dutch literary talk-show where three guests would talk about their favorite book. During our live shows in Amsterdam, we interviewed Donna Tartt about Charles Dickens, Gary Shteyngart about Vladimir Nabokov, Chad Harbach about David Foster Wallace, David Sedaris about George Saunders and Edgar Keret about Kurt Vonnegut. Guest couldn’t just freely use references that half the audience would miss, they really had to talk about what they liked about the book itself. This made it an accessible yet intelligent talk show about literature. Here’s an example:

Ever since then, I enjoy interviewing connoisseurs about their art forms in such a way that everyone can follow what they’re saying. I hope to offer the audience and myself a set of references that helps us in learning to appreciate fine arts.

So now I hope to do the same with the Dutch National Opera & Ballet. I’ll keep you posted on future events. Maybe that evening about the Ballet Russes will be in the cards.

I’ll leave you with a ballet video that went viral this week (how encouraging). Watch Sergei Polunin of the British Royal Ballet dance to Hozier’s “Take Me to Church”. David LaChapelle directed the video and Jade Hale-Christofi choreographed the dance.

P.S. If you’re interested in the Ballet Russes and you haven’t this biography of Diaghilev yet, please do so. It’s an incredible account of how Diaghilev literally used everything he got to organize performances. One of the most inspiring books I’ve read in my life.

This psychedelic thing called the opera

During my studies, one professor always expressed his admiration for the opera. When he did, I always pictured the cliché: a grand lady in a red dress, endlessly singing something in Italian.

I was wrong.

Thanks to the welcoming people at the Dutch National Opera I have now seen three operas in the last couple of years. They where all, well.., pretty psychedelic.

Yesterday, when I visited Gurre Lieder, I saw a giant fish floating over the stage, while a futuristic jester walked around with a giant white balloon, a tormented king lied for dead on the ground and hundreds of soldiers paraded with their dead horses. Meanwhile, this all took place in a decor which reminded me both of an apocalyptic wasteland and of a palace.

I could easily describe the other two operas I’ve seen in the same way (Einstein on the Beach and Faust), but at the same time I realize my focus on the psychedelic is also a beginner’s trait. I hope, after enough training, I will also come to appreciate the music and singing more.