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Nicolas Mansfield 'Dutch Travel Opera still needs €500,000'

The past and future of the Netherlands Reisopera are dominated by money worries. Nicolas Mansfield, director, during the season presentation on 20 April last in the foyer of Theatre Carré, stressed not only the necessity of a national opera company's existence but, above all, the necessary quality requirements to keep attracting audiences. And quality cannot exist without a decent money pot. Everyone but the ministry seems to understand that.

The sun penetrating the foyer of Theatre Carré through the opened balcony windows seems to set the mood of the meeting. Nicolas Mansfield opens the presentation with highlights of the past period. The rising attendance figures from 50% to 80% per cent and the widely growing interest in the Netherlands Reisopera prove how unjust the government's decision to cut subsidies by 60 % has been.

Despite the lack of money and the dark clouds over this opera company, Mansfield sets out good-humoured plans for the next three years. Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, Richard Strauss and even Korngold are scheduled for large-venue productions from 2017 to 2020. 'Opera remains alive,' Mansfield reiterates, 'we bring the art to young and old and we let people experience music in numerous other projects. And we keep doing that because the passion for music does not translate into is money - although it does not go without money.'

Two women in the lead

Two productions stand out from the programming next season. As all the first, Mozart gets the spotlight. 'A season without Mozart is almost unthinkable,' Mansfield notes in the 2017-2020 grant application. Like Mozart, his opera Don Giovanni needs no additional advertising. During the presentation, Latvian-born star baritone Agris Hartmanis sings the favourite arias of this opera.

What makes the first realisation/performance of 2017 so special are the two British women directing: Julia Jones, conductor, and Joanne Davies who takes charge of direction. For the first time, the oh, so masculine opera has ended up in the hands of women. According to Mansfield, a conscious choice: 'Besides the fact that more women should be given leading roles in the opera world anyway too, it is special to show this macho opera from the other side.'

The second work recommended after the summer focuses on the value of culture: Ariadne auf Naxos, a tragicomic opera by Richard Strauss. It seems no coincidence that precisely this opera opens the coming season. One hundred years after its Viennese premiere in 1916, the problems surrounding art are still recognisable.

"The opera explores the role and value of art and culture in our society and asks us the question: who pays for art?" writes director Laurence Dale in the press release.

Singing along Messiah

Besides operas, other activities are also on the plan. There is much on the programme with which the NRO wants to make the opera world accessible to reach the widest possible audience. Talent development and collaboration are the main themes. Once again, for instance, there is the Meezing Messiah in Royal Theatre Carré. Based on the conviction that opera is a universal art form regardless of age, backgrounds and religious traditions, the existence of Nederlandse Reisopera should also be noticed and appreciated by the ministry.

Mansfield is even producing a film for the government in which a justified "cry for money" can be heard.

Ewa Maria Wagner

Besides being a viola player in the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, she works as a journalist in various editorial departments. Among other things, she writes about everything directly and indirectly related to classical music and the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, among others. Since 2014, she has also been active as a reviewer for cultural websites.View Author posts

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