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Essen, European cultural capital in 2010

Thursday, 4 March 2010 , ora 13.12
In 2010, Essen is one of the three European cultural capitals together with Pécs and Istanbul. On this occasion, we spoke with Mister Steven Sloane, art director of the programme "Essen, European cultural capital2010".

We searched for musical events organized on this occasion on the site created for the city of Essen, as European cultural capital. We discovered that you prepared a series of musical projects, all extremely interesting. Please say a few words about each project to our listeners.

First I am very glad to talk to you. I am always thrilled to share the joy of music in our programme with the rest of Europe. I deal with interpretative arts, that is dance, theatre and music. Of course, now we shall stick to music. But we are planning different projects; most of them are created around two main issues. One of them is related to voice.

We have a project named '!Sing' a sort of giant umbrella project by which we actually invite all inhabitants from our region to sing. In my vision, singing is probably one of our primary forms of human expression and when I was given this job, I wanted to introduce these elements that have a common denominator and by which all people in this place can manifest. That was because my interest was not to have a passive contribution as cultural capital, but we wanted to try to involve each person in the region. So we got to singing. Another reason for which we thought about this project was related to the choral tradition here. We have an incredible richness of choral groups, around 3300, and we tried to find a way to connect one another and to build structures in which they can participate.

Under this umbrella we have more projects, for example the one named 'Music enchiriadis' that deal with old documents found here, in the Essen region, with the first polyphonic notes around 900, we have a new international academy to conduct for vocal music, we also have an educational project with the Choral Academy in Dortmund and another project named 'An instrument for each child', so we try to bring forth the idea of a song from more perspectives, including the educational perspective. We programmed the interpretation of Mahler Symphony no. 8, 'of the thousand' on September 12th 2010, celebrating 100 years since the premiere of this work in München and on this occasion the representatives of six regional orchestras and professional opera choruses will meet, so around 1200-1600 participants for this representation, conducted by Lorin Maazel.

Probably the most important point of project !Sing is the event programmed for June 5th 2010, when we set a kind of celebration named Song Day. Then, all 53 communities of the Ruhr region will meet and sing during the day. All will end with a sort of show concert, organized on the football stadium, where we shall have a four voices chorus of 6500 persons, so we are looking forward for this event.

The other major project we have is with and about the composer Hans Werner Henze, in my opinion one of the most important figures of contemporary music. We imagined a project that includes over 40 partners in our region. You can imagine all symphonic opera institutions, chamber music ensembles, even cinema institutions will present Henze's music, over 60 of his works, but it is not about his music, but about his influence on a long list of composers, who either studied with him, or were influenced by him. We shall have over 200 concertos in 2010, you can imagine, almost daily a concerto with music of Hans Werner Henze.

Will Hans Werner Henze compose something for this occasion?

Yes, I am very proud I managed to convince him to write a new opera. It is named Gisela or The Strange and Memorable Ways of Good Fortune, a very interesting title. It is not only a work for young people, but with young people as interpreters. We have three groups of young interpreters from our region who will be involved in this new production, one from the choral Academy in Dortmund, one from the Department of Dance and Pantomime of the Popular School of Art in Essen and a new ensemble for contemporary music made up of three musicians in Köln. This work will be interpreted in the Festival triennial "Ruhr" in September and October 2010.

Which do you think are the elements of attraction of this programme, the events that should not be missed?

It is so hard to tell, we have so many. We have around 300 events planned in this year in Essen. If I had to choose, I would say it is my favorite project, incidentally said, I had the privilege that in the last three years I could develop only my favorite projects (he laughs), I am very attached to all of them and it is very difficult to say one is more important than another. From my point of view, the entire idea around the concept of cultural capital is about sustainability.

What interested me and still does, is not only what is happening in 2010, but what is going to happen after 2010. In which way we can build new infrastructures, ways of communication in the entire region, so, after 2010, not to redefine the region only from the exterior, but especially from the interior. I know that in the period I lived in Bochum, many times, we as a community, we worked rather isolated. So my interest is to bring all these communities closer one to another, in order to develop the image of a unitary metropolis.

Pécs and Istanbul are also in this year European cultural capitals. Do you organize something in cooperation?

Yes, we have organized many activities, more numerous with Istanbul than with Pécs and this is because one of my colleagues who are dealing with the inter-cultural activities is of Turkish origin. Also, we have a numerous Turkish community in the region Ruhr, many events were organized. First of all, we make a great project with House of Concerts in Dortmund about the composer and pianist Fazil Fay. We are very pleased about this project, because Fazil Fay is a great talent from Turkey.

Also, for Song Day, the event I told you about earlier, in the concert that will take place on the Essen stadium a chorus from Pécs and a chorus from Istanbul are invited , that will not only appear in the general ensemble, but they will also sing, each one of them, in front of the entire stadium. We are looking forward to this event. We have more common projects in theatre and dance, so we can say we have quite a extensive cooperation.

Ioana Marghita
Translated by Zenovia Popa, Andreea Velicu
MA students, MTTLC, Bucharest University