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Interview with pianist Alexandra Dariescu (I)

Monday, 11 December 2023 , ora 10.12

"The Nutcracker and I" is the title of the performance which will be presented Tuesday, December 19th, by pianist Alexandra Dariescu, at "Ion Dacian" National Operetta and Musical Theater in Bucharest.

Alexandra Dariescu, I would firstly like to ask you how was this project - The Nutcracker and I came to be, the one that you will be presenting in premiere for the Romanian public.

The idea came to me about ten years ago, when at one of the education projects I was involved in, a little boy asked me what do I imagine when performing a piece. And I think that each of us artists have a story behind every piece we perfom. So, the idea of combining live classical music with live ballet and digital animations came to me as a way to build new bridges for the younger generation. Young people are so attached to everything visual, and at that moment, this idea occured to me, but it was a very lengthy process, because an idea can easily fall apart. You need lots of perseverence and confidence, both in yourself and in the project you want to bring to life. And, of course, it took me a lot of time to find the right team. But I believe that my goal was always to attract the younger generation to the concert hall, to make classical music more accesible and build bridges for thosewho had probably never been to a concert hall before.

In the concept of this show, your own story is also present. Is that correct?

Yes, this project has lots of autobiographical details, starting with the first image - it's a girl with a big ribbon, and that was me when I was a child, with this dream of becoming a concert pianist. And then I become Clara, in the first part of the "The Nutcracker" story. There are many details regarding the journey of this little girl who dares to dream, a girl that is very open to learning, personal development, not giving up, and working very hard.And, using the story of the 'Nutcracker,' in the end, I finally live my dream and become a concert pianist

Because we are talking about a complex multimedia performance, what can the audience expect to see on stage? Is it something familiar or will it be an entirely new experience?

It is an entirely new experience, that has never been done anywhere else in the world until now. That's why is in such high demand. This is the seventh year that we've been on tour. We've traveled the entire world with this project. It is a show for all ages. I think that this was one of the most beautiful feeling that we've experience during the last seven years- we see three or even four generations of the same family at this single piano recital.

Music is, of course, the most imporant one, and there are fifteen virtuous arrangements for piano. We've chosen the most familiar one from "The Nutcracker" ballet. We have a screen that we always bring with us on tour, and on this screendigital animations are projected,interacting with the ballerina and me.

The whole idea of the project came from me, and then it took about a year to find the right team. I spoke to so many animation companies, and in the end I made a choice which I think was the best - the "Yeast Culture" from Great Britain (based in London). It was a very interesting process at first, because they believed in this idea, and in one way or another, they've understood the concept. But, of course, the process was lenghty and very detailed, so it changed very much along the way. We've worked with more than 55 animators from around the world, because everything is hand-drawn. This was what I wanted for from the very beginning, because if everything was made on the computer, the movements wouldn't have had the humanity and musicality I was hoping for. The whole show is made so that you can't be sure of what's real or fiction. It is such a beautiful blend when Clara, the ballerina, dances with the Prince or the Sugar Plum Fairies, or with the other dancers...you can't know for sure what is real and what is not. This digital animation company was very open and they embraced this project as if it was their own.

I would like you to give us some details about the artists performing on stage with you.

We are not many. There will only be me and the ballerina on stage. It somehow is the most minimalistic "Nutcracker" there can be, but all the other characters from the story are digitally animated. So, they somewhat look like holograms, but they are not holograms...it's a very beautiful concept that, literally, when you stand in the middle of the hall and watch, there are such beautiful colors, and all the backgrounds change with each piece... this project takes you on a journey.

The show only lasts for 50 minutes. So, even for the little ones, itt has a perfect duration. There are no breaks. Simply put, the story is very compact and to the point, very easy to follow. It's a very simple story that makes you smile, makes you dream. Everything is beautiful!

Who composes the musical arrangements?

We have four composers. We used arrangements by Mikhail Pletnev; everyone knows him as a great pianist and conductor, but he had also arranged this "Nutcracker" suite. And then, we have some arrangements by Stefan Esipoff, Percy Grainger, and we commissioned Gavin Sutherland, the director of the English National Opera and English National Ballet in London, to arrange a few pieces.

What are the greatest logistic challanges in organizing this show?

First of all, the simplest thing is that we are three artists touring and staging this wonderful show. Logistically, it's an easy show because we need a very dark room, a very good projector, a dance floor, of course, a piano, and we bring the rest. From this point of view, it is very easy to tour, and that's how this project was designed, as a touring project.

There have been seven years of touring around the world that brought us so much joy, but overall, we haven't faced extraordinarily significant challenges. From my perspective, it's a tour de force in terms of performing the works because it is very, very virtuos. The entire orchestration is arranged only for the piano. Everything needs to be done with precision, in detail, and with great attention to every single aspect.

Interview by Ioana Țintea
Translated by Georgiana Morozii,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year II
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu