Jacopo Spirei studied arts and drama in Bologna and filmmaking in New York at the New York Film Academy. He enjoys extensive teaching work with young, up and coming talents in opera. He has a long collaboration with the Opera Academy of the Royal Opera House in Copenhagen, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland amongst others. Jacopo Spirei is professor for Opera at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts KhiO, Norway. Jacopo has worked with the renowned Graham Vick as associate and revival director all over the world including: Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Birmingham Opera Company (including world premiere of Stockhausen’s Mittwoch aus licht), Houston Grand Opera, Bregenz Festival, New National Theater Tokyo, Teatro Sao Carlos in Lisbon on Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Winner of the audience prize in Salzburg for best production of the season 2012/2013 at the Landestheater, Jacopo Spirei’s opera engagement as director include: Falstaff, Un Ballo in maschera (Festival Verdi, Parma); Don Giovanni (San Francisco Opera); Carmen (Macerata Opera Festival), Ermione (Teatro San Carlo), Elisir d’amore, Falstaff, (Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe); Rinaldo (Opera Lombardia); Don Giovanni, Così Fan Tutte, Nozze di Figaro, Pilger von Mekka, Brokeback Mountain, Rise and fall of the city of Mahagonny (Salzburg Landestheater), Aida (Dortmund); Cambiale di Matrimonio (Theater an der Wien), Gli equivoci nel sembiante (Purtimiro baroque festival Lugo di Romagna) and many others.
First of all, congratulations again for Un Ballo in maschera at the XXI Festival Verdi! I’ll start our conversation with a very direct question: what’s the social mission of opera in the 21st century, considering the hard times where passing through?
Thank you very much, it has been quite the journey, I’m happy you enjoyed it! Opera cannot shy away from its role in society, opera is a powerful tool to understand ourselves and make us reflect on who we are and what makes us human, opera can and should change lives.
What about the Italian public and their reactions which are sometimes exaggerated? What’s this about actually, in your opinion – this rejecting towards the new?
These are two very important issues, but they are very different: on one side the reactions are “cultural”, Italians feel the need to over-express everything, it’s as if otherwise it wouldn’t have an effect, but that is the essence of opera as well, a heightened expression is at the core of the art form, that is probably why opera was born in Italy and why Italians love football so much! The rejection for innovation is a more recent problem, it has to do a lot with how the country has developed in the last 30 years, there is a fundamental misunderstanding in the concept of tradition, it has to do with the approach to culture as a museum, of course it’s crucial that a museum preserves the past, it is its duty; but other forms of culture should move things forward, develop, make better, in that sense tradition is just laziness. The old is something we know and it is calming and consoling, but that is not what art should be, there’s a very nice concept that says that art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.
Talking about this production, about Un Ballo in maschera, we cannot omit the name of the great Graham Vick. I know that we could talk only about your special bond during the entire interview, so I don’t know where to start from. What about this last production you were supposed to make together? What’s “his” & what’s “yours” about it? What’s the message that he would have liked to transmit through it?
The production was meant to be directed by Graham, I was never part of it, of course we talked about it, as we would often do about each other’s productions, but that was just part of our relationship. I took over without knowing anything in the beginning, after long conversations with all the collaborators I took it in my hands and made it happen, in a way it’s not a Vick show and it’s not a Spirei show, I treated it as our last conversation on theatre and life, and that is what you saw, two artists discussing about a piece and about the art form. As for the message, it’s hard to know, what I know is that Graham wanted to make opera accessible to everyone as he understood the value and importance of the art form for society.
Read the entire interview here, in the 1th/2022 issue of OPERA Charm Magazine.0