We sat down with Harry Ogg, WNO’s Associate Conductor and Tianyi Lu, WNO’s first Female Conductor in Residence. Both are at the start of their careers and we thought putting them together in a room to talk to each other would create interesting conversation. They talked about their own experiences, their background and the challenges they face as young conductors. You can read more of their conversation in our Autumn 2019 edition of our ‘O’ Magazine by becoming a WNO Friend or Partner.
Tianyi I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the biggest challenges facing this profession, not only with young conductors but the whole music industry. Although the internet can allow us to reach new audiences it can also become a huge distraction for depth of content. I think there’s a real thirst in our culture for depth of connection. That’s when we really need live music. When you’re listening to a symphony, you go away from the distractions around you and your mind is forced to connect and concentrate. Those experiences could be the key to a lot of dialogue and depth of communication that’s missing from a lot of social conversations and music could be a channel for that.
Harry I think I know what you’re talking about, what about with opera? Symphonies are, in principal, abstract works of art and only imitate real life when the composer chooses to. So it’s interesting when you bring opera into it, as it brings a more direct imitation of real life and with the theatre there in front of them it could be something that people can really connect with. Who may otherwise struggle to connect with these art forms.
Tianyi Absolutely, and it can depend on the production as well. I find the production of Carmen that we’re working on to be very interesting as the director has chosen something that feels very real. It’s not the tradition, stylised Carmen as many Carmens have been in the past.
Harry In a way, the amazing melodies of Carmen are so recognisable and memorable. I think they can be a distraction away from the core qualities that the piece has which is a realism and a depth to the way all of the characters are presented. As well as brilliant dramatic pacing in the way that you’d have in any great film.
Tianyi Do you think the melodies are a distraction though, or do you think the history of how we’ve used them has become a distraction?
Harry What I mean is because we recognise them our ears get locked onto that melody and we stop really reading the stage and engaging with the drama.
Tianyi That’s definitely a possibility. I found studying Carmen for the very first time really interesting. I’ve heard it and its many iterations in the past through auditory experiences but I found that once I started studying the score, I found these melodies that we think we know completely transform.
Harry Often when you see it on the page it’s quite different and it transforms how you imagine it as a conductor or a performer. It gives you this opportunity as a conductor to transform how the audience hears the piece as well.
Tianyi Definitely. Very exciting to see Tomáš Hanus do the premiere but also to see your versions and I’ll be doing two in Liverpool. I think every time there’s a different conductor, something different will be created.
Harry I think that’s the great thing I think about conducting – it just changes the sound of the orchestra.