With Kindness and Excellence

The 23rd edition of the Artie’s festival promises to be a delightful mix of smaller, classic pieces and two great works by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt.

The Artie’s festival presented by the NCPA always manages to present an interesting combination of great pieces of music. In this edition, audiences will get to experience the urgency in Dvořák’s ‘Dumky’ Trio Op. 90 and the fabulous tintinnabuli style of composition in Arvo Pärt’s Fratres on day one. The second day will include one of Cesar Franck’s best known compositions: his sonata for violin and piano, and in addition, the poised piano and violin work in Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel. The festival will be presented by soprano Clarisse Dalles with Mathilde Borsarello Herrmann on the violin, Gauthier Herrmann on the cello and Jean-Michel Dayez on the piano. We speak to soprano Clarisse Dalles who will be performing for the first time this year, and to Gauthier Herrmann, the artistic director of the Artie’s festival.

ON Stage: What is your earliest musical memory?

Clarisse Dalles: I can’t go back to my earliest memory because I began music when I was really young. However, I can remember the more outstanding one. I was singing Brahms’s Requiem with the French Radio Youth Choir at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées. I had a revelation when everybody was singing and playing exactly the same part during the second movement of the work. We were more than 100 musicians and singers on stage, and I was able to feel the sound vibrations under my feet! I was 15 and, for the first time, I thought that I deeply wanted to do that for my whole life.


OS: Tell us more about your formative years.

CD: After learning the piano I began singing with the French Radio Youth Choir. There, I knew I wanted to become a singer. At 18, I got my diploma and came to the Conservatoire de Paris. I’ve been studying at the National Conservatory of Paris since 2017.


OS: You studied the piano and then took up singing. Could you tell us what influenced you to make the change?

CD: I was enjoying singing but had no ambition about it. I was playing the piano, and I used to love the instrument. Singing at this level hasn’t really been a first choice. I passed the French Radio Youth Choir entry exam with a friend who didn’t want to go there alone. And finally, both of us got in! Then I understood that things were getting a bit more serious than I originally thought.


OS: Who, in your life, has been the most influential when it comes to music and why?

CD: Three people have really mattered in my musical path. I owe a lot to my first singing teacher Melanie Jackson who has taught me a lot. I also have to thank my current singing teacher, Valérie Guillorit. And thirdly, Philippe Jaroussky has been a really important influence on me since the moment I began to study at his academy in 2017.


OS: You studied at the Conservatoire de Versailles. Could you tell us more about your experience there?

CD: My years there have been really great, and I have such wonderful and nice memories of the place. I learned a lot there, but I had to leave quite early because the French Radio Youth Choir was located in Paris so I had to change to a school with flexible hours.


OS: Is this the first time you will be visiting India?

CD: Yes, and I’m really excited about it!


OS: At the NCPA, you will be presenting works of some great composers. Which one are you most excited about? Which one have you found most challenging?

CD: I love all the pieces I am going to sing. There is, of course, a lot of French repertoire that I particularly love, maybe because they are in my mother tongue and that helps me be truly expressive. If I had to choose one, I would say L’Ile inconnue by Berlioz.


OS: Have you worked with Gauthier Herrmann before?

CD: As I am going to discover India, I am also going to discover what it is like to work with Gauthier, and I am delighted about that!


OS: What is your favourite piece of music and why?

CD: Generally speaking, it’s quite hard for me to name a work that I love more than others. I am really fond of opera and chamber music! Let’s say La Bohème by Puccini. In my programme, I would say Morgen by Strauss. The harmonies are rich and change a lot throughout the lied, while we feel we are hearing just a few notes. Only chords played arpeggio and a mesmerising violin melody – this is the way to write music, allowing one to give many colours to the text and the voice line.

Interview with Gauthier Herrmann

ON Stage: The NCPA turns 50 years old this year. What do think of the institution and its contribution to culture in India?

Gauthier Herrmann: It is very important for a country to have such an institution, recognised at a worldwide level. First of all, foreign artistes need to get an important venue identified as the main one of a country. This makes most of them want to come and perform in India. Secondly, the NCPA is a great place, not only for music, but for all kinds of arts. This is very important and brings people from all fields together; a great meeting place for artistes and audiences. And last, but not the least, 50 years is a big deal. It is very emotional and, as usual, the people at the NCPA are working very hard to make it all possible. Congratulations to the entire team of the NCPA!


OS: Have you planned the programme at the upcoming Artie’s festival with a particular theme in mind?

GH: Yes. The fact is, for the last few editions of Artie’s festival, the programmes have been based on masterpieces. For example, the three Brahms piano quartets, Bruckner’s 7th symphony, Dvořák’s string and piano quintets. This time, we want to present smaller pieces. The two nights of this edition will be delightful and I am very happy to play, for the first time in India, two great pieces by Arvo Pärt. A special word about the young singer, Clarisse Dalles: she is extremely talented and we’re very happy to have her perform with us on her first tour in India. You can trust me when I say, she will have a huge career in the next few years. The Artie’s mission is to bring together musicians from all fields and of all ages. The only requirements for me are simple: kindness and excellency should be part of the DNA.

The Artie’s Festival 2019 will take place on 5th & 7th March at the Experimental Theatre.

This piece was originally published by the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai, in the March 2019 issue of ON Stage – their monthly arts magazine.