A Play with Words and Colours

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On 03.06.2023, De Bijloke’s seasonal program presents HYOID voices who are staging Berio’s masterpiece A-Ronne in Bar Bricolage, Ghent. Singers Naomi Beeldens and Fabienne Séveillac, who also initiated the project, talked about what to expect in this ‘theatre of the ear’ and their unique 21st-century performance of it. Though the show speaks for itself and appeals to the imagination of all… 

Can you introduce yourselves?

Naomi: I'm Naomi Beeldens. I sing the second soprano in A-Ronne and it's my second production with HYOID.

Fabienne: I'm Fabienne Séveillac and I'm a mezzo-soprano from France based in Brussels. I'm also the co-artistic director of HYOID voices and sing the second alto in the piece A-Ronne.

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Where would you place A-Ronne in music history? Is it a classic?

A-Ronne was written in 1974-75 for eight voices and a conductor, musical director Filip Rathé is the conductor for this edition of the piece. It was a very exciting decade for vocal music; we could call it ‘vintage contemporary.’ This piece is going to stay in music history, so in this way it's classic.

This piece is going to stay in music history

How would you describe the show to children?

As if you were listening to a radio show or a podcast. The performance is based on a poem by Edoardo Sanguineti. The music contains many layers and languages. There’s Italian, German, French, English mostly and a little bit of Greek … but it doesn't matter if you can’t understand some of the words.  It's a word game I would say. There are high references, for example, Goethe, Marx and Dante, mixed with more everyday things.

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Can you make out the words or is it more of a symbolic combination?

N: You can certainly differentiate the words, but perhaps not quite the meaning. A-Ronne is a play with words and colours and with the expression of the words rather than the meaning. It speaks to the imagination in its purest form.

F: There's a beautiful term about A-Ronne, which is ‘a theatre of the ear.’ There's a super intense array of expressions and emotions mixed together and forces introspection in a way.

A-Ronne is a play with words and colours and with the expression of the words rather than the meaning

Beautiful! So it's like a theatre or a kind of opera?

We have many faces and there are big emotions in the show but no characters because they're just not linked to a story per se. So maybe it's not as linear as you might expect in an opera. You could call it a kind of contemporary opera as in fact there’s staging and there are solo voices. 

There's a prelude to the show written by Sébastien Roux, an electronic piece that will help people get into an attentive listening state and calibrate the ear to the experience.

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Could you tell me a bit more about the movement and staging?

F: It is directed by Joris Lacoste. For Joris, it is important that the audience can experience the performance in a way that is not frontal, like traditional black box theatre, because that would totally ruin the intimacy. So then you can ask yourself the question: 'How can you do this and still control the acoustics?'. The solution we found is to perform the piece while everyone uses headphones, both the singers and the audience and we are all mixed together in the same performance space.

N: ...and we play with the fact that the audience does not know at first who is an artist and who is not.

F: Right, this is where the choreographer Claire Croizé comes in. There are moments in the piece that you can think of as a little ballet.

N: …or a waltz actually.

F: We are not ballet dancers, which is actually exciting to find ways to keep working on ourselves as performers and develop our skills. We're based in Brussels, the city of contemporary dance, so we better take advantage of it. 

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How does the venue work with the piece?

F: In the beginning, we thought of doing it in the streets, but A-Ronne has moments that are so delicate so we had to find other ways to open up to different audiences. Bar Bricolage is a fun place because it's not a formal place attached to classical music.

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Bar Bricolage is a fun place because it's not a formal place attached to classical music

What are your plans for HYOID? Are you going to take the show on tour?

Hereafter we're already going to Strasbourg where we're doing the opening of the Musica festival in September and we're still discussing dates with other producers. The piece grows, it gets better and better as you do it more.

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So, is the show for everyone?

F: Some people assume their ears are not trained enough to access this kind of music, however, I really believe it's an experience. The performance is not difficult to listen to at all. It’s so immersive; it will invite you in and there are parts that are actually quite hilarious.  Knowing about Berio doesn't matter; what you need to know is within the show.

N: It makes it more human because you're very close to the performers which makes it easier to see them as people rather than musicians.

F: I think there is a shift. In recent years, many musicians are more interested in direct interaction with the audience. We'll be a bit naked standing a meter away from people, but that's just what's so exciting.

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<div class="editorial-banner"> <div class=“editorial-credits”> @fabseveillac / @schraalkanaal / @hyoidvoices / @debijloke <br/>Different Class members can make a reservation to secure their spot for free. <br/> Non-members can buy a ticket here.<br/> Become a Different Class member and go to over 250 free events a year </div></div>

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