Belgian conductor takes Haydn opera back to its roots

Fri Oct 7, 2016 4:16pm EDT
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LEUVEN, Belgium (Reuters) - Belgian conductor and early music pioneer Sigiswald Kuijken has brought his anti-modernist approach to Joseph Haydn's opera "L'Isola Disabitata."

Kuijken, 72, staged the opera in Leuven, Belgium, with period instruments and based on descriptions of how the work would have been performed originally in 1779.

Kuijken formed his orchestra La Petite Bande, which uses historically correct instruments, some 40 years ago, and says his approach is "revolutionary."

"I consider that what we do here is much more progressive than what is being done with the most crazy new stagings," he said.

Kuijken rejects the idea that classical music belongs to the past and has little appeal for young people.

"Why should it be outdated? Quality is quality. If you see a painting from the Italian Renaissance or from the Greek Antiquity or from Impressionists, who thinks how long ago it has been made? Beauty is beauty. We don't have to adapt it," he said.

Haydn's 10th opera tells the story of two sisters, Costanza and Silvia, who live on a desert island, where they were abandoned by Costanza's husband.

While the opera comes to a happy end, the future could be bleak for La Petite Bande, whose funding was cut by the local Flemish government.

Kuijken said he is currently studying options such as crowdfunding and sponsorship.

(Reporting by Reuters Television in Belgium; Editing by Andrew Hay)