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A public-facing conductor: an interview with the new director of the Orchestre Régionale de Cannes

Copyright Jóhanna ÓlafsdóttirBenjamin Levy was selected among 160 applicants for this coveted post. He tells Riviera Insider’s editor-in-chief Petra Hall about his new, long-term contract and other exciting developments.

Benjamin Levy, it was less than six months ago that you were chosen for the director’s post. How are you feeling now after you’ve recovered from the first thrill of emotions?

I am very, very good and I am extremely positive about the future. Together with the whole team, I have thrown myself totally and enthusiastically into my work in order to set up an excellent season in a short time. There is really a lot to do!

January was the first concert you had with the orchestra. What was your impression of the musicians and the audience?

Ah, the audience! They were very receptive and interested. They even laughed at my jokes. Since the concert in January, many spectators have come to me and complimented my pedagogical approach. I had explained the structure of Beethoven's symphony.

I already played with the orchestra last September so it was not entirely new to me. The musicians have many good qualities and personalities, and I had a wonderful connection with them right away.

The board of directors has chosen you, among other things, because of your openness to signing a long-term contract. Is not it scary at your age to settle for several years?

On the contrary, I prefer something durable. As a guest director, you often only spend a few days with an orchestra, which can be really frustrating. It is quite good to be the ‘beloved visitor’, but at some point you have to settle down.

What are your plans for the orchestra? What will stay the same and what will change?

The great team, the joy of our work and the enthusiasm stays! What changes? The concert presentation. As the director of an orchestra, you always stand with your back to the audience, but I will also be turning around to explain the works we are performing. In addition, we will expand the repertoire of the orchestra with increased involvement of opera music and mix several styles. The link with the regional actors is to be strengthened. We would also like to motivate children and teenagers to visit our concerts through targeted performances.

Who are your favourite composers and what kind of music will be the main focus of your programme?

You might as well ask me: Who do you love the most: your mother or your father? It’s just too difficult to answer! Certainly there will be no restrictions and no genre of music will dominate.

Besides the music, what are your other responsibilities?

It is very important to create fluid synergies between all departments: musicians, administration, sales, communication, programming… An orchestral director cannot just do as he wants, we are effectively a small company and everyone needs to work together. It is also my job to meet partners and patrons, and be available to talk with the public and explain our work. I am very keen to get involved in all these areas!

 

Petra Hall