CREATING A NEW PROGRAMME AFTER FOUR MONTHS OF COVID. French theatre director Stéphane Lissner is the current Superintendent and Artistic Director of the San Carlo Theatre in Naples, which was established in 1737.

Stéphane Lissner, you were Superintendent and Artistic Director of La Scala in Milano for ten years, then you were the Paris Opéra’s Director, and now you are Superintendent and Artistic Director of the Teatro San Carlo in Napoli. Can you describe the nature of your job?

In the Seventies I founded the Théâtre Mécanique. I was then general secretary of the Aubervilliers Theatre, and co-director of the National Centre of Dramatic Art in Nice. The Nineties were the years of my direction at the Théâtre du Châtelet, and then, until 2009, there was the experience at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. The transversality of my professional experience has helped shape the nature of my job.

You were the first non-Italian ever to hold the role of Superintendent and Artistic Director at La Scala, and now you hold the role in Naples. How did it feel to be chosen from twenty-two candidates?

I returned to Italy after ten years at La Scala, and after my assignment in Paris. I only gave my availability to the Board of Directors of a theatre that represents the culture and history of opera. I chose Naples because I really appreciate the musical tradition of this Theatre and the history of the Neapolitan 1700s. Through the history of the San Carlo I can feel the great importance of Rossini as a composer and artistic director who has been a milestone of this Theatre. I have a deep and strong admiration for all the great artists who have played an important role in the shaping of the history of the San Carlo from 1737 to present.

“My desire is to engage and bring the younger audience closer to the beauty of classical music.”

Stéphane Lissner

“Your eyes are dazzled, your soul enraptured…there is nothing all over Europe that comes close to this theatre or even gives the faintest idea” (Stendhal)

Stéphane Lissner, what kind of programme do you have in mind for Teatro San Carlo in the coming year?

First of all we are starting again, after the dramatic experience of Covid-19, with the Lyric Region 2020 Project (“Regione Lirica 2020”) that will be inaugurated by shows in Piazza Plebiscito with ToscaAida and the IX Symphony of Beethoven. The project will bring numerous concerts to centres of learning, to the courts of the University of Campania and to some of the most significant historical and cultural places of the Campania Region. On December 4, 2020, the curtain of the Teatro di San Carlo will rise on the Season 2020/2021 with La Bohème. Then we will have twelve opera titles  playing Giuseppe Verdi,  Mozart, Richard Strauss, Giacomo Puccini,  Bizet, Donizetti and Frederick Loewe.

We will also have five ballets and seventeen concerts. It will be a review of the best international performers of today, some of whom will tread the stage of the oldest opera house in Europe for the first time. Ample space will be given to the many Italian names on the international opera scene and to young Italian talents.

All theatres have had to close during the coronavirus pandemic. Has this caused great damage and what are you managing to do keep opera alive?

The coronavirus pandemic has been a real tragedy that has affected our lives and the way we think about our jobs. Nowadays I am thinking and reflecting in order to plan new projects and ideas for the next months. I think about all the people who work hard every day in order to keep the theatre alive, and my main goal is to help them during these tough times. As a matter of fact this will be a challange for me, and also a goal, as I think that we should restart with all our energies and new ideas. We decided to begin with the great project “Regione Lirica 2020” with all the most famous international stars, but I am also working on the effective revival of all the cultural activities within our theatre. For example, some days ago we reactivated guided tours inside the San Carlo Theatre, with scrupulous respect for all safety protocols and social distancing. I want to keep the theatre alive, and most all I want to bring back on stage all the artistic and technical forces of Massimo Napoletano. I am convinced that there is much to do and I am ready to face all the challenges that will arise. I strongly believe that my continued presence is a key element for recovery in such a complex and dramatic period.

“Naples is a city teeming with life and culture”

Stéphane Lissner, are the younger generation, who grew up with the internet and hip hop and rap, passionate about opera, or is your public mostly made up of older people?

I think Teatro San Carlo is both social and digital. My desire is to engage and bring the younger audience closer to the beauty of classical music. This objective will be achieved through the use of new technologies, and in particular through the inauguration of an online platform that will collect and publish videos of the performances. Our audience will be accompanied on a virtual and musical journey to places that are otherwise unattainable, and as part of the project “Regione Lirica 2020”  the city of Naples will also host numerous screens located in strategic places of the city. I want to bring the opera, ballet and live concerts to the suburbs through an immersive experience made possible by this new digital platform that we hope will generate wonder and intrigue the new generations. For this purpose the Courts of the University of Naples Federico II, the University of Salerno, the University of Campania Luigi Vanvitelli and the University of Sannio will host open-air chamber music concerts, with the hope of soon opening the doors of the San Carlo Theatre to the new and promising generation of students. We are also joining a partnership network in order to achieve effective action on societal disparities and combat educational poverty.

Are there any special anniversary celebrations coming along in the near future?

In November we will have three important appointments with Maestro Riccardo Muti, who will conduct the orchestra of the Teatro di San Carlo.

Stéphane Lissner

Stéphane Lissner

Stéphane Lissner

Stéphane Lissner and General Director Emmanuela Spedaliere

Stéphane Lissner

Stéphane Lissner in the Piazza Plebiscito, Naples

Stéphane Lissner

Stéphane Lissner leads a press conference at Teatro San Carlo

Stéphane Lissner

(L to R)Jonas Kaufmann, Stéphane Lissner and Anna Netrebko at a press conference

Stéphane Lissner

Stéphane Lissner in the Teatro San Carlo

“I want to bring the opera, ballet and live concerts to the suburbs”

Stéphane Lissner, after ten years in Milan and then going back to Paris what is the impact on you of going back to Italy and the Teatro San Carlo, which opened in 1737 and has undoubtedly hosted the most prestigious singers and is the largest cultural organisation in Southern Italy? 

I believe that the Teatro San Carlo, as well as being the oldest opera in Europe, is also the largest centre of cultural production in the whole Mediterranean, and my wish and goal is that this wonderful theatre will return to shine as it was during the Fifties when it was the most important. 

What is your feeling about Naples? 

I love all of Naples. Its contradictions, its colors, music and sounds. I love walking in the streets, looking up to the sky and being captivated by the beauty of its monuments and its art. Naples is a city teeming with life and culture, and for me it represents an atmosphere of magic and is very stimulating for my work and for all my future projects.