Mathieu van Bellen (violin) and Mathias Halvorsen (piano)
For those wondering whether it’s possible to reduce an entire opera to two instruments, the answer is yes! Violinist Mathieu van Bellen and Norwegian pianist/composer Mathias Halvorsen have already proven it, in Norway, Germany (e.g. Elbphilharmonie Hamburg) and The Netherlands (Oranjewoudfestival, Hoorn Festival, Scaldis Festival and Porgy en Bess/Terneuzen). In their own adaptation of two of Puccini’s operas La Bohème and Tosca they brought the numerous audience into ecstasy. For the 2023-’24 season, the opera Salomé by Richard Strauss is now also on their repertoire.
The two musicians reduced the parts of the soloists, the choir and the orchestra to a work for violin and piano. One hears every measure of the opera and at the same time the libretto will be projected onto a screen in order to follow the story. A magical experience, opera in chamber music format!
You can now make a choice out of the following three operas:
- G. PUCCINI: LA BOHÈME (4 acts, 2 x 45 minutes)
- G. PUCCINI: TOSCA (3 acts, 2 x 45 minutes)
- R. STRAUSS: SALOMÉ (1 act, 90 minutes without intermission)
Their first adaptation, La Bohème, is one of Puccini’s most beautiful operas and is characterized by cheerfulness, drama and wonderful melodies. The idea behind Halvorsen and Van Bellen’s project is to present this masterpiece in a new, transparent and intimate way and to make it suitable for an audience that is not used to visiting opera. In this version, the words, the music and the story merge in a purely poetic way. In this way, La Bohème is approached more from the perspective of a narrative than of a performance. It is the imagination that is the key to entering Puccini’s wonderful world. The words and the story come to life through text that is projected behind the stage during the performance.
Translated review La Bohème from: Neu Musikzeitung (NMZ.de)
“….Norwegian pianist Mathias Halvorsen and Dutch violinist Mathieu van Bellen follow Puccini’s detailed playing instructions, at the end they even reach the actual Toscanini tempi. Van Bellen sometimes seems to grow a sixth and seventh finger and Halvorsen two more hands, especially in the second act, when they let the Bohemians rejoice in the hustle and bustle of Montmartre, with its intermixing of children’s choir and military band. Behind the stage, texts and stage directions are projected on a large screen, so that in the minds of the audience Rodolfo’s attic room, the streets of Paris, and Mimi’s deathbed come to life more vividly than on any opera stage. Puccini’s music, liberated from all its furnishings, reaches right into the unguarded regions of the listener’s vulnerable heart, allowing the audience to indulge with unfettered delight in between virtuosity and kitsch. A particularly rewarding venture – but looking back on the entire festival, every smallest opportunity is remarkable, where the music itself does just as it pleases, true to the Podium motto.”
BACKGROUND MUSICIANS AND ARRANGERS:
The Norwegian pianist, composer and performing artist of special projects, Mathias Halvorsen currently lives in Reykjavik, but travels all over the world. From everything he initiates, and that is quite a lot, he makes exciting genre-challenging and transcending projects, Since 2010 he has been giving concerts in complete darkness as founder and member of the critically acclaimed LightsOutTrio. One of his newest solo projects is a multi-release recording of Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier on prepared piano. The first part was released on Backlash Music in November 2018 as: “The Well-Prepared Piano, vol. 1”.
From 2018 Mathias, as one of twelve young musicians, has been selected by Podium Esslingen to participate in the German fellowship program #bebeethoven www.bebeethoven2020.com. Two hundred and fifty years after the birth of one of the most innovative composers of our time, these musicians get the opportunity to investigate essential questions such as “What is composition? How do music and technology work together? What is the future of classical music in a globalized world and what does the creation of music of the future look like? ”
An overview of Mathias’s current projects can be found at www.mathiashalvorsen.com
Violinist Mathieu van Bellen, a great fan of the violin style of the early 20th C, is not only a rising star with the Busch Trio, but also appears as a soloist and chamber musician in other ensembles, such as Het Reizend MuziekGezelschap of which he has been artistic director since 2018. He is prize winner and finalist of various international competitions, including the Yehudi Menuhin Competition in London and the Wieniawski Competition in Poland; in The Netherlands he was prize winner of both the Princess Christina and the Oskar Back Competition and won the Grachtenfestival prize in 2015.
Mathieu gives concerts worldwide: in Europe, Asia and the US, especially as violinist of the Busch Trio, an ensemble that received the prestigious Kersjes Prize in 2016.
In 2017 Mathieu was named the youngest honorary citizen of his hometown Hulst because of his unbridled commitment to involve young audiences in Zeeland in classical music. He does this, among other things, through the Scaldis Chamber Music Festival, which he founded, and which celebrated its fifth anniversary in 2018. Mathieu made several CD recordings, highly appreciated by both press and audiences. A recording with violin duets by among others, Ysaÿe and Prokoviev, which he made with spouse Maria Milstein, winner of the Dutch Music Prize, has been released in autumn 2019.