(Paris) Not surprising that the film Tar mentions in passing the name of Laurence Equilbey: a world-renowned conductor (and choir), she is however far from the image of a star of the baguette busy traveling the world .
If she has often been invited to conduct internationally, the 61-year-old Frenchwoman is especially proud of Accentus, which she founded in 1991 and which has become one of the best vocal ensembles in the world, or of Insula Orchestra. which, since 2012, has been playing period instruments while offering stage or virtual reality concerts.
“I accept four to five invitations a year, because I prefer to build things more related to the territory and take time,” she told AFP.
Through Accentus, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary – two years late due to COVID-19 – she has rediscovered the a cappella repertoire while collaborating with contemporary composers such as Pascal Dusapin and Philippe Manoury.
The ensemble, made up of 32 professional singers, was above all the first French chamber choir to become professional.
“We knocked down mountains a bit to get there, because in France, we tended to say that it was not necessary to be professional to sing in a choir, which is false for certain repertoires”, explains the chef, who also created the department for young singers at the Paris Conservatory.
Trained at the Conservatory in the class of the composer Betsy Jolas, she also studied orchestral conducting in Vienna with the master Nikolaus Harnoncourt and in Stockholm with the great choirmaster Eric Ericson.
With Insula Orchestra, which has been in residence since 2017 at the Seine Musicale, in Boulogne-Billancourt, in the Paris region, she is not content to program her favorite repertoire – from Bach to Mozart – but has been multiplying initiatives for a decade to try to reach an audience that rarely tastes classical music, especially young people.
“The era is very visual, so you have to be dynamic in digital, both artistically and for transmission,” says Laurence Equilbey.
She has thus experimented with stage concerts, such as the striking one by the circus artist Yoann Bourgeois, with acrobats fluttering on Mozart’s Requiem.
With Mozart 360 and Beethoven 360, his teams have created immersive concert videos: thanks to 3D sound and a virtual reality headset, you can listen to the music as the different instrumentalists hear it and watch the orchestra play in 360 degrees .
In 2024, a new flagship project will see the light of day, the Beethoven Wars, in collaboration with the filmmaker Antonin Baudry: it is a concert-show on the music of Beethoven, coupled with an immersive film experience whose stars will be manga…. “You have to try to get out of your comfort zone”, comments Laurence Equilbey.
Insula Orchestra also makes a lot of web-series or clips for educational purposes to explain for example the difference between period and modern instruments or when to clap during a concert.
Tireless, Laurence Equilbey will soon launch La Documenta.eu, a platform on which major European ensembles playing period instruments share their research.
Saying she was “touched” to have been mentioned among the list of famous female conductors in the film Tar, which stars Cate Blanchett, she notes that orchestras in France are hiring more and more women on the podium.
But, she says, theaters need to invite them more, because the proportion of female chefs scheduled in France remains disappointing: 6%.