&ldquoAs Alsop faced the cellos and drew from them the most tremendously shaped phrases with every inflection of her baton, you were aware of being in the presence of greatness.&rdquo
24th July 2012

Santa Cruz Weekly Q&A: Marin Alsop

Santa Cruz Weekly: Is the 50th anniversary an important benchmark?

Marin Alsop: It is, of course, a milestone season for the festival, and it deserves to be celebrated. I think it’s interesting to think of a new festival that has a real history, not simply a tradition. Maybe “legacy” is more what I mean. Some of what we will perform—the Carlos Chavez and the Lou Harrison—will be an opportunity for us all to reminisce together about that legacy, being secure and proud in what we are.

This festival is the go-to place for new composers. The vitality of our creativity that’s going on here— it embraces the weird and the wonderful. It wouldn’t be the festival it is any other place.

Are there particular challenges in programming for this festival?

Well, it involves a different paradigm. The assumption is that people who come here are adventurous. The musicians are adventurous, the audience comes because they’re adventurous. They’re doing it because they want the unexpected. Even new music can get dull. Not only the quality of music but also the quality of the experience as a whole. This festival is about the creative process, not simply an experience. We don’t put ourselves in a box.

Is there an outcome you’d like to see?

I want people to be able to say, “Ah! I never expected to hear that,” or “Surprising!” I want it to be unique, to stimulate thinking in a new way.

And in the music, I’m looking for an emotional payoff. I want to be moved by art. I have to have an emotional reaction. That’s my measuring stick, and not merely a gratuitous “wow” factor, although I don’t mind “wow.”

When listening for future programs, what do you look for?

The potential of the composer is something I look for. If they are young composers, emerging composers, I’m looking for their future potential, how their work might develop. If established, I’m looking for a unique voice, a unique point of view.

Art has the capacity to capture shared moments, shared histories that other types of experience don’t have the ability to capture. Poetry, art, music speaks to shared humanity—the essence of humanity, I guess.

How did Hidden World come about?

Nikki and I started talking about it two summers ago. It was a natural idea. Just like the Frans Lanting collaboration. They see in the festival a shared commitment to creativity. So I thought, “Let’s talk.” We began talking, and gradually it became a work in progress.

Then Laura Karpman came into it and really pulled it all together. It does have a lot of different moving parts, but I don’t have a prescribed outcome.

Given the three orchestras you direct, is your plate full?

I’d say the plate is full [laughing]—but not just in the sense that I’m very busy. I feel that all my artistic interests are being fed. Baltimore is a major orchestra with great traditional repertoire. Cabrillo is where I can be experimental, where I can be completely wacky. And São Paolo is a new, emerging place. It is the future, both artistically and economically.

Given all of that, I feel completely satisfied. Maybe I won’t always feel that, but for now, it’s great. And I have time to be with my 8-year-old son. Life is good.

Christina Waters, SantaCruz.com