Now that one of Indonesia's most prestigious lifestyle magazine Indonesia Tatler has published the February edition, I can post here the original (meaning the one that I sent them) interview which was then edited, cut and published in their January edition. Due to the limited space, the one published was just around half of the original interview, so enjoy this one.
1. New year concerts are common happening in Europe & America. Did the annual happenings intrigue you to create one in Indonesia? Why? Please elaborate.
Yes, I "stole" those ideas, but only the idea, not the content. We have to adapt it to Indonesia's situation, tradition and culture, therefore it's not done every 1st of January, but every first Sunday since our second edition in 2006. This year, since Jan. 1st falls on a Sunday, we do it on the 8th in Jakarta since people are still having holiday out of town during the first week. Also we want to make the program content as Indonesian as possible, as London does it as English possible and Vienna as Austrian possible. It would make no sense to make a new year concert with a Western content, as foreign people came to our concert to "feel" Indonesian as those who do to Vienna, Amsterdam etc. It has now become a landmark in Jakarta, and starting this year we do it in Surabaya (13th) and Bandung (15th) too, therefore the "J" in JNYC is changed from Jakarta to Java.
2. What are the pieces to be presented at the concert?
This is a groundbreaking program in Indonesia, never been done even in our 6 JNYC's before: two operas in one show: A Real Man and Suddenly Rich. We are taking a big risk here, since operas are still considered both "extremely high brow" and "boring" (too long? in a foreign language?) to Indonesian audience. The reasons we dare to do this are: 1. both operas are short (half an hour each) and in Indonesian, so the audience would understand. 2. Both are taken from two popular short stories by Indonesia's "father of short stories" Putu Wijaya, and the plots are quite simple, light but profound (both discussing single themes: the first about "what is a real man" and the second "if you have to choose, which one do you prefer: money or happiness?"). 3. Both are presented as comedies with twists in the end, so I hope this will bring joy and not a heavy burden for the audience. Imagine starting the new year watching a horror or thriller opera! Hopefully this will not only attract music lovers, but also literature fans as well as dance fans (Chendra Panatan, my favorite choreographer graduate from England is doing the stage direction and choregraphy).
The singers are considered the best young vocalists of today in Indonesia, since they have brilliantly won prizes at the "Ananda Sukarlan National Vocal Competition" 2011. They are still unknown, but they are THE Indonesian classical singers of the near future. Remember these names: Evelyn Merrelita (soprano coloratura), Eriyani Tenga Lunga (mezzosoprano) and two tenors Adi "Didut" Nugroho and Pharel Silaban. And let's not forget one thing: the Bank Indonesia Auditorium is not often open for public concerts, but in fact it is definitely the best hall, acoustically speaking as well as its luxurious design, for chamber music and chamber opera in Indonesia. It's amazingly good.
3. Any particular reason for the choice? Please elaborate.
Answered above, right?
4. Appreciation to classical music in Indonesia is growing. There are more concerts now as well as new venues - ie Aula Simfonia. How did you perceive it? How did you compare it with those in South Korea and Japan?
We are still way far behind those countries, since we lack one crucial thing: music education at school. It's true that we have audience that flock to classical concerts nowadays, but I bet you they are always the same people. I dare to say, perhaps around the maximum 3000 people in Jakarta who go to those concerts. Now, that's a very small percentage of the total inhabitants of Jakarta, right? And in my case, many expatriates are among the audience.
5. Does working with top musicians abroad means anything to you? Why? Tell us of your unforgettable moments with them.
Of course. I learned a lot not only from their immense knowledge but also their professionalism, musical craftmanship and artistry, not mentioning their contagious passion in what they are doing. It's amazing how, as a 20-year-old boy I learned about musical structures (the real one, not the one we learn from books) and how we play with psychological time and durations directly from masters such as Sir Michael Tippett, who saw the enormous potential inside me but also, in a nice and subtle way, told me that I was wasting my talent then and I should focus on less things. Greatness comes not from a huge talent, but severe self-criticism, hard work, passion, modesty and willingness to constantly go out of our comfort zone. And of course people like him really helped my career as he was the first "living legend" I met and the one who introduced me to the BBC for the first time, for example.
6. England has The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Does Indonesia need one? Why? Please elaborate.
We have already many orchestras, mostly not up to standards. We need quality, not quantity to represent Indonesia. What is more urgent is establishing the identity of Indonesian classical music and only good quality musicians can inspire composers to do that. And then we need public and sponsors who believe in supporting our own musicians, and understand that classical music indeed originates from Europe, but every country has developed its own identity of it. Indonesia has not. That's why me and my friends started those competitions for piano and voice, giving platforms for young musicians to manifest their talents regardless of where they come from and to help them start their career and to be known to a wider public.
7. In the days of 'Orde Lama' there were designs to build an art centre plus a concert hall in the class of l'Opera de Paris in the area surrounding Museum Nasional, Jakarta. Is it time to start again with the project? How instrumental is the opening of such a grand venue in enhancing the development of performing arts? Please explain.
Of course, but we have to pay much attention to acoustics. Again, we have many theatres, but very few with the good condition for presenting classical music without sound system. As long as the architect doesn't consider the hall's acoustics as a musical instrument, it is doomed to be a failure. Look, in a piano recital there are two musical instruments: the piano AND the hall. That has never been thought like that by architects in Indonesia. And as you consult a pianist if you want to buy a piano, you should consult (classical) musicians when you build a concert hall.