Interview with the finalist of the 5-Minute Opera Competition: Steven Prengels


1.Where and how did you find out about the 5 Minutes Opera Competition?

A colleague musician (a barock oboist) read about it somewhere and she told me.


2.Did you have any previous knowledge about Music Biennale Zagreb?

I’m afraid I haven’t.


3.Did you have any previous experience in composing for stage?

Yes. Almost everything I make is intended for the stage. Since I was very young everything I made or participated in was connected to the theatre. I’m myself a passionate opera lover (with Wagner at the summit). I work with several choreographers, directors, etc. I also conducted a lot in the musical theatre. Even my graduation piece in Amsterdam was a music theatre piece. During the last years I mostly worked together with choreographer and director Alain Platel and created performances with him for Les Ballets C de la B, Teatro Real Madrid, Münchner Kammerspiele, Ruhr Trienniale….


4.What kind of challenge was it for you to compose a 5 minute opera?

I am very fond of short pieces. It fits me quite good to try and tell something within a very short amount of time and with very few means. Especially in this task: an opera of 5 minutes. It forces you to search for a very clear idea about how to handle this. It makes you very aware about which subject to choose, and how to approach it. It is very difficult to create a dramaturgical tension within such a short piece and still to tell an entire story. Another difficulty you encounter when you try to write something like this, is the setting of the libretto: how to ‘sing’ the text, why sing the text etc… One day in August, I was chatting to a colleague. She told me a short situation. And immediately I thought ‘That’s it!’. It was a very simple but intriguing story perfectly fit for this task. And what was more: it made exactly the dramaturgical problems I had around this project into the central subject of my opera. And the best title I could find for this (“Dramaturgy of a Passion”), is the title of the posthumously published book of Gerard Mortier, the legendary Belgian opera director (La Monnaie Brussels, Salzburger Festspiele , Opera Paris, Teatro Real Madrid, etc), who died last year, who is of course very famous in Belgium and far abroad, who changed  opera in the second half of the 20th century, and who I had the privilege briefly to have known and worked with in Madrid in 2012. So choosing this title is a personal and very humble salute to this great man.


5. Have you ever been in Croatia and do you plan to come to Zagreb to the premiere of your piece?

I have never been in Croatia. But this year I will be in Zagreb, during my tour with a new production I’m working on right now. Unfortunately I will not be able to come to the Finale on the 21st of April: that day is the dress rehearsal of this new piece (for which I am music director) and that will be premiered in Ghent (Belgium) the day after (April 22).