Fauré with a film: We meet innovative French Conductor Laurence Equilbey

Laurence Equilbey, left of centre in white shirt with Insula Orchestra. La Seine Musicale concert hall, Paris, in the background

Laurence Equilbey is the Musical Director and founder of Insula Orchestra, resident orchestra of La Seine Musicale, a state-of-the-art concert space in the west of Paris, opened in 2017.

We interviewed Equilbey on the evening she was conducting Fauré’s Requiem and Gounod’s St Francis of Assisi. A video installation by British artist Mat Collishaw entitled Sky Burial, was to animate both works. Here are our questions:

Tonight, you are about to present Fauré’s Requiem. You have the orchestra and the choir to conduct and Mat Collishaw’s film ‘Sky Burial’ to accompany you. How do you juggle so many different elements in a performance?

I’ve learned to manage with the video. I’m already very used to opera where the staging is managed for me. This project is certainly different. It’s an artistic project alongside our Fauré and Gounod. I love contemporary art and I like to meet artists to discuss possible collaborations, but the problem is, not many know anything about classical music. However, it wasn’t the case with British artist Mat Collishaw who had already produced the video for the conductor Teodor Currentzis. To help Mat with timing and synchronisation, I gave him a recording I had made of Fauré’s Requiem.

Collishaw is one of the great contemporary artists to have emerged on the British art scene.  Sky Burial  is very powerful work. I also got Mat involved in the first work we will be playing tonight, a recently discovered oratorio by Gounod, Saint Francis of Assisi. We were the first to record it with the accentus choir. It’s a very humble, pure, minimalist work – and as it relates to St Francis of Assisi’s death – it goes well with Fauré’s Requiem.

Laurence, what led you to become a conductor?

As I child I played the piano and other instruments. I also sang. And then I studied musicology – I wrote music- I did a lot of counterpoint, harmony. I was really interested in reading musical manuscripts. In my musicology studies I also had the opportunity to conduct. And I don’t know how to describe it – I just decided to focus on conducting.

How old were you then?


Is one of the pleasures of conducting, rediscovering works that have been forgotten and bringing them to life again?

One of the pleasures is really to have an artistic strategy, an artistic vision. Our focus at the Seine Musicale is the late Baroque period (Bach etc) up to the pre-romantic period – Beethoven, Schumann etc. We have a lot of ground to cover. We have also played lesser-known female repertoire like the French composer Louise Farrenc (1804-1875) and German composer, Emily Meier, (1812-1883). So yes, I like to discover new works, but I also like to examine, clarify, reinterpret certain passages from very well-known works.

After tonight, you take the Sky Burial Fauré project to Aix en Provence – then to Hong Kong. And we are expecting you in London in November – again with the film.

Yes at the Barbican. With the film I hope.


Click here for Karine Hetherington’s review of the electrifying performance for ArtMuseLondon: https://bit.ly/3KwpVgC

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