Reza Namavar: “Marcel Beekman sings all roles!”

Composer Reza Namavar’s absurdist chamber opera De betoverende vaatwasser (The Enchanted Dishwasher) can be seen during Festival Dag in de Branding. A kind of radio play based on a dishwasher manual, with strong nods to Vivaldi’s oeuvre. Reza told us about Vivaldi, his enchanted dishwasher and the choice of tenor Marcel Beekman. Reza: “If they need a hysterical female role somewhere in the world, they ask Marcel.”

How did you come up with the idea to write an opera about a dishwasher?
‘You know, all the operas I know are about profound matters such as death, resurrection, the end of humanity. While you rarely have to deal with that in real life. Things like soap, flushing the toilet, an egg slicer, you come across them much more often. And if everyone does red, then I think: why not green? I’ve never seen it, but it’s possible.’

How did you get started?
‘I wrote a story and cut it up into scenes. The story is wafer-thin, because for me it’s all about the music. The children at D’Oorvijgh daycare center throw all kinds of things into a dishwasher, which derails it. I knew I wanted to let the dishwasher spin out of control in a Grand Finale, I ended up naming it that. The rest is preparation for that Grand Finale.’

Why is Marcel Beekman perfect for this work?
‘Marcel sings all the roles, including that of the kindergarten teacher who goes completely crazy. Marcel plays in all the major classical operas, but he is also very good in hysterical female roles. I follow him on Facebook and if they are in need of a hysterical female role somewhere in the world, they ask him. Because he can.”

Is the piece difficult to sing?
‘Yes, it is quite a challenge. I was afraid it would be too difficult, but when Marcel saw the score he immediately said he could do it. He is one of the few singers who can do it, I’m afraid. They are very fast notes and it goes on and on, the finale lasts about 25 minutes. His endurance is really tested. Fortunately, we are very much on the same page, Marcel also likes these kinds of absurdist stories. I have also worked with the Amstel Quartet before and I really wanted to write a large piece for them. They play it fantastically.’

Is it true that you were inspired by Vivaldi?
‘Yes, during the Covid pandemic I had nothing to do and then I decided to listen to all of Vivaldi’s solo and multi-instrument concertos. That’s almost five hundred. I heard them all about five times, analyzed them and wrote a review about them. Then I continued with his operas. What struck me is that Vivaldi writes for voice as if it were an instrument, it is a series of motifs, rather angular, not real melodies. Bach does have that lilting quality. Vivaldi also uses a lot of coloratura and takes it very far. Making the voice sound like a clucking chicken certainly inspired me in this piece. That’s not necessarily funny, although it is funny, but what matters to me is the escalation: things that pile up, that go on and on.’

Marcel Beekman and the Amstel Quartet will perform De betoverende vaatwasser on Saturday, June 1 at 7:15 PM in the Nieuwe Kerk. More info & tickets

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